Date Published: 18 September 2005
Acupuncture tackles heartburn
Acupuncture could prove to be the answer for heartburn sufferers but more research is needed. This is the view of Associate Professor Richard Holloway from the University of Adelaide's Department of Medicine, whose study using acupuncture was published in the August 2005 issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.
The study began three years ago. It involved a Taiwanese gastroenterologist and Dr. Holloway, who is based at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. They conducted two experiments that looked into how acupuncture might affect transient lower oesophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs).
" Since TLESRs are the most important mechanism of acid reflux in normal subjects and patients with heartburn (or reflux), they were targeted for study," he said.
" It was an out-of-left-field approach, without any real expectations that it might work. But we had well-defined technology and measurements for studying heartburn.
_ The protocol utilized electrical acupoint stimulation, a high-tech type of acupuncture, with a heartburn model imposed on normal subjects by inflating a balloon in their stomachs."
For many scientists the entire matter of how, exactly, acupuncture works remain a matter of some speculation.
" What we've shown here is a rather interesting proof of concept, which tackles one of the approaches to acid reflux by controlling the valve that controls acid leak," he said.
" If we can stop the TSLERs events, that would be a major therapeutic gain. But it's a major leap from where we are to a real cure."
Dr. Holloway said there are a number of future steps including studying the effect of acupoint on healthy subjects in the context of eating a meal, rather than mechanically blowing up the stomach.
" In addition, knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of the effect of electric acupuncture may help to identify target sites for therapeutic intervention on TLESRs," he said.
Source: University of Adelaide, Australia.