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What's behind acid reflux?

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Acid reflux causes burning pain when stomach acid flows backward in to the esophagus after eating. Stomach acid is there to break down proteins and prevent bacteria and infection in the stomach. The stomach is especially lined to tolerate acid, but the esophagus is not...and regurgitation of acid will cause pain, or heartburn.

When persistent, this is referred to as GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease with the cause frequently identified as a weak valve between the stomach and esophagus.

Chocolate, mint, carbonated drinks, spicy, fatty and fried foods,  tomatoes, onions, and garlic are all thought to trigger symptoms.

Other possible causes of reflux:

Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Inflammation of the esophagus with a build up of white blood cells (eosinophils) from an allergic response causing reflux, regurgitation, vomiting, stomach pain and painful swallowing. Individuals often have food or seasonal allergies, asthma, or eczema. Since this is an allergic disease Proton Pump Inhibitors or other acid reducing medications will not be successful treatment options. Cold and dry climates can be a risk factor and symptoms may be worse in the spring or fall if related to seasonal allergies.

Histamine Intolerance: For a variety of reasons some individuals have an increased amount of histamine in their system. One function of histamine is to stimulate stomach acid production. Too much histamine will produce too much stomach acid and can result in reflux. Other signs of histamine intolerance are: allergy symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes); headaches; skin issues (hives, eczema, rashes); PMS; anxiety; sleep issues & fatigue.

Histamines can be found in food, so diet can be the best way to reduce symptoms. Try to avoid fermented foods and drinks, vinegar, dried fruit, smoked fish, and cured meat.


Stress: There are many ways our emotions and digestive health are connected. Increased stress stimulates the vagus nerve which increases GI activity and gastric fluids which can lead to reflux.

Chinese Medicine Perspective

Like all health issues, acid reflux is a sign of disharmony in the body. Often from a Chinese Medicine perspective the Liver, Stomach & Spleen organs are involved. The liver functions to keep everything in your body moving freely and is easily disturbed by excess emotions. This disruption from emotions like chronic stress or anxiety can effect the Spleen and Stomach, which are considered the digestive organs.

What to do? ~Avoid the main triggers like chocolate, citrus, spicy and fatty foods, smoking, alcohol, and too much caffeine.

~Regulate stress in the way it works best for you.

~Try acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to support digestive functioning and keep your mind and body relaxed.

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