Although the cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is still unknown, there are treatments available on the market to help with the symptoms and perhaps even repair some of the tissue damage. The problem is one of side effects and limited effectiveness for all the current treatments.
A 2005 Taiwanese study reported in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology opened eyes by pointing to the effectiveness of electrical acupoint stimulation in reducing the key mechanism of GERD, transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs). This important muscle allows food to pass into the stomach when working normally. In people who have GERD, the muscle relaxes at the wrong times, allowing stomach acid to churn up into the esophagus and resulting in heartburn symptoms.
By applying only mild stimulation to an acupoint on the wrist known as Neiguan, researchers were able to reduce the frequency of TLESRs from six to 3.5 an hour in research subjects. Sham stimulation of a hip point produced no comparable change.
Researchers cautioned that it’s still a big leap from these promising results to a reliable cure for GERD.
Source: American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 2005
Author: Sam Gaines, Staff Writer
Some lifestyle changes that may help alleviate symptoms include:
- Getting adequate exercise, which helps relieve stress, moves energy, regulates the bowels, and helps alleviate constipation.
- Practicing stress relief measures, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or quiet time, is key to keeping IBS symptoms under control.
- Dietary changes should be individualized, and should focus on eliminating foods that trigger symptoms and adding adequate fiber to the diet. Soluble fiber is gentler on the GI tract, and includes foods such as oatmeal, berries, and legumes like lentils and garbanzo beans. Crude fiber, such as bran and raw vegetables and their skins may be too irritating, and should be monitored as a trigger for symptoms. Other foods that are common triggers include greasy or fatty foods, diary products, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and drinks that are carbonated.
- Probiotics may be helpful for some sufferers of IBS. Probiotics are supplements that replace the good bacteria in the gut necessary for digestion. A common form is Lactobacillis acidophilus, which can be found in most natural foods stores.
- Adequate sleep is important for sufferers of IBS, because stress, which is the most common trigger for IBS, is aggravated by lack of sleep. In addition, adequate sleep helps the body heal and rejuvenate.
For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders contact us.
IBS according to Chinese Medicine
While other patterns may be present, IBS is almost always considered a disharmony between the liver and the spleen in traditional Chinese medicine. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of substances throughout the body. This flow can be upset by emotions or stress, causing stagnation of Qi (energy) or blood. Traditional Chinese medicine views the spleen as being associated with the function of digestion and transforming food into energy (Qi and blood). The spleen can be weakened by a number of factors, including overeating unhealthy foods, overwork, too much worry, fatigue, and lack of exercise. When the spleen is weak and the liver is not moving smoothly, the liver overacts on the spleen and can manifest as symptoms of IBS.
A liver/spleen disharmony is similar to the short-term loss of appetite or a bout of diarrhea that occurs during an occasional emotional upset. With IBS, however, the phenomenon occurs in slow motion; the emotional trauma or stress takes place over a long period of time, and the digestive symptoms of IBS can last for years.
Practitioners of acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine may use a variety of modalities to correct a liver/spleen disharmony. They may use acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary therapy and lifestyle changes to facilitate healing of this condition. The herbal formula Tong Xie Yao Fang addresses the disharmony between the liver and spleen, and might be a starting point with modifications for each individual case.
For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of IBS or other digestive disorders contact us.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also known as spastic colon or mucus colitis. It is labeled a syndrome because is involves a group of symptoms that varies for each individual who is affected. It is a motility disorder (involving abnormal movement) of the small and large intestines. Symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramping and pain, and constipation and/or diarrhea (often in alternating episodes). IBS may also be accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems, such as flatulence, bloating, and nausea. Symptoms are almost always aggravated by stress. Episodes may also be aggravated by eating, and are frequently relieved after a bowel movement. An estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of all Americans are affected by symptoms of IBS, with three times as many women as men being affected.
The cause of IBS is not yet known. However, we do know what does not cause IBS. IBS is not a structural problem, meaning there is no anatomical change, nor is it biochemical or infectious in nature. Researchers are exploring the theory that there are direct links between the brain and the gastrointestinal system, which would explain why flare-ups of IBS are sometimes triggered by emotional upsets or stress.
Can acupuncture treat IBS?
Yes, cupuncture can be used to treat IBS. An increasing number of studies have been conducted on treating IBS with Chinese medicine, with promising results. These studies have documented that Chinese medicine can effectively treat IBS in a safe and drug-free way.
More than 95 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders ranging from constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome to more serious conditions such as acid reflux (GERD), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In fact, more than 35 million physician office visits a year are due to gastrointestinal complaints. Reports are confirming that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can offer relief from even the most complex digestive problems.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Digestive Disorders
Evidence that Oriental medicine has been used for digestive disorders can be found in early medical literature dating back to 3 AD, where specific acupuncture points and herbal formulas for borborygmus (rumbling or gurgling in the intestines), abdominal pain and diarrhea with pain are discussed.
According to Oriental medical theory, most digestive disorders are due to disharmony in the spleen and stomach. The spleen plays a central part in the health and vitality of the body, taking a lead role in the assimilation of nutrients and maintenance of physical strength. It turns digested food from the stomach into usable nutrients and qi (energy). Many schools of thought have been formed around this organ; the premise being that the proper functioning of the”‘middle” is the key to all aspects of vitality.
By taking into account a person’s constitution and varied symptoms, a treatment plan is designed specifically for the individual to bring their “middle” back into harmony and optimize the proper functioning of the digestive system. A variety of techniques can be used during treatment including acupuncture, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises to restore digestive health.
For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders contact us.
Dr. Richard Peck has recently published his second book “Ancient Travels”. This book continues the story of Master Liu and is devoted student Pei Ke. Read the full summary below or order your copy today.
Continuation of a Discourse Between a Master and His Student on Acupuncture and Chinese Martial Arts
In Ancient Knowledge, the mission and lives of Master Liu and his devoted student Pei Ke continue to evolve. The adventure escalates, the emotions rise, and the interactions require more complex responses as acupuncture and the Chinese martial arts of Tai Chi Chuan, Pa Kua Chang, and Hsing-Yi Chuan continue to be woven throughout the story.
Learn how daily activities like eating and food choice impact our organs and psyche. Explore how the simple yet complex concept of Yin and Yang relates to conditions such as stress, insomnia, headaches, back and shoulder pain, infertility, menstrual problems, and other internal issues and what we can do to resolve them.
Managing repetitive stress injuries often requires some lifestyle changes, and it can take time to work out a strategy that works best for you.
Here are a few minor changes you can implement to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:
- Alternate Tasks – Avoid doing the same task for more than a couple of hours at a time and alternate between tasks that use different muscle groups where possible. Fatigue is a sign that you need to take a break. Take small breaks to gently stretch and bend your hands and wrists and readjust your position.
- Reduce Pressure – Many people use more force than needed to perform tasks involving their hands, which can increase pressure and cause irritation. Be mindful of the speed and amount of pressure used to perform tasks. Ease up, slow down, and grip using your palm or whole hand to distribute the load. If using tools such as riveters or jackhammers for extended periods, take frequent breaks or operate the tool at a speed that causes the least amount of vibration.
- Cultivate Good Posture – Incorrect posture can cause your shoulders to roll forward, shortening neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck, which can affect your wrists, hands, and fingers. Shoulders and neck should be relaxed to open the chest and allow your head to float upwards without strain. When using a keyboard, wrists should be in a relaxed middle position and in a straight line with your forearms at elbow height or slightly lower.
According to a randomized, controlled study published in the May 2009 issue of the Clinical Journal of Pain, acupuncture is as effective as the corticosteroid, prednisone, for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
The study investigated the efficacy of acupuncture compared with steroid treatment in patients with mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome as measured by both nerve conduction studies and symptom assessment surveys. One group received eight acupuncture treatments over four weeks, and the other group received daily oral doses of prednisone for four weeks.
Results showed that acupuncture was just as effective as the corticosteroid for pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. For the symptoms of night time awakening and motor function, the acupuncture group had better results.
Researchers concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment option for CTS for those who experience side effects to oral steroids or for those who do not wish to undergo surgery.
From an Oriental medicine perspective, a repetitive stress injury is seen as a disruption of the flow of Qi and Blood (Xue) within the area and associated with cold, dampness or wind penetrating the muscles and sinews. Acupuncture points, stretching exercises, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are chosen to treat accordingly.
In addition to reducing the swelling, inflammation and pain, acupuncture addresses any headaches, neck pain, shoulder stiffness and sleeping problems that often accompany this condition. Your treatment may also take into account any underlying conditions that contribute to the development of RSI including posture, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, diabetes, and hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause.
If you or someone you know suffers from a repetitive stress injury, please contact us to find out more about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you.