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How Acupuncture Treats Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition where stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation. Symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing. While conventional treatments often involve lifestyle changes and medications, acupuncture has emerged as an effective alternative therapy. But how

exactly does this ancient practice work to alleviate the discomfort of acid reflux?

Understanding Acid Reflux

Before delving into acupuncture, it's essential to understand the mechanics of acid reflux. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle ring at the junction of the esophagus and stomach, acts as a valve. Normally, the LES opens to allow food into the stomach and closes to prevent acid from escaping. However, in individuals with GERD, this muscle may relax inappropriately, leading to acid reflux.

Acupuncture: An Overview

Acupuncture is a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dating back over 2,000 years. It involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body, known as acupoints. According to TCM, the body has a network of energy channels called meridians. Illness is thought to result from blockages or imbalances in the flow of Qi (vital energy) along these meridians. Acupuncture aims to restore this balance, promoting health and alleviating symptoms.

How Acupuncture Treats Acid Reflux

1. **Balancing Qi and Energy Flow**

- In TCM, acid reflux is often seen as a result of imbalances in the Stomach and Liver meridians. Acupuncture targets specific points along these meridians to regulate energy flow and harmonize the body’s internal environment.

2. **Improving LES Function**

- Studies suggest that acupuncture may enhance the function of the lower esophageal sphincter. By stimulating certain acupoints, acupuncture can improve muscle tone and prevent the LES from inappropriately relaxing, thereby reducing acid reflux episodes.

3. **Reducing Stress and Anxiety**

- Stress is a known trigger for acid reflux. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can, in turn, minimize the occurrence of reflux symptoms. By promoting relaxation and calming the nervous system, acupuncture helps mitigate the impact of stress on the digestive system.

4. **Enhancing Digestive Health**

- Acupuncture can stimulate digestive functions, improve gastric motility, and enhance overall digestive health. This can prevent the delayed emptying of the stomach (gastroparesis), a condition that often contributes to acid reflux.

5. **Modulating Acid Secretion**

- Some research indicates that acupuncture may influence gastric acid secretion. By modulating the production and release of stomach acid, acupuncture can help maintain appropriate acid levels, reducing the risk of reflux.

Acupuncture Points for Acid Reflux

Several acupoints are commonly used to treat acid reflux, including:

- **CV12 (Zhongwan)**: Located on the midline of the abdomen, this point is believed to harmonize the stomach and relieve symptoms like heartburn.

- **ST36 (Zusanli)**: Found on the lower leg, this point is known to strengthen the stomach and improve digestive function.

- **PC6 (Neiguan)**: Located on the inner forearm, this point is used to alleviate nausea and regulate digestive health.

- **LR3 (Taichong)**: Situated on the foot, this point helps to balance the Liver meridian and reduce stress.

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Session

A typical acupuncture session begins with a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s health and symptoms. The practitioner will then insert needles into specific acupoints, leaving them in place for 20 to 40 minutes. The procedure is generally painless, with most patients experiencing a sense of relaxation during and after the session. For acid reflux, a series of sessions may be required to achieve optimal results.

Scientific Evidence and Studies

While acupuncture is rooted in ancient practice, modern science is beginning to validate its benefits. Research has shown that acupuncture can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms. A study published in the "Journal of Gastroenterology" found that patients receiving acupuncture experienced greater symptom relief compared to those receiving conventional drug treatment.


Acupuncture offers a holistic and natural approach to managing acid reflux. By addressing the root causes and promoting overall digestive health, acupuncture can provide lasting relief for those suffering from this condition. Whether used alone or alongside conventional treatments, acupuncture represents a valuable option in the journey toward digestive wellness.

If you’re considering acupuncture for acid reflux, consult with a qualified practitioner to develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. With its potential to balance body and mind, acupuncture may just be the solution you’ve been looking for. Call our clinic or have a chat to Chris. He'd be happy to share his 20 years of experience treating digestive conditions with you.

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