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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

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!

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!

Lessons from Geese

From a Speech By Angeles Arrien


With each flap of a wing, a goose creates an “uplift” for others to follow. When you see geese fly in a “V” formation it allows the geese to fly 71% further than if each bird flew alone.


People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier when they are working together.


One of the reasons geese honk is to encourage those in front to keep up speed.


We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. When we are working with others, encouragement is often helpful to get the job done smoothly and quickly.


If a goose happens to fall out of formation, it will suddenly feel the resistance and drag of flying alone and fall back into place.


If we are on a certain path, and we attempt to go at it alone without help or support, our efforts may be reduced. It is easier to accept the help of those who are going in the same direction, and give help to others along our route.


When the lead goose tires, it will fall out of formation and move to the back of the flock, allowing another to fly in the point position.


Everyone has different skills, resources, and unique gifts to offer. It is important to take turns and share the hard tasks.


When a goose is wounded, shot or sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay until it is able to regain strength enough to fly. Then they catch up with their flock or join another formation.


If we have enough sense as the geese do, we stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.
Transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network.

Harvest to Hibernation: Preparing the Hearth

Fall is traditionally thought of as harvest time, a time for gathering nature’s bounty, and preparing it for storage. Food is preserved for hibernation season. While we, as humans, do not actually hibernate in winter, we resonate with the energy of the season. Many animals hibernate, plants die down while roots preserve energy for the spring. The sun is low in the sky, days are shorter, it is darker and colder and we are drawn home.

Home is where the heart is but it is also where the hearth is. Preparing the hearth means creating a warm, safe space. Fall is a time to make sure our homes are ready for the extreme yin season, while also preparing our bodies, minds and spirits. Surviving and thriving in winter relies on the ability to draw on the reserves of food, warmth, and energy that we have gathered and preserved in accordance with the seasons.

Here are some things to consider in Fall to better prepare for winter:

Nutritional transitions: In Chinese Medicine, Fall is lung season. Don’t miss this opportunity to nourish and moisten the lungs with foods like pears, apples, figs, cauliflower, and daikon radish. Keeping the lungs strong will build immunity for the sometimes harsh conditions we face in Winter. Plenty of fiber is also important to help clean out LI (the lung’s paired organ) and prevent digestive stagnation as everything slows down in Winter. Most food should be cooked to maintain the body’s digestive fire. Warming teas with cinnamon and ginger are delightfully seasonable as temperatures drop throughout fall and winter.

Lifestyle transitioning: Winter is the peak of yin time. Yin time is about going inward into stillness. Fall is the beginning of the yin season and when we should begin that inner journey. The excitement of summer quiets down and we begin to require more sleep and rest in general. We simply need to slow down as we don’t want to expend the energy reserves that are needed to keep us warm and healthy throughout the frost. This is also a time to layer our clothing as the temperatures drop. Chinese medicine practitioners will always remind you to make sure you have a favorite scarf in the Fall to cover the nape of your neck. This area of the body is especially vulnerable to chilly winds that can penetrate and disturb our homeostasis.

Emotional transitions: In preparation for the reflective yin time ahead, we are compelled to feel some grief as we say goodbye to summer and observe the natural cycle of death happening around us as the earth progresses towards winter. If we have created space and time to feel the natural sadness of letting go in the fall, and release those energies appropriately, it will be that much easier to face the emotional energies of winter, the darkest season. Winter is associated with the emotion of fear and facing our fears helps us tap into our strength, our courage and our willpower.

Fall is a time for practical considerations when it comes to winterizing our homes, cars, and land. Depending on where/how we live, we may find our to-do lists filled with things like cleaning out the gutters, inspecting the chimney, checking antifreeze levels, and spreading mulch in the garden. Regardless of how we prepare externally, it is just as important to prepare internally for the change of season.

Want some assistance with these internal preparations? Call us at (218) 724-3400 and schedule some fall acupuncture to ‘prepare the hearth’ and set yourself up for a smooth transition into winter!

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