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Physicians Update


Physicians Update

Fall 2011

Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program Offers New Approach to Treating Upper GI Problems


East West Medicine Esophageal ProgramNearly 40 percent of adults in the U.S. use complementary therapies to address a wide range of health concerns, including chronic pain, anxiety or side effects from invasive procedures and surgery. Now patients suffering from persistent symptoms associated with some of the most common upper-gastrointestinal (GI) disorders may also find relief in complementary medicine through a new UCLA program designed to integrate the best of Eastern and Western therapies.

“Patients may have certain symptoms — frequent heartburn, for example — but after conducting diagnostic tests, objective data do not suggest they have the increased acid associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease,” explains gastroenterologist Eric Esrailian, M.D., vice chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases. “For those patients, a complementary approach may be helpful because we don’t want people to become frustrated and feel that they are out of options.”

Other upper-GI conditions for which a complementary approach may be helpful include functional dyspepsia, esophageal spasm, dumping syndrome, chronic abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. The treatment approach, according to Dr. Esrailian, depends on the results of a comprehensive diagnostic assessment, as well as the patient’s preferences. When the evaluation indicates the problem may be functional rather than structural, he recommends that clinicians consider all treatment avenues — including traditional Chinese medicine — because there is little or no downside to trying complementary therapies, which are generally low risk.

“Often when patients have persistent upper-GI problems despite conventional treatment, their symptoms are exacerbated by stress,” he says. “We’re not replacing the standard of care with complementary therapies, we’re taking the time to consider whether a fresh viewpoint can improve the quality of our patients’ lives.”

“Our goal is to work together to improve outcomes,” says internist Lawrence B. Taw, M.D., who is trained in Western biomedicine and traditional Chinese medicine and is director of the newly established multidisciplinary Integrative East-West Esophageal Disorders Program.

“We have seen from our clinical experience that the principles and techniques of traditional Chinese medicine can help some patients reduce their need for medication, unnecessary procedures and surgery, ER visits and hospital admissions,” Dr. Taw says. Common modalities used in the center include acupuncture, therapeutic massage and trigger-point injections.

In addition to practitioner-based therapies, this program emphasizes patient-centered care. A key program strategy is to empower patients to make healthier lifestyle choices by providing individualized education focused on Chinese nutrition, self-acupressure techniques and stress management. This integrative approach looks at the whole person and is appealing to a growing number of patients because it gives them a greater sense of control over their health, Dr. Taw says.


Department of Medicine
Center for East-West Medicine

Lawrence B. Taw, M.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Director, Integrative East-West Medicine
for Esophageal Disorders

Malcolm B. Taw, M.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Director, Integrative East-West Medicine
for Head & Neck Disorders

Suzie Lee, FNP, L.Ac.
Clinical Specialist

Division of Digestive Diseases/Gastroenterology

Eric Esrailian, M.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Vice Chief

Kevin Ghassemi, M.D.
Clinical Instructor

Division of Thoracic Surgery

Mary Maish, M.D.
Associate Professor
Surgical Director, UCLA Center for Esophageal Disorders

Rebecca Allegretto, N.P.
UCLA Center for Esophageal Disorders

Division of Head & Neck Surgery

Dinesh K. Chhetri, M.D.
Associate Professor
Director, UCLA Swallowing Disorders Center

For more information about integrative medicine at UCLA, go to: www.cewm.med.ucla.edu

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