A 37 year-old lady had suffered from dry cough that couldn't be relieved by medicine for one month. She came to our Chinese medicine department for help. After diagnosis, her dry cough is caused by gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), combining with chest tightness, heartburn, and stomachache. After one week of Chinese medicine treatment, her cough and chest tightness became better. Continually taking two month of Chinese medicine powder, her symptoms had almost gone. After gradually reducing the dose, she already stopped taking medicine without recurrent symptoms.
How Chinese Medicine Treat GERD
Dr. Ai-Lin Lee, the attending physician of Chinese Internal Medicine in China Medical University Hospital, says that gastric symptoms often progress during summer. Because of the humid and hot weather, people can’t help but have more cold drinks that decrease digestive function and cause poor appetite, dyspepsia, fatigue, and acid reflux. Typical symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) include the taste of acid in the mouth, heartburn, chest pain, and vomiting. In the long term, the disease will cause bad breath, tooth problems, and breathing problems such as cough and asthma.
Dr. Ai-Lin Lee points out that reestablishing the normal digestive function is the main concern. The Chinese medicine treatment of GERD involves herbs, formulas, and acupuncture, which are based on the appropriate TCM diagnosis and patterns. There are three aspects to treat GERD：
- Clear the pathogenic factors that causes Qi Stagnation of digestive system. The inappropriate foods and the humid and hot weather may produce pathogenic factors, such as dampness, phlegm, and fire, in our body. These pathogenic factors make the body fail to regulate and cause poor appetite, stomachache, slow digestion, and acid reflux. The common formulas for such conditions are Gan Lu Xiao Du Dan and Wen Dan Tang.
- Restore the normal bowel movement and digestive function. If your acid reflux combines with abdominal fullness and loose stool, formulas that strengthening the spleen and promoting digestion suit you. For example, Bao He Wan and Shiang Cha Luh Jiun Jzyy Tang.
- Repair the mucus. Excessive acid can cause mucus damage, and some patients have loose or dysfunctional sphincter as well. Gan Lu Yin can repair the mucus and Huang Qi can restore the function of sphincter.
Besides the herbs and formulas, acupressure can support your digestion and relieve heartburn. PC6 (Nei Guan), LI10 (Shou San Li) and ear points (see figure.1) are useful for GERD.
Health Tips for GERD
Addition to Chinese medicine treatments, diet and lifestyle changes may help reduce the symptoms of GERD. Here are some suggestive tips：
- Avoid foods that trigger acid reflux. Common triggers such as sweets, fried foods, chocolate and caffeine may make heartburn worse. Find out your specific triggers and avoid them.
- Eat slower and chew more. Fast intake without adequate chewing will burden your stomach and cause indigestion.
- Eat smaller meals. Avoid overeating that will bloat your stomach.
- Don't eat late or lie down after a meal. Wait at least two to three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
- Elevate the head of your bed. If you have acid reflux regularly while lying down, insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, try to lose weight slowly and steadily by 0.5 kilogram per week. This is a very effective strategy to reduce your acid reflux.
Ai-Lin Lee, Attending physician,
Division of Chinese Internal Medicine,
China Medical University Hospital