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Digestive Disorders

How to Treat Gastroparesis With Acupuncture and TCM


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac. Ph.D.


Stomach pain, nausea, and belching can be signs of gastroparesis.
Stomach pain, nausea, and belching can be signs of gastroparesis.

Bloated stomach, indigestion? Acid reflux, regurgitating food? Abdominal pain or nausea? These can be signs of gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve gastroparesis symptoms. 

What is gastroparesis? Gastric paralysis is a functional problem that occurs when the stomach muscles and the nerves that are connected to them aren’t activating normally. Weak stomach contractions lead to delayed emptying of the stomach into the small intestine.

Gastroparesis impacts your digestion, triggering uncomfortable symptoms, and limiting your ability to get proper nutrition and keep your blood sugar levels steady.

There are different types of gastroparesis.

  • Diabetes-related gastroparesis – a side effect of diabetes
  • Post-surgical gastroparesis – occurs after surgery, such as gallbladder or pancreas surgery, gastric bypass surgery, stomach surgery for ulcer, or hysterectomy
  • Idiopathic gastroparesis – occurs without a clear explanation

Most people experience idiopathic gastroparesis, which means that doctors cannot necessarily identify what causes gastroparesis in many cases.

Some medications can delay stomach emptying, including narcotic pain medications like codeine, morphine, or oxycodone. Medications that work on nerve signals, such as those used to treat overactive bladder, can delay gastric emptying.

Scleroderma, an autoimmune condition that affects collagen production and smooth muscle tissues, can lead to gastroparesis. Parkinson’s disease, which affects nerve signals, can lead to delayed emptying of the stomach. Hypothyroidism can also affect nutrition and digestion, as can eating disorders, metabolic disorders, and/or chronic fatigue.

Acupuncture is a good modality for helping to relieve gastroparesis symptoms, because it works on the nervous system, to help restore the proper signaling to muscles.

Rumination Syndrome

Gastroparesis is sometimes confused with “rumination syndrome.” Rumination syndrome refers to the regular regurgitation of undigested food. People with this syndrome often regurgitate undigested food back up shortly after a meal. This condition is usually related to the functioning of muscles of the diaphragm and unconscious behaviors around chewing and swallowing.


Gastroparesis Symptoms

Feeling full quickly when you eat can be a symptom of gastroparesis.
Feeling full quickly when you eat can be a symptom of gastroparesis.

The most common signs of gastroparesis are bloating, pain, nausea, and feeling full quickly when you eat.

Other symptoms of gastroparesis include:

  1. Feeling full quickly when eating
  2. Nausea, feeling nauseous after eating
  3. Vomiting, spitting up undigested food after eating
  4. Bloating, bloated stomach, abdominal bloating, abdominal cramping, stomach cramps
  5. Belching, burping
  6. Acid reflux, heartburn
  7. High blood sugar, low blood sugar
  8. Lack of appetite
  9. Weight loss
  10. Malnutrition

Gastroparesis needs to be addressed, as it can compromise your overall health by blocking you from getting proper nutrition from your food.


Gastroparesis Treatment


Medical treatment for gastroparesis will depend on which type a person seems to have. If a person has diabetes-related gastroparesis, for example, treatment will necessitate better management of blood sugar levels. 

Initial diagnosis usually involves imaging tests to see what is happening with the stomach and if there may be a blockage. Gastric motility tests help doctors see how your stomach muscles are working.

People will often be advised to change their dietary habits: possibly following a liquid diet for a period of time, or eating smaller meals throughout the day. You may be told to avoid fats and fiber, as these macronutrients can contribute to delayed stomach emptying.

In some cases, intravenous feeding or tube feeding may be necessary, if a person is severely undernourished due to gastroparesis.

Antiemetic medications may be prescribed to help with nausea and vomiting. Proton pump inhibitors may be recommended to help with acid reflux symptoms. 

There are some medications that can help promote better gastric emptying by stimulating more muscular contractions. Erythromycin and metoclopramide are two drugs used to treat gastroparesis. These medications can have side effects, like stomach cramps, nausea and constipation. They can also have negative interactions with other medications.

If these treatments are not helping, surgical options may be offered. A gastrostomy or may be inserted to help drain the stomach. A jejunostomy tube can be placed to bypass the stomach, so that nutrition gets into the intestines. A pyloroplasty is an operation in which the muscular valve of the stomach is widened.

Newer, experimental treatments involve placing electrodes on the stomach to help activate contractions. Botox injections have also been tried, as a way to calm spasms in the stomach.

Acupuncture treatment can help relieve gastroparesis symptoms without side effects or invasive procedures.


Can Acupuncture Help Gastroparesis?


Acupuncture can help relieve stomach pain and nausea due to gastroparesis.
Acupuncture can help relieve stomach pain and nausea due to gastroparesis.

According to TCM theory, gastroparesis can be caused by a deficiency of stomach and/or spleen Qi. Part of the TCM treatment protocol for gastroparesis might involve using herbs and certain foods to help warm and nourish the spleen. Acupuncture treatment can help improve muscular function, as well help to relieve stomach pain.

The motility of the gastrointestinal system is controlled by nerve and electric impulses. Acupuncture, and in particular, electro-acupuncture, can have a positive effect on stimulating electrical activity and restoring neural pathways within the body.

Acupuncture has been shown to be helpful for relieving many GI symptoms, like nausea and  bloating. This makes it a good treatment for many types of gastric disorders and stomach problems. 

In one study, three different groups of people were all given acupuncture treatment, with emphasis on different acupoints used for each group. All three groups of patients had significant improvement in their gastroparesis symptoms.

Specifically, testing with barium meal showed that acupuncture helped improve the speed of stomach emptying. Patients also reported positive changes in their feeling of fullness after a meal and experienced less bloating.

One case study of a woman in her 60s who had been suffering for two years with gastroparesis symptoms showed significant improvement of nausea, timely stomach emptying, and energy levels after just four acupuncture treatments. 

Another case study of a man in his 60s who presented with symptoms of fullness, stomach pain and distension, with delayed stomach emptying, ended with complete resolution of his symptoms after eleven acupuncture treatment sessions.


Acupuncture Near Me for Gastroparesis in Los Angeles


At Art of Wellness in West Los Angeles, Doctors Tan and Cai have over 35 years of experience helping people find relief from all kinds of gastrointestinal symptoms and stomach problems, including: IBS, stomach ulcer, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. It’s worth trying acupuncture to see if it can help relieve gastroparesis symptoms for you.


*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.



How to Treat POTS With Acupuncture and TCM


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.


POTS dizzy nausea headaches
POTS is most common in girls and women and often starts in adolescence.

Do you often feel shaky, like you’re fainting, or experience dizziness, especially when you’re getting up from sitting down or lying down? Do you feel like you have a rapid heartbeat, or shortness of breath? Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, known as PoTS syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that causes unstable blood pressure when changing positions. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve dizziness and other symptoms of POTS.

Postural tachycardia syndrome (or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) is a chronic disorder related to the autonomic nervous system that causes people to experience dizziness and increased heart rate when they move into an upright position; this is known as orthostatic intolerance.

POTS syndrome is fairly common, affecting up to 3 million people in the U.S. POTS occurs more often in people assigned female at birth, and often first shows up during the teenage years. 

The most common symptom of POTS is feeling light-headed when changing your position from sitting to standing, or when getting up from lying down.

Whenever we have been sitting or lying down for a while, blood pools in the lower parts of the body. When we get up, the autonomic nervous system starts a series of actions to move blood back up into the top half of the body. This involves squeezing blood vessels, and releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine, to make the heart beat faster.

When a person has POTS, more blood tends to pool in the legs, and the nervous system process doesn’t cause the normal, quick response from the blood vessels, so more hormones are released, which can cause the person’s heart rate to increase, and a dizzy, faint feeling.

Medical science has not yet discovered exactly what causes POTS, but there are different characteristics that allow for categorizing these different types of POTS syndrome:

  • Neuropathic POTS – damage to small fiber nerves that control blood vessel constriction in the abdomen and limbs
  • Hyperadrenergic POTS – when a person has elevated levels of norepinephrine
  • Hypovolemic POTS – when a person has unusually low blood levels
  • Secondary POTS – when POTS symptoms are related to another condition that causes neuropathy, such as Lyme disease, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders like Lupus or celiac disease.

While POTS is not rare, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis, because the criteria can be vague, and the symptoms can so often be related to other conditions, or just seem “normal.” 

For many people, POTS is truly debilitating and can have a serious, negative impact on daily life. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for POTS that can help with dizziness, irregular heartbeat, digestive problems, muscle weakness, migraines, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms, all at the same time.


Top 10 POTS Symptoms

The primary symptoms of POTS are related to the cardiovascular system: rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. However, there can be many other POTS symptoms.

  1. Irregular heart rate, rapid heart rate, fast heartbeat, chest pain, heart palpitations
  2. Dizziness, especially when standing up or getting up from lying down, feeling faint
  3. Breathing problems: hyperventilating, bronchial asthma, shortness of breath
  4. Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
  5. Muscle weakness, muscle pain, tremor
  6. Skin rash, flushed face, flushing, sweating
  7. Migraine headaches
  8. Cognitive issues, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  9. Trouble sleeping
  10. Frequent urination, nocturia
POTS dizziness
Symptoms of POTS include dizziness, fatigue, and migraines.

Other symptoms of POTS may include: tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, red or purple appearance of the legs when standing up, and a “jittery” feeling or general nervousness.

As with many syndromes, different people will experience different combinations of symptoms. While dizziness and rapid heartbeat are the signs most commonly associated with POTS, many people with POTS will also suffer from abdominal pain and gastrointestinal problems, perhaps without realizing there is a correlation.

POTS symptoms may resemble many other conditions, such as:

Because POTS is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, many patients will be offered medications to manage headaches, vertigo, or depression, which may not offer much relief.


Medical Treatment for POTS

As there is no definitive cure for POTS, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome treatments typically aim to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Dietary modifications are a fundamental component of POTS management. Adequate daily fluid intake is crucial. A diet that includes plenty of salt helps maintain blood volume, aiding blood flow to vital organs. Patients are typically advised to avoid alcohol and carefully monitor caffeine intake, as these substances can exacerbate symptoms.

Exercise is gradually introduced, often starting in reclined or horizontal positions, with the goal of increasing exercise tolerance over time. Physical therapy helps retrain the autonomic nervous system, enhancing blood circulation.

Compression garments can help reduce blood pooling, and specific postures while sitting or sleeping may alleviate symptoms. Identifying triggers such as prolonged sitting, heat, or certain drugs allows for better symptom control. Regular monitoring of blood pressure and pulse, along with adequate sleep hygiene, aids overall well-being.

While no single pharmacological solution is universally effective, some medications may be prescribed based on individual symptoms. These may help to improve blood volume, aid sodium retention, reduce heart rate, and enhance blood vessel constriction.

While POTS symptoms may intermittently improve with medications and lifestyle modifications, the underlying cause of POTS may persist. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can provide a holistic solution for individuals living with POTS, which may help to address the root causes of this syndrome.


Can Acupuncture Help POTS?

acupuncture treatment
Acupuncture treatment can help relieve POTS symptoms.

POTS is a kind of Dysautonomia; this is a general term that describes conditions that involve malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system. This causes people’s bodies to have problems with regulating the sorts of functions that are typically automatic, like the beating of the heart, circulation of blood, breathing, and temperature control. 

Western medicine offers some treatments that can help address individual symptoms of dysautonomia, but it does not have a way of treating the root of the problem. It can be difficult to get proper treatment, because people who suffer from POTS and other kinds of dysautonomia often seem reasonably healthy, and their complaints—dizziness, headaches, mental health problems—seem vague.

Acupuncture and TCM have been used to treat these kinds of problems for centuries. Acupuncture treatment can help provide positive effects on the subtle communications of the nervous system, as well as the heart rate, and physiological symptoms of anxiety. According to TCM theory, several organ systems may be involved and need support: not only the heart, but also the kidneys or spleen.

Studies have shown that acupuncture for dysautonomia can help relieve symptoms like heart palpitations, insomnia, and digestive problems.

A qualified acupuncturist is also well-versed in nutrition and can offer more detailed information regarding dietary and lifestyle changes that can help each individual patient. Your TCM provider will spend time learning more about you, so that they can offer personalized advice.


Acupuncture Near Me for POTS in West Los Angeles

TCM and acupuncture can help people with all types of autoimmune disorders, nerve disorders, and conditions involving fatigue and dizziness that may be difficult to solve with conventional methods. Acupuncture works on a deeper, more subtle level to help address complex syndromes. If you are regularly experiencing trouble with feeling light-headed, having unexplained headaches and sleep problems, it may be time to seek a more holistic alternative treatment.


*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.


How to Treat Scleroderma With Acupuncture and TCM


By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.


scleroderma skin hard
Scleroderma causes hardening skin and can cause internal scarring.

Hard, thickening, tight skin? Itchy, dry skin that is shiny? Changing skin color? These could be symptoms of scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to produce too much collagen. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can help relieve inflammation and pain while helping to resolve the underlying cause of scleroderma.

Scleroderma can be considered a type of dermatosis (skin lesion), and also a type of connective tissue disease (negatively impacting tissues that connect structures in the body), as it usually affects skin and cartilage, often starting in the extremities, and then extending up the limbs towards the trunk.

Collagen is a form of fibrous protein that the body produces to maintain the structure of skin cells, muscles, bones, and connective tissue. The immune system triggers collagen production when we are injured, but in the case of scleroderma, the body is overproducing and accumulating too much collagen.

Localized scleroderma affects primarily the skin tissue, but can also spread to subcutaneous tissues, like fascia and muscles.

In some cases, scleroderma can also impact internal organs, like the esophagus, lungs, heart, and kidneys. This is known as systemic scleroderma.


Top 3 Types of Scleroderma

Localized scleroderma can be differentiated into 3 types: 

  1. Localized scleroderma – a few patches of discolored skin (circumscribed morphea); these skin lesions can vary in size, may be oval shaped, and are usually yellow in the center with a red border.
  2. Generalized scleroderma – also called generalized morphea, with this type there are more patches of thick, hard skin on various parts of the body, which may overlap.
  3. Linear scleroderma – more common in children, may show up as one band of affected skin on a limb or on the trunk, with a few patches of morphea. Linear scleroderma on arms and legs may affect the growth and development of that limb, as scleroderma may impact the muscle and bone tissues as well as the skin.

Systemic scleroderma is rare, but happens more commonly in women between the ages of 30 and 50. This type of scleroderma can manifest in different ways.

Systemic scleroderma can sometimes first show up as Raynaud’s phenomenon, or Raynaud’s syndrome, in which the blood vessels in the hands and feet close up when the weather is cold and cause color changes to the skin, as well as sensations of numbness, prickling, tingling, or pain. Stress can also trigger Raynaud’s.

Systemic scleroderma can cause scarring on the skin and internal organs, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux, cardiovascular and pulmonary problems, or renal disease.

Acupuncture treatment can be used as an adjunct treatment to help relieve symptoms of pain related to skin hardening, as well as helping to alleviate heartburn and GERD type symptoms in patients with esophageal symptoms of scleroderma. TCM can also help address the root causes of scleroderma and other autoimmune disorders.

What Causes Scleroderma? 

scleroderma hands
Localized scleroderma usually affects skin on the extremities or limbs.

As with most autoimmune disorders, medical science has not yet discovered exactly why some people develop this condition. While it is not passed from parent to child the way genetic diseases are, you are more likely to have scleroderma if someone else in your immediate family has it, too.

It is believed that factors like environmental toxins and/or viral infections can trigger scleroderma symptoms to flare up. The overproduction of collagen is due to abnormal functioning of the immune system.

Because women develop scleroderma more often than men do, it may be that there is a hormonal factor that affects the disease, as well.


Diagnosis and Medical Treatment for Scleroderma

There is no cure for scleroderma, so conventional medical treatments aim to alleviate symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. The treatment plan may vary depending on the specific manifestations and severity of the disease.

To diagnose scleroderma, doctors rely on a combination of clinical assessments, medical history review, physical examinations, and lab tests. A doctor will first observe skin changes, such as thickening and hardening, then look for internal organ involvement and other symptoms.

Blood tests can help identify specific antibodies associated with scleroderma, such as antinuclear antibodies (ANA), anti-centromere antibodies (ACA), and anti-Scl-70 (anti-topoisomerase I) antibodies. Additionally, blood tests can assess organ function, including kidney and liver function, as well as inflammatory markers.

X-rays, ultrasound, or CT scans may be used to evaluate internal organ involvement, such as lung fibrosis, gastrointestinal complications, and cardiac abnormalities.

A skin biopsy sample may be taken to confirm the presence of fibrosis and assess the degree of inflammation.

cold weather Raynaud
Cold can trigger Raynaud’s numb fingers and toes.

Medications that may be recommended for treating scleroderma symptoms include:

  1. Immunosuppressants: Medications such as methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, and azathioprine may be prescribed to suppress the immune response and reduce inflammation.
  2. Corticosteroids: Oral or topical corticosteroids can help manage inflammation and alleviate symptoms in certain cases. However, long-term use may have potential side effects and is usually minimized.
  3. Vasodilators: Medications like calcium channel blockers and prostacyclin analogs may be prescribed to improve blood flow and manage Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  4. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These medications can help manage gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms, which are common in scleroderma patients.

Patients are often advised to make lifestyle changes to manage their condition effectively. These may include:using skin moisturizers and avoiding excessive sun exposure, and using sunscreen with a high SPF, avoiding cold temperatures and stress to prevent triggering Raynaud’s, quitting smoking, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet.


Can Acupuncture Help Scleroderma?

TCM treatment for scleroderma focuses more on addressing the underlying causes of the condition, rather than simply trying to relieve symptoms. An acupuncturist will look closely at the whole person, listen carefully to hear all the symptoms they are experiencing, even those which may seem unrelated, feel their pulse and make other observations, and then ascertain which diagnostic pattern may apply. 

According to TCM theory, scleroderma symptoms may occur due to:

  • Blood stagnation
  • Yang deficiency
  • Kidney Qi deficiency or yang deficiency
  • Liver and Gallbladder damp heat
  • Liver blood deficiency
  • Liver win
  • Spleen yang deficiency
  • Stagnation of cold, wind, and/or damp

Depending on the diagnosis, the TCM practitioner will then plan a treatment protocol to address the root cause, using acupuncture and herbs. For example, herbs can help move stagnant blood, relieving the skin conditions related to scleroderma. Herbs can even help to inhibit collagen production, to help reduce skin hardening.

Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce the number of Raynaud’s attacks.

Moxibustion treatment may also be used to help relieve symptoms related to Raynaud’s phenomenon.

The use of acupuncture for stress relief is also integral to treatment for scleroderma, as stress can trigger a worsening of symptoms.

Acupuncture can help reduce esophageal reflux in cases where esophageal strictures have developed due to scleroderma in the digestive tract and help improve kidney function when kidneys have been impacted by fibrosis.

TCM herbal formulations for scleroderma will be individualized for each patient’s needs. Herbs may be used to help warm and nourish the organs, while clearing dampness and activating stagnant blood and Qi.

Acupuncture Near Me for Scleroderma in Los Angeles

Acupuncture and TCM herbal medicine can be excellent modalities for helping with difficult to treat skin conditions, connective tissue disorders, and autoimmune disorders, including:

If you are experiencing painful skin problems or digestive problems, consider seeking out alternative care in addition to conventional treatments.

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.


How to Treat Stomach Ulcer With Acupuncture and TCM


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac, Ph.D.


abdominal pain, stomach ulcer
Burning pain in stomach is a sign of peptic ulcers.

Burning sensation in your stomach? Persistent abdominal pain? Frequent heartburn and indigestion? These could be stomach ulcer symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM can help alleviate ulcer symptoms and reduce inflammation.

Stomach ulcers, also known as peptic ulcers, are painful sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Acid that is naturally present in the digestive tract begins to eat away at the lining of the stomach or intestinal walls. This can cause discomfort, burning pain, and other symptoms that significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Peptic ulcers may lead to complications if left untreated. In these cases, we may refer to the condition as peptic ulcer disease (PUD).

If the ulcer is near a blood vessel, it can cause internal bleeding. In severe cases, an ulcer can burn through the wall of the stomach, which leads to undigested food and digestive juice leaking out into the abdominal cavity. This is known as a “perforated ulcer” and often requires immediate surgery.

A peptic ulcer can also be so inflamed that it blocks food from moving through the digestive tract, which can cause you to feel full quickly, regurgitate food, and lose weight unintentionally. This is known as “obstruction.”

Ulcers are typically treated with medications and, in more severe cases, surgery. Acupuncture treatment can be used as an alternative or adjunct treatment to help heal ulcers, with or without surgery. 


What Causes Stomach Ulcers?

mouth ulcers, canker sores
Canker sores, or mouth ulcers, can be related to stomach ulcers.

Stomach ulcers are often caused by an imbalance between the digestive fluids and the protective mechanisms of the stomach lining. There is usually a lining of mucus that helps protect the stomach from digestive fluids, but sometimes there is too little mucus and too much acid.

A bacterial infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria is often involved in the formation of an ulcer. This bacteria can cause inflammation that affects the stomach lining. Left untreated, an H. pylori infection in the digestive tract can increase your risk for certain types of gastric cancers.

Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers or aphthous ulcers, can also be caused by the H. pylori bacterial infection. Canker sores can also be related to other gastrointestinal disorders, like Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (colitis).

A rare condition called Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES), in which a tumor called a gastrinoma develops in the pancreas or top part of the small intestine, can cause excessive amounts of stomach acids to be produced, which can lead to the formation of ulcers.

Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medication (NSAIDs), like Ibuprofen can also cause inflammation in the stomach.

Lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating a lot of spicy foods irritate the stomach lining and contribute to the development of ulcers.

Emotional and/or physiological stress can throw off the body’s pH balance, which can also cause excessive stomach acids to be produced.


Top 5 Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers

While it is possible to have an ulcer and not be aware of it because you don’t have any symptoms, most people with ulcers will experience some pain in their stomach. 

  1. Abdominal pain: A burning or gnawing pain in the abdomen, typically between the breastbone and the navel. The pain may be worse when the stomach is empty, such as between meals, and at night. 
  2. Indigestion: Discomfort or bloating after eating, belching, and heartburn (acid reflux).
  3. Nausea and vomiting: Feeling nauseous and experiencing vomiting, especially after meals. Some people may even vomit blood.
  4. Loss of appetite: A decreased desire to eat due to feelings of fullness or discomfort.
  5. Blood in the stool: In severe cases, ulcers can lead to bleeding, resulting in blood in the stool or black, tarry stools.

Other ulcer symptoms can include:  changes in appetite, intolerance to certain foods, especially fatty foods, feeling faint, having trouble breathing, and weight loss.

People may feel that the stomach pain is alleviated by eating certain foods that create a buffer against the stomach acid.

While medications and lifestyle changes are commonly used to treat peptic ulcer symptoms, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offer a holistic approach to address the root causes and alleviate symptoms of stomach ulcers.


Medical Treatment for Peptic Ulcers

When you seek conventional treatment for stomach ulcers, an endoscopy may be performed so that your doctor can see the ulcer(s) and possibly stop bleeding or remove abnormal tissue. Medications may be offered, and in some cases, surgery may be indicated.

Medications for stomach ulcer treatment include:

  1. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These drugs reduce stomach acid production, allowing the ulcer to heal. PPIs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole.
  2. Histamine receptor blockers (H2 blockers): These medications reduce acid production, providing relief and promoting ulcer healing. Famotidine and ranitidine are common H2 blockers.
  3. Antibiotics: If an H. pylori infection is present, a combination of antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and clarithromycin, will be prescribed to get rid of the bacteria.

Stomach ulcer surgery may be necessary if complications like perforation or obstruction occur. 

Repairs to a stomach ulcer can be performed during an endoscopic procedure, where a camera and tools are introduced through the throat. 

Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery can be done through a small incision in the abdomen. Holes in the stomach may be patched with something called a Graham Patch. 

If the hole is too large to be patched, then a small part of the stomach may be cut away, and the whole stomach will be closed, and, if necessary, reconnected to the top of the small intestine. This procedure is called a partial gastrectomy.

While conventional medical intervention for stomach ulcers can help bring relief, they do not necessarily prevent the recurrence of ulcers. Medications and surgery do not address the chronic stress that may have contributed to the formation of the ulcers in the first place.

Acupuncture treatment can help restore balance of the emotions as well as gastric fluids. It can also promote healing after ulcer surgery and prevent further occurrence of ulcers. If an ulcer is not yet so severe that surgery is needed, acupuncture treatment may be able to help heal the ulcer before it becomes worse.


Can Acupuncture Help Stomach Ulcers?

acupuncture treatment
Acupuncture treatment can help reduce stomach acid.

Acupuncture treatment for stomach ulcers, gastric pain, and also canker sores (mouth ulcers), is usually focused on harmonizing the Qi (life force energy) of the stomach and the spleen. Heat and dampness are pathogenic forces that can cause imbalance in the stomach and spleen, while heat and wind in the lungs can also be a factor, from the TCM theory perspective.

Therefore, acupuncture points will be chosen to help strengthen and regulate the stomach and spleen. Acupuncture has been shown to have an effect on the vagus nerve and help reduce overactive acid production in the stomach. Acupuncture also affects the central nervous system, with the effect of reducing pain sensations.

One study compared patients who received acupuncture treatment for peptic ulcers in addition to medication (bismuth subnitrate and amoxicillin) versus patients who received only medications. The patient who also had acupuncture had a higher recovery rate, clearing the H. pylori bacterial infections, and also had a dramatically reduced recurrence rate in the following year after treatment ended.

A laboratory study showed that acupuncture helped to repair ulcerated tissues, reduce the secretion of gastric acids, and improve the condition of gastric mucosa, or stomach lining.

Another study showed that acupuncture treatment for chronic gastritis—inflammation of the stomach lining—was more effective than a drug protocol consisting of proton pump inhibitors, NSAIDs, and antibiotics.


Acupuncture Near Me for Stomach Ulcer – Los Angeles Area

At Art of Wellness Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in West L.A., we have over 35 years of experience helping people with gastrointestinal disorders of all kinds. Problems such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, diverticulitis, colitis (IBD), IBS, and Crohn’s disease can all be relieved by using TCM as an alternative or complementary medicine treatment.

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.


How to Treat Hiatal Hernia With Acupuncture and TCM


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.


hiatal hernia abdomen
Hiatal hernia develops in the upper abdomen

Heartburn and acid reflux? Chest pain or abdominal pain? Vomiting blood, black stool, dark poop? These can be hiatal hernia symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative hernia treatment to help relieve hernia pain.

A hernia is what happens when an organ, usually in the abdomen or groin area, pushes through the muscle tissue that surrounds it.

A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes through the diaphragm—the large muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest. 

There is a small opening in the diaphragm—called the “hiatus”— that allows the esophagus to pass through the muscle wall before it connects to the stomach. When a hiatal hernia occurs, the upper part of the stomach pushes through that opening.

It is possible to have a mild hernia and not know it, as it may not cause any pain or other hernia symptoms. A more serious hiatal hernia, though, will cause stomach acid and undigested food to move back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and possibly chest pain or abdominal pain.

Sometimes it is possible to actually see a hernia, as it may bulge out of the abdomen. Sometimes you can only see it when you cough, or do something strenuous, or even simply stand up.


Hiatal Hernia Symptoms

hernia symptoms
Hiccuping or regurgitation of acid and food are hiatal hernia symptoms

The most common signs of hiatal hernia include:

  • Heartburn and acid reflux: One of the most common symptoms of a hiatal hernia is a burning sensation in the chest due to the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus.


  • Chest pain: Some people with a hiatal hernia may experience chest pain that can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. The pain is often described as a dull, squeezing, or pressure-like sensation.


  • Difficulty swallowing: A hiatal hernia can lead to a narrowing of the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. Individuals may feel a sensation of food getting stuck or feel like they’re choking.


  • Belching and hiccups: burping or persistent hiccuping can occur, due to pressure on the diaphragm.


  • Regurgitation: In addition to heartburn, people with a hiatal hernia may experience the backflow of food or sour liquid into the mouth.


  • Chest discomfort after eating: Some people may experience a burning sensation, pressure, or feeling of fullness in the chest area after eating, because the stomach is pressing into the chest cavity.


  • Shortness of breath: Larger hiatal hernias can put pressure on the diaphragm and lungs, leading to difficulty breathing, especially during physical exertion.


  • Fatigue and weakness: Chronic symptoms of a hiatal hernia can disrupt sleep, resulting in fatigue.

Hiatal hernias are quite common; they may affect as many as half of all people over 50. Hernias may happen because of a generally weakening of muscle tissues.

Hernias can also occur because of some trauma or injury to the area; some hernias happen after a surgical procedure, due to incisions or scar tissue. 

It is also possible to develop a hernia during pregnancy or after giving birth.

In many cases, hernia surgery is considered necessary to treat a hernia that is causing symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM treatment offer a way to treat hiatal hernias that may, in some cases, help people avoid a hernia operation.


Top 10 Types of Hernia

pregnancy hernia
Hernias can occur during pregnancy or childbirth.

While hiatal hernia and inguinal hernia are the most common types of hernia, there are several other types of hernia, classified mainly according to where in the body they occur.


  1. Hiatal Hernia: a portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, often leading to symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing.
  2. Inguinal Hernia: Inguinal hernias are the most common type and occur when part of the intestine or abdominal tissue pushes through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal acts as a passageway for the round ligament of the uterus in women and for the gonadal vessels in men. Inguinal hernias are more common in men and may cause a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum.
  3. Umbilical Hernia: Umbilical hernias occur when the tissue or intestines protrude through a weak spot near the navel (belly button). This type of hernia is more common in infants but can also occur in adults, especially those who are overweight or have had multiple pregnancies.
  4. Ventral Hernia: Ventral hernias develop in the abdominal wall, often at the site of a previous surgical incision. They can occur when the tissue or intestines push through weakened abdominal muscles, causing a bulge or protrusion.
  5. Epigastric Hernia: Epigastric hernias appear in the upper abdomen, between the navel and the breastbone. They occur when fatty tissue pushes through weak areas in the abdominal muscles, resulting in a small bump or bulge.
  6. Groin Hernia or Femoral Hernia: This term is often used to refer to inguinal hernias, which are the most common type of groin hernia. However, it can also encompass other hernias that occur in the groin area, such as femoral hernias. Femoral hernias can sometimes happen due to straining while having a bowel movement.
  7. Spigelian Hernia: Spigelian hernias are relatively rare and occur along the edge of the abdominal wall, typically below the navel. These hernias may be difficult to diagnose due to their location and can cause pain and discomfort.
  8. Incisional Hernia: An incisional hernia occurs at the site of a previous surgical incision, where the tissue or intestines protrude through the weakened area. It is more common in individuals who have undergone abdominal surgery.
  9. Diaphragmatic Hernia: Diaphragmatic hernias occur when abdominal organs, such as the stomach or intestines, protrude through a defect in the diaphragm. This type of hernia can be congenital or acquired and may cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing and chest pain.
  10. Sports Hernia: Also known as athletic pubalgia, a sports hernia refers to soft tissue injuries or tears in the groin area, specifically affecting the muscles, tendons, or ligaments. It is commonly associated with sports that involve sudden twisting movements, such as soccer or hockey.

Another type of hernia can occur in the back part of the body. You have probably also heard of a “herniated disc.” This condition, which is also known as a “bulging disk,” “prolapsed disc,” “ruptured disc,” or “slipped disc,” is a herniation that occurs between the spinal vertebrae.

There are discs made of cartilage that sit between the vertebrae, which provide cushioning. Sometimes, when there is damage to outer layers of these discs, the gel-like substance that is inside oozes out, breaching the outer wall. This type of hernia can put pressure on the nerves of the spinal column, causing pain.


Hernia Treatment

When a person seeks medical care for a suspected hernia, the diagnostic process typically involves first a physical exam; the doctor will check for swelling or a bulge in the abdomen or groin. Imaging tests, including X-rays or endoscopy, can help a physician see where there is a hernia, and how severe it is.

Initial treatment for hiatal hernia may be conservative, and involve monitoring and making lifestyle changes such as avoiding spicy foods and elevating the upper body during sleep.

Pharmacological solutions might involve antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers, which reduce the production of stomach acids.

If these methods do not resolve symptoms of heartburn and reflux, then hernia surgery may be recommended. The most common type of hernia operation is called Nissen fundoplication, which involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophagus to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent acid reflux. In some cases, minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic hernia repair, may be used to reduce recovery time and minimize scarring.

Acupuncture and TCM may, in some cases, offer an alternative treatment for hiatal hernia that can help relieve pain, heartburn, and regurgitation.


Can Acupuncture Help Hiatal Hernia?

According to TCM theory, abdominal hernias usually occur due to an imbalance in the middle or lower jiao. The three jiaos are sometimes referred to or translated as the “triple burner,” which illustrates how they keep the center of the body warm and nourished.

In TCM, the upper jiao, middle jiao, and lower jiao correspond to the visceral structure of the midsection, and each one helps to control and harmonize the organ systems contained within it. The middle jiao houses the spleen, stomach, liver and gallbladder, while the lower jiao contains the small intestine, large intestine, kidneys, and bladder.

In Chinese Medicine, heat, cold, dampness, and dryness can be considered pathogenic forces that can cause problems. If there is an accumulation of cold or damp in the upper or lower abdomen, it can cause muscle weakness that leads to the formation of a hernia.

The middle jiao and lower jiao help keep fluids balanced in the abdomen. If the jiaos are not functioning well, then muscle weakness may be the result. Stagnant Qi can also be a factor. Acupuncture treatment helps to strengthen Qi and get it moving.

TCM takes the view that physical, mental, and emotional health are all inextricably linked. Strong emotions and stress can also contribute to the formation of hernias. Repressed feelings of anger or rage are associated with hiatal hernia. It is as if a person is swallowing those feelings, but the body rebels to force them back up.

Acupuncture treatment can help address the effects of prolonged stress and emotional upset. Finding stress relief and relaxation can have a significant effect on the central nervous system, the muscles of the abdomen, and the diaphragm. 

Both acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbs can help to reduce acid reflux and GERD symptoms.

If a hernia is severe, then a hernia operation may be required. In these cases, acupuncture and herbs can still help with the healing process. One study showed that electroacupuncture treatment helped to relieve postoperative pain for patients who had undergone hernia surgery.

Regular acupuncture treatment can help to prevent the recurrence of reflux, while helping to reduce the physical effects of emotional stress.


Acupuncture Near Me for Hiatal Hernia in Los Angeles

TCM is an excellent modality for helping to relieve both gastrointestinal disorders and muscular problems. In some cases, a hiatal hernia is a serious mechanical problem that requires surgical intervention. However, in many cases, hernias can be relieved with changes in lifestyle that will help to reduce acid and relieve stress. Acupuncture is worth considering as an adjunct or alternative hernia treatment.

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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