If you have experienced a burning sensation in your chest after a big meal or at night when you sleep, then you’re well-acquainted with heartburn. The general population is often confused with the terms heartburn, acid reflux and GERD as they are used interchangeably. However, these conditions have very different meanings.

What is Heartburn?

It is estimated five million Canadians experience heartburn at least once each week. The name of this symptom is deceptive as the discomfort occurs in the oesophagus and not in the heart. Heartburn generally feels like a burning sensation behind your sternum and can last for minutes to a couple of hours. Because the sensitive tissue in your oesophagus is more delicate compared to the stomach, it’s not made to withstand strong corrosive activities like the stomach. Heartburn usually occurs after eating and frequently aggravated by bending or laying down.

What is Acid reflux?

Acid reflux is caused by a weakening of a circular muscle called the lower oesophagal sphincter, or LES. The muscle is in charge of tightening your oesophagus after food passes to prevent stomach acid from travelling backwards from the stomach. However, if the muscle is weak and doesn’t tighten properly, the stomach acid can flow backwards into the oesophagus and cause acid reflux. Symptoms of acid reflux can include cough, sore throat, bitter taste in the back of the throat, sour taste in the mouth or burning sensation that extends up to the sternum.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that affects the muscles between your oesophagus and your stomach. It is considered as the chronic form of acid reflux when it occurs several times a week or causes inflammation in the oesophagus. The prolonged damage to the oesophagus can increase the risk of cancer. The symptoms of GERD include the same symptoms of acid reflux, with the addition of bad breath, regurgitation of stomach contents, asthma, and difficulty swallowing.

While most people may experience heartburn and acid reflux every so often, GERD is often related to anatomical changes or lifestyle habits that make this condition chronic. Poor lifestyle habits like alcohol consumption, being overweight, smoking or eating high-fat foods can weaken the LES. In addition, although not directly related stress and emotional disturbances can aggravate the symptoms of GERD as well.

Treating Acid Reflux, GERD and Heartburn

Fortunately, it is with encouraging news that these reflux conditions are very treatable with natural medicine and lifestyle changes. In our clinic, we use a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, dietary counselling in the treatment of acid reflux, GERD and heartburn.

Acupuncture – Research has shown that acupuncture can improve oesophagal function, and decrease reflux symptoms. In addition, acupuncture has been proven to be an effective treatment to activate the parasympathetic system to promote better digestion.

Chinese Herbal Medicine – Our practitioners are highly trained in prescribing herbal medicine. Customized herbal formulas are prescribed specifically to each individual’s underlying pattern to correct imbalances on a systemic level.  There are several herbs and formulas in Chinese medicine that are used to regulate stomach acid, support oesophagal function and promote good digestion.

Reflux conditions can lower your quality of life in many ways. It can affect emotional stress and interfere with your daily activity. At Honor Wellness, our practitioners are fully committed to your care to help you regain your quality of life back. If you or someone you know are struggling, let us help you. Contact us today at 604.428-9946 and find out how.