Indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux – whatever you call it, this is a distressing and sometimes very painful condition. Maybe you get pain and discomfort after eating a meal, or you may wake in the night with a frightening pain in the chest. Indigestion mixture helps, but the problem always returns. These symptoms are very common and they are usually quick to respond to acupuncture treatment.
In terms of Chinese medicine, acid reflux is understood as ‘rebellious Qi’! That means that instead of Qi (and acid) going downwards in the digestive system, a weakness in the stomach allows the Qi to rebel upwards. This takes acid up into the oesophagus, which is what causes the pain. To be healthy, our Qi needs to flow smoothly around the different systems, or meridians, and be in balance between them. The meridians most closely connected with digestion, the Spleen and Stomach meridians, can become weakened by overwork, too much stress or unhealthy eating habits. Some people are more prone than others to this – they have a constitutional weakness in this area. Acupuncture works by strengthening the system and directing the stomach Qi downwards. I combine acupuncture treatment with discussions about the possible triggers that may be important to you as an individual. Thinking this through together can lead to you making some simple changes in your eating habits. Then acupuncture is not needed so often.
I like to work alongside Western medicine. If indigestion or reflux starts suddenly in middle or older age, you may need some tests to rule out a more serious cause such as early cancer. Most commonly these tests come back as normal and the problem is simply one of poor functioning. Western doctors can then prescribe tablets to reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces. These can be very effective, but many people do not like taking tablets long-term and are concerned about side effects, or interactions with other medication. Even when acupuncture treatment is helpful, you may still find the tablets useful on occasions.
So next time you reach for those indigestion tablets, remember that it is your rebellious Qi giving problems – that should raise a smile at least!