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Acid Reflux Medications and Migraines Linked in New Research: Natural Alternatives Are Available

Acid reflux has become increasingly prevalent, often leading individuals to seek relief through pharmaceuticals. However, recent studies shed light on potential risks associated with commonly prescribed acid-reducing medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers. A study published in the April 24, 2024, issue of Neurology®Clinical Practice revealed a concerning link between these drugs and migraines or severe headaches. 


Acid reflux, characterized by the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, can cause discomfort ranging from heartburn to ulcers. Chronic acid reflux may even progress to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition with severe consequences, including esophageal cancer. Amidst concerns over the long-term risks of acid-reducing drugs, many are turning to traditional Chinese herbal medicine for gentle, effective relief personalized to individual needs.


Unlike Western medicine's one-size-fits-all approach, Chinese herbal therapy addresses acid reflux by identifying and treating specific patterns or diagnoses. Here, we'll delve into the top three patterns recognized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with associated herbs and representative formulas:


Liver Qi Stagnation: In TCM, emotional stress and tension can lead to Liver Qi stagnation, disrupting the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) and causing acid reflux. Common symptoms include irritability, belching, and a sensation of distension in the chest.

  • Representative Herbs: Bupleurum (Chai Hu), Peppermint (Bo He), Saussurea (Mu Xiang)

  • Representative Formula: Mu Xiang Shun Qi Wan (Auklandia Formula to Smooth the Qi)


Stomach Heat: Excessive consumption of spicy or greasy foods can contribute to Stomach Heat, characterized by symptoms such as acid regurgitation, thirst, and a bitter taste in the mouth.

  • Representative Herbs: Coptis (Huang Lian), Scutellaria (Huang Qin)

  • Representative Formula: Qing Wei San (Clear the Stomach Powder)


Spleen Qi Deficiency: Inadequate diet, irregular eating habits, and weak digestion can lead to Spleen Qi deficiency, resulting in acid reflux accompanied by bloating, fatigue, and loose stools.

  • Representative Herbs: Codonopsis (Dang Shen), Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)

  • Representative Formula: Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Middle and Augment the Qi Decoction)


Chinese herbal medicine offers these and many other formulations tailored to address the root causes of acid reflux while promoting overall health and balance. Furthermore, the personalized approach of TCM allows practitioners to adapt treatments according to individual constitution and symptoms, ensuring optimal outcomes.


For individuals with complex conditions with additional health issues on top of Acid Reflux, seeking guidance from a qualified Chinese herbal medicine doctor is advisable. By conducting a thorough assessment, a skilled practitioner can devise a personalized herbal formula to target the specific imbalances contributing to acid reflux and associated issues.


While acid reflux poses significant challenges, there are natural alternatives available through the rich tradition of Chinese herbal medicine. By embracing personalized treatments tailored to individual needs, we can alleviate symptoms and promote lasting digestive health without the risks associated with pharmaceutical interventions. As we navigate the complexities of modern healthcare, let us not overlook the wisdom of ancient healing traditions in our quest for well-being.


Dr. Kim Drolet, DACM, LAc

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