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Treating Gastrointestinal Problems through an East-West Approach

With the current prevalence of gastrointestinal problems and increasing demand for cost-effective means of treating digestive diseases, the UCLA Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program embraces a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and innovative system that emphasizes individualized treatment and patient education for healthy living and the development or restoration of a well functioning gastrointestinal system.

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With approximately 60 to 70 million Americans affected by digestive diseases[1], there is an increasing demand for successful, cost-effective methods for treating gastrointestinal problems. While a wide expanse of gastrointestinal symptoms exist, the general approach of East-West medicine can address numerous functional gastrointestinal disorders. This broad and simple model is tailored to the specific needs of the patient and may be more appropriate when no structural issues are present in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract. Ultimately, the success of East-West medicine lies in the partnership between the patient and clinician, in which the clinician provides the necessary tools for optimal healing in the form of treatment and education, and the patient applies these recommendations, making the changes necessary for healthy living.


Components of the East-West Approach to Gastrointestinal Disorders

Integrative Assessment of the Patient

In addition to reviewing the information gathered from medical providers who have previously evaluated the patient, clinicians at the Center for East-West Medicine (CEWM) strive to obtain a full understanding of the patient’s history including the individual’s background, lifestyle, environment, diet, daily patterns, and stress levels. A pertinent physical examination is then performed. After this initial assessment, the practitioner can develop an individualized treatment plan specific to the patient’s condition.

Improving Gastrointestinal Health

While clinicians at the Center provide treatment, such as acupuncture, to aid in the alleviation of gastrointestinal symptoms, the most important aspect of the East-West approach for improving gastrointestinal health lies with the patient. During the patient’s visit to the Center, the practitioner provides personalized education incorporating key elements, such as stress management and dietary recommendations that the patient is encouraged to practice on a regular basis.


UCLA Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program

Through an integrative approach that is patient-centered and examines the whole person, the UCLA Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and innovative system to aid patients with upper gastrointestinal disorders.

In collaboration with the UCLA Center for Esophageal Disorders, the UCLA Swallowing Disorders Center, and the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine offers this integrative program with the latest cutting-edge technology of modern medicine and the best of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Components of the program may include:

  • the latest cutting-edge diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures of modern medicine
  • the best of TCM:
    • acupuncture
    • therapeutic massage
    • trigger point injections
    • patient-centered education focusing on topics such as:
      • Chinese nutrition
      • Self-acupressure techniques
      • Stress management
      • Lifestyle modifications
      • Medication adjustments


The UCLA Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program treats conditions such as:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Esophageal spasm
  • Choking sensation
  • Gastroparesis
  • Throat and epigastric/abdominal pain
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Globus sensation
  • Achalasia
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Nausea and vomiting


While this program helps treat esophageal disorders, the emphasis on patient-centered care and the focus on empowering patients to make healthier lifestyle choices are the cornerstones to the success of this integrative approach. With a combination of practitioner-based therapies and patient education, the UCLA Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program fosters a unique partnership between the patient and the practitioner in the journey towards lifelong health.

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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States. Accessed at http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/statistics.aspx on June 29, 2012.


By Shannon Wongvibulsin, BS Candidate, UCLA 2014
UCLA Center East-West Medicine, Staff Writer