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I want to ask if any member has experience treating gastritis and silent reflux

Q. I want to ask if any member has experience treating gastritis and silent reflux

A. We are often asked about acid reflux, although it is usually the version defined as GERD rather than silent reflux, but as a long answer (in italics below) earlier this year demonstrates, from a Chinese medicine perspective this is not always a meaningful distinction:

There is surprisingly little research on the use of acupuncture for the treatment of acid reflux even though it is a very common presenting condition in our clinics. There are one or two studies like this


and occasional articles like this one

which suggest other possibilities for the appearance of heartburn symptoms, but not the solid body of evidence one might expect based on the usually quite effective treatment of this problem.

Obviously there are physical problems such as hiatus hernia where there has been a physical change in structure of the oesophageal tract which can cause heartburn. If this is the case, then it will seriously limit the possibilities for treatment in any system of medicine. If investigations show that this is not the case, however, then there may be some value in using acupuncture treatment.

From a Chinese medicine perspective the classic presentation of reflux or heartburn is described as Stomach Fire or Rebellious Stomach Qi where the energy of the Stomach does not follow its normal pattern of causing food to descend but lets it stay in the Stomach or reverse its flow to create the classic symptoms with which people suffer. Knowing the immediate precipitating cause, however, does not mean that one goes straight to this for treatment. The flow of energy in the body, called 'qi' in Chinese, is a complex interweaving of channels connecting Organs whose functions are also inter-related. The art and skill of the practitioner lies in determining what the primary underlying imbalances are, in the belief that treating here will cause the symptom to go and stay gone rather than be treated simply as a symptom.

This is one of the primary differences between Chinese and conventional medicine. From the Chinese medicine perspective the symptom is an alarm bell telling the practitioner that the system is out of balance. Thus twenty patients with the same symptom could have twenty different underlying causes and therefore twenty different treatments, in contrast to the standard western procedures which have two or three main strategies for a problem. In Chinese medicine the balance of the system is unique in every patient, and this means that each treatment plan is also unique.

It follows that this does limit what we can say about individual cases and why we invariably advise people to visit a local BAcC member for an informal assessment of what is going on and whether treatment would be of benefit. Most practitioners can get an idea in a very short time of what is going on and as a consequence give a good informed view of what might be possible. This would invariably take into account other changes in the way that everything functions which are perhaps not significant enough to concern anyone but from our perspective enrich the picture which we have. Reflux and heartburn are often accompanied by changes in digestion and bowel habit, and secondary information can refine the diagnosis a great deal. A practitioner can take all sorts of other factors into account, including mental and emotional ones, to offer you a much more precise assessment of what may be possible.

We have to say that this still probably represents the best advice for a prospective patient, to visit a practitioner and let them see bow the symptom manifests exactly in you.

To the extent that a component of the problem may be an excess of acid in the stomach the advice and explanation above hold good. However, in many cases of LPR. however, there is a general failure of all of the mechanisms which prevent stomach acids reaching the throat, and in cases like this reducing the acidity of the stomach may only have limited value. However, we have to believe that if treatment can help with GERD, which it often appears to do, then in principle there is no reason why it should not help LPR. Certainly one of the common experiences of LPR, the lump in the throat, is a recognised symptom within Chinese medicine where is it called 'plum pit throat - the feeling of having a plum stone stuck in the throat- and for which several clearly defined strategies exist.

As in the earlier answer we would advise that you discuss this with a local practitioner face to face. This will give you a much clearer answer than we can manage here, and also give you a chance to meet them and see where they work before committing to treatment

As to whether there are practitioners who have treated this the answer is all of us. It seems to be a common manifestation of the stresses of modern life and the strain it puts on the parts of the system which affect orderly digestion, and the proliferation of over the counter indigestion preparations is evidence of this. Even where people come in with other main complaints entirely it is very common for them to say that they are getting heartburn or indigestion on a regular basis. The immediate presenting cause is often quite obvious, but as we said in the answer above, symptoms are often alarm bells, not the problem itself, and the skill of the practitioner lies not in turning off the warning sound for a while but making it stay gone.

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