Acidity is related to heartburn (also known as ‘Reflux’ or GERD) and gas formation in the stomach. In acidity, acid reflux or gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or as it is known in Ayurveda urdhva gata amalpitta, there is a movement of gastric juices from the stomach into the lower esophagus. This is a condition which is caused when the highly acidic contents of the stomach (mostly hydrochloric acid) move upward into the esophagus through an improperly closing valve.
In Ayurveda this condition is considered to be caused by the aggravation of pitta dosha which is responsible for the burning sensation felt in the chest region.
Direct causes of the problem may include over-ingestion of high-fat foods, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, keeping the stomach empty for long periods, skipping meals (particularly breakfast), and excessive intake of caffeine. Other possible causes of acidity and reflux may include pregnancy, aging, obesity, and inappropriate or erratic eating habits. There may be a genetic factor as well.
Symptoms found in adults include chest and stomach pain, gas formation in the stomach, spitting up of acidic stomach contents, sour taste in the mouth and burning sensations in the mouth and throat, voice changes and the formation of ulcers in the esophagus (tube connecting mouth and stomach), pain during muscular contractions, difficulty in swallowing and pain in ears. Clients with hiatal hernia, even if asymptomatic (about 60% of the population) are at a higher risk of developing acid reflux or acidity. Symptoms in children might also include respiratory difficulties and coughing, inadequate weight, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Dietary regimens should emphasize avoidance of specific acidity-engendering foods: fried, fatty, junk foods, onions, citrus fruits, spicy (pungent) foods and excessive chocolate. Dairy products and peanut butter or other nut butters can also provoke acidity. Regimens should emphasize consumption of complex carbohydrate-rich foods like rice, as these are easily digested and engender little acid formation.
Fruits that will help in relieving from acidity include cucumber, watermelon, papaya, and bananas. Cool (not cold) whole milk, coconut water, almonds or raw garlic will often relieve acidity and heartburn. Jaggery (gur) on an hourly basis during acute episodes of acidity will often provide relief from acidity.
A half glass of Buttermilk with one tablespoon of coriander juice is effective in cases of indigestion and acidity. The practice of drinking one to two glass of water, in the early morning is helpful in acidity control.
Eating dinner no later than two to three hours before sleeping, eating several (5 or more) smaller meals throughout the day rather than the conventional larger breakfast, lunch and dinner, maintaining reasonable body weight, avoiding reclining immediately after eating and partaking in gentle post-meal exercise (e.g., walking) are all helpful in avoiding reflux.
Possible home remedies for reflux/GERD include over-the-counter Ayurvedic medicines that suppress acid formation, include the formulas (available commercially pre-prepared) Kamdudha Ras, Narikel Lavan and Avipattikar churna which can be taken with water before eating.
Consuming a few leaves of Tulsi (Basil) leaves provides prompt relief from acidity as does one tablespoon of Amla (Amalaki) with one tablespoon Haritaki (chebulic myroblan). Also often helpful is taking two tablespoons of honey mixed with two tablespoons of natural apple cider vinegar before meals. Mint juice or mint capsules containing peppermint oil are also useful for treating acidity and are recommended after meals to reduce gas formation.
Finally, sleeping while keeping the head elevated on a high pillow (up to seven inches) will help avoid the backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Article provided by William Courson, BVSA, Dpl. Ayur., C.H. an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.