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GERD Awareness

Did you know that acupuncture can help with a number of digestive issues? Yes, it’s true!

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus – the tube connecting your mouth and stomach.

If you suffer with this, or you’ve ever suffered with it, you might have felt hopeless and frustrated at times that there are no known causes and the only known treatments are either medications or dietary adjustments.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what causes it in the first place, so that you can start treating and healing the root cause?

Enter Chinese Medicine (CM). CM has known for thousands of years that the blueprint of many physical manifestations is an imbalance of our Qi (energy). Reflux esophagitis in CM focuses on transforming, harmonizing, and restoring the normal movement of the stomach Qi to prevent it “rebelling” upwards. The treatment with acupuncture and/or herbs focuses on restoring normal functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), enhancing gastric motility, and improving gastric emptying.

Stomach Qi usually rebels because of:

  1. Eating in a hurry
  2. Eating when stressed or angry
  3. Burning the midnight oil
  4. Eating while walking or standing, repeatedly and over time
  5. Anxiety
  6. Drinking too much water with a meal or shortly after which diluted digestive enzymes makes digestion very difficult.

If we take a little look at the most common lifestyle factors which cause or exacerbate GERD, or the upward rebelling of Stomach Qi, we can see that simply doing the opposite of what causes it will be helpful. Also introducing calming practices like meditation, walking in nature, and of course coming for acupuncture treatment. Because whilst changing our habits will help to prevent GERD from returning, healing the problem and lessening the damage done by the issue is the forte of CM.

Quick At-Home Tip: Something very simple you can do at home to help yourself is after every meal, stroke down the midline from the bottom of your rib cage to the top of your belly button for about two minutes gently. This will help the Qi to move downwards instead of rebelling upwards.

Here’s some more good news: In a 2018 study Acupuncture was trialled over a period of 6 weeks with daily treatment for GERD, with a few days break in between each week of treatment and the TCM control group fared significantly better than the Western medicine control group. There were also far fewer side effects (virtually none) in comparison to the control group who were taking Proton Pump Inhibitors and other medications for GERD.

The conclusion of the study – compared with PPIs or Prokinetics therapy alone, TCM single therapy can better improve the clinical total effective rate and symptom relief and decrease the recurrence rate and adverse events in the treatment of NERD. Our results suggest that TCM will be a promising alternative therapy for NERD patients in the future.

So, if you, or someone you know is suffering from GERD, there may be hope on the horizon! Give us a call at (218) 724-3400 to see if we can lend a helping hand.

Xiao J, Yang Y, Zhu Y, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine on Nonerosive Reflux Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1505394. Published 2018 May 24. doi:10.1155/2018/1505394

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Acupressure for Digestion: Press to Digest!

In TCM theory, digestion represents the central axis around which everything else revolves. It provides our main source of (post-natal) energy from the breakdown and absorption of food. Even minor disruptions in this system can progress to significant and varied health problems.

Treatment, of course, depends on the severity of the problem. As long as emergency situations are ruled out or addressed, one can turn to Chinese medicine for prevention, treatment and maintenance. And the power of self-care can never be understated. Acupressure is one of our best self-care tools when used appropriately. While the needles (and the added effect of electrostimulation of needles) are generally considered a stronger approach to energy medicine than acupressure, acupressure alone has proved extremely beneficial. For example, in a study of 70 hemodialysis patients with constipation where acupressure was administered 3 times/week for 4 weeks, there was a significant improvement in bowel function .

So here are 3 Acupressure points that you can press to help you digest:

LARGE INTESTINE 4, “union valley”

Location: fleshy (and often achy) depression between the thumb and first finger
Use to: regulate intestinal function.
Stimulation of this point has been shown to both increase and decrease gastric motility depending on what’s needed. So, it can be used for both constipation and diarrhea.

CONCEPTION VESSEL 12: “middle controller”

Location: about 4 inches above navel
Use to: regulate stomach function, support energy
It has been shown to cause muscle relaxation via the somatosympathetic pathway, and inhibits gastric acid secretion which is extremely beneficial to GERD patients.

STOMACH 36: “3 mile leg”

Location: about 3inches below knee cap and about 1 inch towards outer edge of leg
Use to: strengthen digestion, build blood and immunity
According to some studies, it may improve upper and lower abdominal symptoms by restoring impaired ‘slow waves’ of the digestive tract via the vagal pathway. Electroacupuncture on this channel has been shown to enhance gastric motility and blood flow by regulating hormones (such as motilin and somatostatin) that directly affect digestion.

Benefits have been shown to be intensity dependent, so massage these points as often as needed. Just be sure to get in for some acupuncture where we can give these points (and more!) the extra attention they may need!

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Pickles ~ Chinese Medicine Style

Winter is upon us and for many of us, especially those in the northern climates, this means preparing for winter, the right way. Historically, one of the most important ways to prepare for the winter was to preserve food and one of the oldest ways to preserve food is by pickling..

The word pickle comes from the Dutch word Pikel, meaning salt or brine. Salt has been an important tool used for food preservation throughout history. In places that had large deposits of salt, like ancient Mesopotamia, people cured meat with salt. Pickling was also used all over the ancient world, either with a salt brine or through a fermentation process. People in India are credited with the pickling of the first cucumbers over 3,000 years ago, while the ancient Chinese used vinegar brines for pickling much of their meat.

Today, pickles continue to be a beloved worldwide treat, with many delicious variations and flavor innovations. Whether pickled in salt and/or vinegar or fermented (which imparts the extra probiotic benefits), there are many healthy reasons to indulge!

Before sharing an easy at-home pickling recipe, let’s take a look at some of the Chinese Medicinal aspects to the 2 basic pickling components: salt and vinegar

*Salt is a flavor that is associated with the kidneys, and in moderation can help with kidney function. It is known to help regulate water in the body, dissolve masses, counter toxins, and balance acidic food.

Speaking of acidic food…

*Vinegar is endowed with the ability to regulate blood, in that it both moves stagnant blood and helps to stop bleeding. And like salt, it helps to resolve toxins in the body.


Pickled Daikon Radish with Chinese Peppercorn & Garlic


1 small daikon
1 Tbsp salt
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn
½ cup rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
Glass jar


  1. Wash and peel the daikon
  2. Cut the daikon radish into bite-size shapes of your choice
  3. Massage the salt into the freshly cut radish.
  4. Let them sit for 15-30 minutes while it draws out the bitter water. Rinse after 15 minutes.
  5. Arrange radish in a jar with some sliced garlic and chinese peppercorn dispersed in layers.
  6. Place the salt, sugar, vinegar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil
  7. Pour the hot mixture carefully into the jar until all the radishes are covered
  8. When cool, put on the lid and refrigerate

*you can eat them as soon as the next day, and they will last in the fridge for about 2-4 weeks.

While your mouth waters anticipating the flavor explosion you have just set yourself up for, take a moment to delight in the health benefits of the additional ingredients.

*Daikons reduce food stagnation and break up phlegm.
*Garlic is often used as an anti-pathogenic agent as it can help kill harmful bacteria, viruses, parasitic and fungal infections.
*Chinese Peppercorn is in the medicinal category of “warming the middle” meaning it supports the digestive fire.

Both the garlic and peppercorn are known to tonify yang in Chinese medicine. The combined warming qualities of the garlic and peppercorn are balanced by the cooling nature of the radish, making it safe for even hot constitutions. All in all, it’s balanced, healthy and tasty.

For nutritional approaches and snack suggestions more customized to your unique personal pattern, ask Heidi at your next visit, she is happy to help support you in all aspects of your health journey!

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5 Ways to Eat Without Overeating this Holiday Season


We’ve always the heard the saying to enjoy everything in moderation, and that is definitely true when it comes to holiday foods. Don’t try to deprive yourself during the holidays, it most likely won’t go over well. Having an extra holiday treat here and there won’t kill you. You’re allowed to indulge a bit, just keep portions small when it comes to holiday desserts and make sure you limit how often you eat them. Going the whole season without any treats is cruel and will most likely end in binging later, so have your guilty pleasures, just keep them in moderation.

Watch the alcohol

The holidays are a time for celebration, which most likely means more alcohol. Not only does alcohol add on empty calories, but can also lead you to eating more while drinking. If you are at a gathering, limit yourself to one or two drinks to cut down on the unhealthy cravings you might be feeling afterward.

Focus on the protein

Protein-packed foods are a great way to fill up without adding a lot of sugar and empty carbohydrates. Pack your plate with low-fat meats like turkey and chicken. If you’re vegetarian, eat more of the tofu than the side dishes that are most likely to be sugar and carbohydrate heavy.

Fill up on the water

Don’t forget about water! The holidays are an easy time to drink more sugary beverages than normal. Substitute drinks for water, and drink a lot of it. Not only is water essential for your health, but drinking a glass before a meal can fill you up more as well, preventing you from overeating.

Take your time

Eating too fast is one of the easiest ways to overeat. When you don’t give your body the chance to digest food and feel full before you stop eating, chances are you’re going to end up eating more than you want. Eat slowly and enjoy each bite to give your body a chance to catch up. This way, you’ll end up getting full faster and eat less.

Most of all don’t forget to enjoy the holidays and the delicious food that comes with it, don’t be afraid to indulge a little!

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Halloween: Honoring the Spirits

Thought to have originated around 4000 BC in the ancient Celtic world, Halloween is considered to be a time when the veil between worlds is thin. During this time,which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year, spirits were welcome and celebrated. However, some spirits were thought to be evil, and therefore unwelcome. Costumes were worn for protection to scare away the unwanted spirits. This practice led to the modern halloween customs we, in the West, are familiar with today.

Many countries have similar celebrations and festivities to honor the spirit world. China has a festival called Teng Chieh, the ‘ghost festival’, which began as a religious ritual nearly 2000 years ago. While it is currently celebrated in July and not October, it’s rooted in the same recognition of life beyond the physical. Lanterns and bonfires are lit to help guide spirits back to their earthly homes, and allow the living a chance to honor deceased loved ones. This is a time to leave food, water and gifts by portraits of family members who have passed.

The Fall, in Chinese Medicine belongs to the Metal element and the associated emotion is grief, which is held in the lungs. Grief is a part of life and something we must all deal with at some point. If the emotion of grief is suppressed and not processed properly it can lead to health issues, especially lung disease. Taking time to remember loved ones that have passed and allowing emotions to flow can be extremely important in long term disease prevention and health maintenance. The Fall is a great time to do this according to Chinese Medicine seasonal energies. Halloween, a chance to face the dark side of death with a certain amount of playful protection, can be a reminder to put aside the spooky fun for a moment and lovingly honor our deceased friends and relatives.

The Fall season is a perfect time to:

*Find a picture of a departed loved one, frame it, and display it in an area, with room for a candle and some memory-honoring items.
* You can include some items they owned or passed down.
*Make an ‘offering’ of their favorite things such as food, flowers, or even pictures of things they liked.
*Write a letter of things unsaid or things worthy of being repeated.
* Make a donation in their honor to a cause they valued.
*Acupressure point to tap into ancestral wisdom and connect with your lineage:
Location: On the posterior forearm, between the radius and ulna, approx 3 inches up from the wrist crease, and slightly closer to the pinky side.
On a spiritual level, this is a way to connect with your ancestors. Stimulating this point is like calling a clan meeting with generations passed, to gain their heavenly perspective and get their wise counsel.

Chinese Medicine is rooted in Taoist philosophy which views death as a natural part of life that we all must accept, and goes so far as to suggest that life is an illusion while death is an awakening. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, it can be a healing practice to take time to remember people in our lives who have passed on to the great mystery.

Enjoy all the feels of the season, the changing smells, colors and of course the fun of the fall holidays. Don’t forget to make time for some Acupuncture to assist with the emotional energies that naturally arise during this time, which can include grief and sadness. Acupuncture can help open the pathways that allow these emotions to flow in a healthy, supported way. We’re here for you on 205 W. 2nd Street, Suite 502, in Duluth MN!

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