Acidity

Our stomach produces hydrochloric acid to digest the food that we eat. Whenever we eat, cells within the lining of the stomach pump acid to liquefy all the elements of that sumptuous dinner.

Problems occur when these cells produce large amounts of acid, more than your stomach needs. When this happens, you will suffer from stomach acidity. You would know if you were suffering from stomach acidity if you feel a burning sensation just above the stomach, or right below (the hollow part) your breastbone. This is the most classic sign of acidity.

The first thing to rule out would be your diet – if it consists of refined, acidic or oily foods then they are most likely the reason behind your acid indigestion.

Symptoms of Acidity

There are various little clues that your body gives you to prove that you are suffering from acid indigestion like the symptoms given below. If you notice one or more of the following symptoms on a daily basis over a prolonged period of time, it may very well be due to acidity.

  • Respiratory problems
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Burping and belching
  • Vomiting
  • Dry throat and chronic dry cough
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pain in ears
  • Heartburn
  • Chest and stomach pain
  • Hair loss
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Irritation in the rectal region
  • Flatulence
  • Pressure in chest after eating
  • Feeling of restlessness
  • Occurrence of blood may be seen in the stools

Causes of Acidity

  • A weakness of the valve between the stomach and esophagus (food pipe) can cause a reflux of the acid from the stomach to the lower part of the esophagus. This gastro-esophageal reflux can cause heartburn. It is commonly known as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Sometimes, a heavy meal or increase in intra-abdominal pressure such as while straining or lifting weights, can bring about this reflux.
  • Excess acid secretion can also cause acidity and ulcers, when the protective lining of the stomach and duodenum (the part of the intestine that joins the stomach), is damaged. The resulting ulcer is called gastric ulcer if it is in the stomach and duodenal ulcer if it is in the duodenum.
  • In a condition known as Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome, a large amount of acid is secreted because of stimulation by tumors located in the pancreas or duodenum.
  • The body secretes bicarbonate into the mucous layer, which neutralizes the acid. Hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins, help to keep the blood vessels in the stomach dilated, ensuring adequate blood flow. Prostaglandins are also believed to stimulate bicarbonate and mucous production, which help protect the stomach.
  • Lack of adequate blood flow to the stomach may contribute to ulcers.
  • Consumption of alcohol, highly spicy foodstuffs, irregular food habits and Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) also lead to gastric reflux.
  • There is a higher incidence of acidity in highly emotional and nervous individuals. People prone to emotional imbalances like anxiety, depression and anger report chronic heartburn.
  • Acidity and diet are deeply interconnected as eating highly fatty or refined foods, consuming excess leafy vegetables, drinking excessive water, carbonated drinks or caffeine products.
  • Dietary habits like long gaps between meals when the stomach is empty, skipping breakfast and sleeping just after taking a meal can all lead to acidity.
  • Acid indigestion might occur in the first trimester of pregnancy due to the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the muscles and prepares the body for child birth. A mother-to-be might feel discomfort due to the fact that progesterone eases up the valve at the top of the stomach, which in turn, lets gastric acid to make its way into the esophagus. Usually, this problem is more pronounced at night while lying in bed.

How to Diagnose

The best way to diagnose if you are suffering from acidity is to confirm it with a stomach acid test. This will help you determine if you have too much or too little stomach acid. Some of the diagnostic tests for acidity are as follows:

  • Barium: A barium solution is swallowed and its movement is tracked using X-rays.
    pH Monitoring: The esophagus is implanted with a device for a period of 1-2 days. This device measures the levels of acid.
  • Esophageal Manometry: A thin, pressure-sensitive tube is passed through the nose into the esophagus to track the movement of food and pressure in the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscope of a tube with a light and camera is inserted via the throat to study the esophagus and stomach, their contents and the health of their mucus lining.
  • Biopsy: A sample of stomach tissue is extracted for the purpose of analysis during an endoscopy.

Acidity and Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, acidity is referred to as Amla Pitta. By its very name we can see that this disorder is caused by an imbalance of Pitta dosha. The humor is governed by the elements of Fire and Water; these, in turn, govern the digestive fire and stomach enzymes. This is also the reason why people of Pitta constitution tend to suffer from hyperacidity, peptic ulcers and heartburn. Things that aggravate the Pitta dosha like stress, anger, hot and spicy foods, extremely hot environment can also bring on a bout of acidity.

While Pitta is usually the one blamed for acid indigestion, the Kapha dosha has its seat in the stomach and the chest. Because Kapha controls the digestive juices and generates mucus, indigestion that stems from weak metabolism and mucus congestion are common patterns in acid reflux. You can identify a Kaphic acid reflux if you have a feeling of sluggishness, feel a bitter taste in your mouth after late-night meals, chest congestion in the morning, a heavily coated tongue and a tendency to pile on weight.

Prevention: How to Control Acidity

A few simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can pacify Pitta to not only make for better digestive health but also bring you greater calm. This means reducing the intake of heat-producing foods which can trigger the production of acid. One must avoid Pitta-aggravating foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, yogurt (except sweet/mint lassi), vinegar, salty fried foods, hot peppers, onions, garlic and alcohol. Learn more about the Pitta diet to eat right for your constitution. Stress management techniques like yoga and meditation are also key in acidity treatment.

Cooling herbs like mint can help with heartburn relief by lowering acid levels in the stomach and have a soothing effect on the pain and burning sensation. If you feel an acidity attack coming on, chop some fresh mint leaves, add them to a pot of boiling water and drink after it cools. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is another coolant. Reduce acidity in the stomach by taking 1 tbsp. coriander juice with 4 oz. buttermilk. Drink tender coconut water to bring down the fiery heat of Pitta and dilute stomach acid.

Natural Ways to Treat Acid Reflux

Herbs
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra): Known as Yastimadhu or Mulethi, this is one of the best herbs for acid reflux due to its sweet, coolant properties. This antacid, anti-ulcerogenic herb supports the good health of liver and also enhances the bile secretion. Dissolve 10 mg licorice in warm water or milk in the morning and drink daily to get relief from acidity.
  • Amla (Phyllanthus Emblica): The Indian Gooseberry does double duty as both a Kapha and Pitta pacifier. It also has high amounts of Vitamin C that helps speed up the healing process of the stomach lining and esophagus.
  • Clove (Syzygium Aromaticum): Lavang or clove enhances the peristaltic process. Chew on a clove to release the juices and keep the bud in the mouth. The calmative properties of this spice will be slowly released with the juice to bring down acid reflux.
  • Cardamom (Elletaria Cardamomum): To relieve acidity instantly, crush two pods of cardamom, boil the powder in water and drink after it has cooled. Ayurvedic texts state that this spice has the power to balance all the three doshas – Kapha, Pitta and Vata. Elaichi is known to stimulate digestion and relax stomach spasms.
  • Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis): Aloe or Ghrita Kumari is soothing and helps heal the stomach lining and bringing down inflammation. Take aloe juice or gel regularly before meals.
  • Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus): This cooling herb is to cure gastric problems like ulcers, heartburn, abdominal pain, IBS, and diarrhea. Take 1g of Shatavari powder twice daily dissolved in water or milk with your meals.
Ayurvedic Supplements (to be taken under physician’s guidance – Consult Now)                Ayucid

               Avipattikar Churna (acts as a mild laxative)

               Dhatri Lauh

               Sootshekhar Ras

               Amla Capsule

               Shatavari

               Kamdudha Ras

Diet & Lifestyle
  • Avoid foods that are rich in oils and fats. These foods are difficult to digest, so they may make the stomach release more acids.
  • The diet should contain a proper blend of all the six Ayurvedic tastes. Spicy food must be just one dish rather than the whole meal.
  • An adequate amount of fiber is necessary iforthe diet as it helps in digestion.
  • Red meats must be eaten only occasionally, if at all.
  • After a meal, the body must be given some sort of exercise. This could be as simple as going for a stroll.
  • Too much addiction to strong foods such as tea and coffee may cause hyperacidity. This is also true for other addictions such as smoking and alcohol.
  • Do not consume sour foods as they already have acidic content. Acidic foods to avoid are pickles, curds, tamarind, vinegar, etc.
  • Avoid frozen foods and chilled drinks.
  • Eat only when hungry. Do not force yourself to eat or keep snacking if the previous meal has not been completely digested.
  • Maintain upright position during and at least 45 mins after eating.
  • Try elevating the head of bed 6 – 8 inches when lying down.  
Yoga
  • Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)
  • Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
  • Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
  • Crocodile Pose (Makrasana)
  • Hero’s Pose (Virasana)