June 4, 2022

Treating GERD with Chinese Medicine

Treating GERD with Chinese Medicine is done through acupuncture, herbal medicine and guidance for lifestyle changes. GERD is a rather common malady that many simply call heartburn, but it presents along a continuum of symptoms from mild to severe. Some may experience it as a minor problem and have infrequent bouts. Others however have severe symptoms that erode their quality of life and do internal damage. Typically, GERD is considered chronic if 2-3 episodes occur per week.

GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is characterized by the backflow (reflux) of stomach acid and other digestive fluids up into the esophagus and possibly further. As opposed to the stomach itself, other body parts are not built to withstand exposure to stomach fluids. The esophagus is particularly vulnerable to the corrosive effects of stomach fluids, and reflux can also damage the throat and voice box in some cases.

Symptoms of GERD

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Sore or burning sensations in the chest that can spread to the throat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sour taste
  • Dry throat
  • Dry coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Weight gain/loss

Chinese Medicine Determines which GERD is Present

As always, Chinese medicine seeks to treat not only the individual, but also the specific manifestation of an illness within the individual. Consequently, a practitioner of Chinese Medicine looks for what type of GERD a patient is experiencing. This is notably different than in mainstream western treatment which typically does not conceptualize such specific and various types of the illness.

Chinese medicine considers there to be 5 GERD syndromes that can occur. These are:

  • A Syndrome of Liver and Stomach
  • A Syndrome of Accumulation of Liver and Stomach Heat
  • A Syndrome of Improper Diet Damaging Digestion
  • A Syndrome of Spleen and Stomach Damp-Heat
  • A Syndrome of Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency

Each of these 5 syndromes will have a tailor-made treatment in both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

Issues Involved in the 5 Syndromes of GERD

Chinese medicine looks at the 5 GERD syndromes in terms very unfamiliar to westerners new to acupuncture and Chinese herbalism. Concepts like damp, fire, heat, cold, yang, yin and Qi (vital life force) are used. Some ways of conceptualizing various GERD diagnoses in Chinese medicine include:

  • Stomach fire is an excessive yang condition which causes a fast pulse, dry stool, hunger, and thirst.
  • Poor digestion can lead to excessive fluid in the stomach. This causes dampness which gives a feeling of fullness and moves Qi (vital life force) in the digestive tract in the wrong direction.
  • Cold damp slows and congests digestion.
  • Qi stagnation causes stomach content to move up rather than down.
  • Liver fire typically caused by anger and stress disrupts the digestive balance.

Lifestyle Changes Often Needed

Along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, lifestyle changes are often recommended. Some of these include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating small meals
  • Stress and/or anger management
  • Adequate hydration
  • Avoiding hot and spicy foods
  • Avoiding cigarettes
  • Sleeping in a somewhat more elevated position
  • Wearing non-restrictive clothing


Call or text Jeffrey Russell for a consultation if you are experiencing GERD and would like to explore what Chinese Medicine can do for you.

You can reach Jeffrey at (502) 299-8900.

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