Short answer: Yup. It sure can.
Let’s chat a bit about reflux.
Reflux (and its relationship with antacids, its current pharmaceutical “go-to” treatment) is interesting because the body actually needs stomach acid in order to digest food. Without stomach acid production (which is stopped by antacids), food accumulates in the stomach, creating pressure on the esophageal-stomach sphincter. Improperly digested food then causes further down the line, such as cramping, discomfort, diarrhea/constipation, and decreased or increased transit time to bowel movement. Of course, we also can’t have stomach acid being pushed upwards into the esophagus. So, we need to do things in a step-wise process. First, we need to get the stomach to do its job, which, from any medical perspective is to send food down instead of up. We can correct this “counterflow” of stomach energy with homeopathic-spagyric (HS) medicine and/or with Chinese herbs. We try the HS medicine first because it is not only effective, but it is simple and easy to take. If that doesn’t work (or works only partially) we move to herbal medicine, and then to pharmaceutical/surgical interventions. When reflux is caught early enough (when antacids haven’t been used), all we often need to do is to tell the stomach to “go down” and the situation takes care of itself. However, when there is a history of prilosec, we are dealing with a stomach that is no longer producing what it needs to produce in order for proper digestion to happen. So, we will likely also need to help the stomach by giving it small amounts of stomach acid for a short period of time, until it gets the hint that it is okay for it to be acidic (ie, do its job) and it is ready to produce acid on its own again. To do this, we use a natural nutritional supplement that provides stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and other components necessary for full digestion. Such a supplement will make meals immediately more comfortable. However, we do not want to do this right away, until we first get the stomach’s energy to “go down” for obvious reasons. We will also want to be sure that we are supporting other organs that aid the transformation of food into nutritional elements and promote proper transit time (the time it takes for food to move from the stomach to the colon). From the Chinese herbal and homeopathic-spagryic perspective, these organs include the spleen/pancreas.
So how does reflux happen?
Well, from the Chinese or energetic-functional perspective, all physical problems start out energetically. In terms of reflux, it started because your body’s stomach energy stopped “going down” like it should.
The stomach is a yang organ of a yang energetic system. Yang energy naturally rises upward (according to foundational energetic theory). Yin energy naturally goes downward. However, life exists because of the interplay between yang and yin. Yang must be immersed in yin. The function of the stomach is to make yang energy go downward.
In the body, we see this in how all yang channels of the body go down. Of course, this is contrary to the natural desires of yang energy to flow upward. To keep life going, it requires some effort. In terms of reflux, we’d say that either due to heredity or some “injury” that weakened the yang channel, stomach energy is just not going down like it should. Many people have weak stomach energy — its not uncommon because again, it takes energy to keep pushing the yang down into the yin. When the weakness gets severe enough, you get the physical presentation of reflux.
The Emotional/Psychological Aspects of Reflux
The stomach is not only in charge of digesting physical food, it is also the first “digestive” organ of experiences. It is not uncommon for those who have reflux to realize that they also are having trouble “digesting” life. It’s considered an Earth organ. It would be completely accurate to say that the stomach is the first-line responder whose job it is to “digest” difficult experiences of being on Earth. And let’s face it — it can be tough to be here.
The stomach’s partner in digesting experiences is the Spleen/Pancreas. (In Chinese medicine, they are grouped together. We can explore why in another article). The emotional/psychological job of the Spleen/Pancreas is to transform the digested experiences into something useful. Physically, we see the pancreas as a vital player in the production of digestive enzymes, and it also is highly involved in sugar regulation. Together, the Spleen/Pancreas and Stomach work together to make Earth an “okay” place to live.
Are you saying my reflux is psychological?
No, not at all. We are saying that when reflux happens, its a sign the stomach is not doing its job — which is to send both energy and physical food downward. The failure of the stomach energy to go downward can manifest in many ways.
What’s the treatment plan?
Integrative, natural and functional medicines do great work with restoring digestive ability. There’s no reason why reflux can’t resolve completely. When it comes to reflux, I recommend taking it a step at a time. We typically start with a homeopathic-spagyric medicine for reflux. As that resolves, we should usually add up to two additional homeopathic-spagyrics medicines for improved digestion and transit time. We can also consider a chinese herbal formula if improvement is not complete from the spagryics alone. Chinese herbal medicines are functional medicines that “nudge” the body into doing its job. In reflux, the body needs to produce necessary amounts of enzymes and acid for itself. Chinese herbals are not like pharmaceuticals that “take over” function; instead they support proper functioning. In addition to assisting with “counterflow” issues, chinese herbs can stop belly pain, cramping, urgency of bowel movement, etc.
Once the reflux is improved, we should consider adding nutritional supplements to aid digestion. This will provide immediate relief for the body, particularly of bloating, discomfort, fatigue, or uncomfortable fullness after eating. The goal is to wean off everything completely, as again, we seek to restore proper functioning, not do a take-over of it.
In most cases, reflux should resolve completely and not require continuous medication, although natural herbal or homeopathic medicine should be kept on-hand in case reflux randomly re-occurs. Results of the homeopathic reflux medication should be felt within 10 minutes, with complete cessation of reflux in 2 weeks. If that doesn’t happen, we should add Chinese herbal medicine, which is a stronger intervention. The same methodology is true for other digestive issues, including gut transit time — in general, Chinese herbs are excellent for gut regulation and restoration.
If we feel that you need to “repair” your gut, for example, we suspect you have “leaky gut,” we can also go down that road. But again, I always say, “let’s take it a step at a time!”
Less is more with medicine, and if we’re lucky, it won’t take much at all for your body to say: “Oooh, okay, I’ll do that!” and re-regulate itself.
At Chiyu Center, we believe that the body seeks health and is capable of self-regulation. All it needs is some support now and then…
… and don’t we all?
If you have any questions and when you are ready to try this approach, please reach out! I’d love to work with you.