Alternative Treatment Options for GERD
Acid reflux is also known as acid
indigestion. It occurs when the valve between the esophagus and stomach doesn’t
function properly. This valve is known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
LES malfunction allows food and stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. The
result is usually a burning sensation felt in the mid-chest, behind the
breastbone. This symptom is known as heartburn. Other symptoms of acid reflux
may include a sore throat or sour taste in the back of the mouth.
If you have acid reflux at least
two times a week, it’s considered to be chronic. Chronic acid reflux is known
as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. More severe signs of GERD include:
- asthma symptoms
- dry cough
- trouble swallowing
These symptoms may occur with or
Left untreated, GERD can result
in damage to the esophageal lining like:
or bleeding (esophagitis)
caused by scar tissue (strictures)
to the cells of the esophagus (Barrett's esophagus)
In rare cases, Barrett’s esophagus can become esophageal cancer.
This type of cancer is potentially fatal.
Treatments for GERD
Some of the best treatments
for GERD are lifestyle changes. Things you can do to improve your symptoms
- quitting smoking
- losing weight
- eating smaller meals
- eating a lower fat diet
- avoiding foods that can trigger symptoms
Foods known to trigger GERD
- citrus fruits
- caffeinated and carbonated beverages
- spicy foods
- fried and fatty foods
- garlic and onions
- tomatoes and tomato products
Medications can also help with
symptoms of GERD. Three types of medication are used for treatment:
- H2 receptor blockers
- proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
All three types of medication are
available both over-the-counter and by prescription. However, medications can
be expensive. They may cost hundreds of dollars each month.
In extreme cases, surgery can
also be used to treat GERD.
and Alternative Medicine for GERD
A number of complementary and
alternative medicine (CAM) treatments have been tried to reduce symptoms of
reflux and GERD. However, there is
limited scientific evidence supporting their usefulness.
Acupuncture is a type of
traditional Chinese medicine. It uses small needles to rebalance energy flow
and stimulate healing. Acupuncture has been used for at least 4,000 years.
Electroacupuncture (EA) uses
electrical current along with the needles. It has been shown to increase the
strength of the LES. Acupuncture has also been shown to reduce temporary (transient)
lower esophageal relaxations (TLESRs), which can promote acid backflow.
Acupuncture research is still preliminary. However, it may be able to treat
GERD in some people.
Melatonin is usually thought of
as the sleep hormone. People mostly talk about melatonin made in the pineal
gland. However, nearly 500 times as much melatonin is synthesized in the
intestinal tract. Most melatonin is made in the stomach, small intestine, and
colon, and some is made in the esophagus as well. According to the Life Extension Foundation, studies
have suggested that melatonin can stimulate activity of the LES in animal
studies. Limited human studies have also shown a positive effect on GERD
According to a study published in
oil has been found to accelerate gastric emptying. GERD is associated with
delayed emptying. Therefore, in theory peppermint oil could help relieve
symptoms for some people with GERD. However, peppermint can also be a GERD
Hypnosis, massage, and other
relaxation techniques may help reduce symptoms of GERD. Stress often makes GERD