Hyperacidity

Heal hyperacidity (amlapitta) with Ayurveda

Most people will experience some level of hyperacidity at some point in their lives and we know that humans have been dealing with heartburn throughout the generations but recently the cases have risen, making it a common stomach complaint worldwide and over my years in clinical practice, I have certainly seen an increasing number of clients who present a variety of digestive disturbances, hyper acidity being one of them. 1 in 4 adults in the UK are affected by heartburn. You may refer to it as acid reflux or heartburn.

When the symptoms of heartburn become more regular and intense such as twice a week or more, it can be diagnosed as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD or GORD), and this refers to when stomach acids frequently flow back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (your oesophagus).

So, during digestion, our stomach secretes gastric juices such hydrochloric acid, and pepsin in order to chemically break down the food that should have mechanically broken down earlier in the mouth. Food generally stays in the stomach for about 1-2 hours for this process.

Now, simultaneously, the stomach lining also secretes mucosa (such as bicarbonates and prostaglandins) to protect the lining and to neutralise excess acidity, but our stomach essentially needs to maintain an acidic environment for this process to happen efficiently. In fact, our stomach acids could potentially cause a chemical burn if it were to have an encounter with our skin, lungs, or eyes.

But when the stomach starts to secrete juices in excess, we can experience acidity. This could result in heartburn, dyspepsia, gastric inflammation and even stomach ulcers. When this happens, we refer to this as ‘amla-pitta’ in Ayurveda and would consider this an aggravation predominantly of the pitta dosha (amla means sour and pitta refers to the dosha that is predominantly made of the fire and water elements).

There are a few obvious signs and symptoms can we expect in this instance. These include burning and/or pain in the stomach, indigestion, bloating, constipation. You may experience a sour taste or burning in the in mouth or throat, sour belching, heart burn, restlessness, excessive thirst.

According to Ayurveda, the key symptoms of amla-pitta are nausea, weak digestive fire and heartburn. Some people might also have foul smelling or loose stools.  There are a few tests that you can undergo to check for acidity levels in chronic acidity including, endoscopy, biopsy and barium swallow radiography for example.

Causes of acidity

‘Hurry, curry and worry’ is a saying that really chimes here and these really are the key causes of diseases and is certainly the case in hyperacidity.

Consumption of spicy foods, non-vegetarian foods, alcohol, other acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes can worsen the irritation of the oesophagus when they mix with stomach acid.  What’s more, carbonated beverages, smoking and coffee contain ingredients that may have a relaxing effect on the lower oesophageal sphincter (referred to as LES) which prevent it from doing its job efficiently.

The rise in levels of stomach acids that seep past the weakened (LES) – this is a tiny muscle at the entrance of the stomach that contracts after meals to keep the stomach acids from seeping into the upper GI Tract, but when this malfunctions, it means that the acids that push past this barrier can irritate the lining of the oesophagus and cause inflammation there called oesophagitis and other potential complications. Stomach acids can also wear down the enamel of your teeth and can be the cause of tooth decay and cavities.

Other triggers include Hyperthyroidism, lack of sleep at night, sleeping immediately after meals, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and most triggering of all – stress! Our lifestyles have significantly changed in the recent decades, and we are eating more processed foods than ever before.

Numerous medications including those for asthma, high blood pressure, birth control and depression can also have unintended effects on the LES. What’s more, Smoking, diabetes, long periods of fasting since the stomach is empty for a long time and asthma can affect the acidity levels.

There are many available over the counter and prescribed medicine to curb the effects of acid reflux but there are many natural options also and there is of course, no substitute for changing the diet and lifestyle for the most powerful longer-term effects which is where the roots of the issues often are.

Pregnant women often experience more heartburn due to the pressure of a growing baby on their stomachs and the levels of certain hormones in their bodies.

Preventing hyper acidity
Understanding and refraining from those foods and habits that cause acidity in the first place IS of course the best starting point.

Diet

We want to essentially follow a Pitta pacifying diet – this means avoiding spicy foods, such as chilies, clove, mustard, cinnamon, garlic, salt and garam masala, sours foods such as vinegars, pickles, fermented foods, citrus and tomatoes, raw onions, and especially alcohol, wines, black tea and coffee, and though it may seem obvious, we also want to avoid processed, fried, stale, and junk foods.

Instead, you are better to have more abundance of naturally sweet fruits and vegetables. For example, Grapes, sweet lime, pomegranate, dry figs, dates, sweet potato.

Plenty of bitter foods such as bitter gourd, ash gourd, green veggies, okra, white pumpkin, root veggies, aloe vera juice, turmeric, old rice, barley, mung beans, cucumber.

Explore plenty of coconut water and milk are always great due to their cooling effect and maintain plenty of warm water throughout the day. Go for a cup of boiled milk with ghee!

Keep to small regular meals – try to not skip meals or overeat and fasting is not going to be for you currently. Ensure your previous meal is fully digested before you go for the next meal.

Things sweet to taste can sometimes prove sour on digestion and one such food is the yoghurts that we find in supermarkets these days. They are sour on digestion, but fresh natural set home-made curd will not have this effect.

Our lifestyle has a huge influence on our digestive health and acidity too so be mindful of the following:

  • Minimise exposure the stressful situation, that might cause anxiety, worry, jealousy, anger, fear.

  • Aim to maintain a healthy weight

  • Plenty of sleep during the night-time

  • Stay cool in the mind with yoga, pranayama and meditation
    Moderate exposure to the sun and the heat.

  • Get plenty of rest and relax the mind and body.

  • We also have an array of use Herbs and ingredients to help and its best to consult your practitioner for this.

  • Some simple ingredients that you can include as daily herbs or herbal teas are liquorice as it is sweet in nature. Coriander seeds and leaves as this is alkalising in nature.

  • Amla juice (or amalaki if you like) in powder form is one of the best herbal remedies for acidity and it can be great as a drink can be great when taken on an empty stomach and can bring long term relief from acidity.

  • Herbal tea of ginger, lemon and honey can also be a great option

  • Psyllium husks are NOT only great for constipation but can also be a great relief for acidity too.

  • Coconut water can be soothing, hydrating and cooling if you are suffering from acidity as it is alkalising to the stomach acids.

  • 20 ml of diluted aloe vera juice with same amount of warm water is another excellent option increased acidity.

  • Pomegranate seeds or juice is a great option for controlling stomach acidity as well as helping in situations of ulcerations

  • You can also chew on some fennel seeds after your meals.

Some more popular Ayurvedic herbal compounds include:

Triphala – to balance all the three doshas and a great overall digestive support.

Avipattikara churna – which is a special compound that focuses on pitta that is aggravated in the digestion. It neutralises the acid secretion in the gastrointestinal tract and promotes the production of digestive enzymes which aid in the absorption of nutrients.

If you have had acidity for some time, you may need some deeper pitta balancing through pancha karma. Do get in touch with me or your local practitioner.

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