Do you have difficulty speaking or need to clear your throat, swallow or cough a lot?

If so, then you have some of the symptoms of a condition called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and have probably visited your GP on more than one occasion. LPR is a long-term condition where the acidic contents of the stomach rise up the throat, causing hoarseness, a need to cough and sometimes a feeling of something being stuck in the throat. It is sometimes called silent reflux as the person may not experience some of the common symptoms of reflux such as painful heartburn.

If you have silent reflux you will have probably taken some common sense steps to alleviate the problem, such as avoiding lying flat, stopping smoking, and not eating too close to bedtime. If these measures haven’t been enough to ease the problem your GP may have given you some medication, such as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to reduce the production of stomach acid. The alternative to lifelong medication is a change to your diet.

A study published in September 2017 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery compared the efficacy of PPIs with a plant-based Mediterranean diet and alkaline water to reduce the symptoms of LPR. Both groups also made standard reflux precautions such as removing coffee, tea, chocolate, fizzy drinks, greasy, fried, fatty and spicy foods. Those in the diet group were told to drink only alkaline water and make sure that 90–95% of their food was made up of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Less than 10% of their food came from animal-based products (meat eaten at fewer than 3 meals a week). The effects of these dietary changes were assessed at 6 weeks.

Treatment with PPI medication was not significantly better than treatment with diet. The benefits of alkaline water and a plant-based Mediterranean diet were so clear that they were considered to be clinically important compared with the medication. Adopting this style of eating and drinking is therefore recommended before any medication is started. This also has the advantage of avoiding any of the potential side effects of medication, such as nausea, constipation, and abdominal pain as well as their interaction with other common treatments such as methotrexate.

There are several acupuncture points indicated for the treatment of the symptoms of silent reflux. Many of these are found along the central channel of the body which runs up through the belly button, the chest and the neck. This channel is called the conception vessel, and allows us to access wonderfully effective points such as Middle Duct, which is the twelfth point on the channel. Middle duct exerts a significant influence over the digestion of food and patients will often report a reduction in abdominal discomfort associated with excess gastric fluids or reflux. The upper abdomen feels settled and the needling of this point is a comfortable experience. The acupuncture point that lies above Middle Duct is Upper Duct and benefits the upper digestive tract and using this point as part of an acupuncture treatment may help make the throat more at ease.

If you would like to try acupuncture alongside the dietary changes mentioned in the study then feel free to get in touch.

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