Sujal Torgal Patil
One is likely to suffer from a digestive problem far easily than any other health issue these days. Everybody seems to have one or more issues which over a period of time culminate into incurable disorders and syndromes.
Hyperacidity or acid indigestion is one such common disorder which has become a part of modern lifestyle. Almost 60 per cent of the population suffers from it at least once a month. Each of us has suffered from acidity at some point in our lives. ‘Curry, worry and hurry’ are considered to be its important causes. It is one of the first symptoms or signs of digestive malfunctions and if ignored can result in serious complications like ulcers or even cancers.
Technically hyperacidity or acid dyspepsia is one of the types of dyspepsia wherein excessive acid is secreted in the stomach. Normally the stomach secretes appropriate amounts of HCL which aids in food breakdown and digestion. But when there is an abnormal increase in acid levels or the acid escapes the stomach cavity and enters in the oesophageal area (upwards) or duodenal area (downwards) it becomes a problem.
Ayurveda has described this phenomenon in the types of ajeerna (indigestion or dyspepsia). Ideally, jatharagni (the digestive fire) that resides in the pachak pitta present in the stomach is responsible for proper disintegration, digestion and assimilation of the food that is taken in. When this doesn’t happen normally it results in ajeerna (indigestion).
If pitta dosha becomes vitiated there is an increase in ushnatva (hotness) and tikshnatva (sharpness) of pitta causing improper digestion of food.
The concept is further elaborated as amlapitta where there is an increase in amlatva (sourness) of pitta (digestive juices).
Causes of hyperacidity:
Eating blunders: Eating less, more, fasting, overeating, eating late or early, etc.
Eating spicy, oily, salty, sour, fermented, fast, greasy, heavy food recurrently.
Stress: Hectic routine, hurried mannerisms, deadline-oriented work, etc.
Sleep irregularities: Improper amounts of sleep, timings and disturbances.
Lifestyle blunders: Suppression of natural urges, sleeping immediately after meals, alcohol-drug abuse and smoking, exposure to hot climates, radiations, etc.
Certain disorders like spinal lesions, GIT inflammations, hiatus hernia, gastric ulcers and carcinomas of GI tract also result in the above symptoms.
Certain medications like NSAIDs or antibiotics act as pitta vitiators causing amlapitta.
All of these factors result in an excessive increase of vitiated pitta dosha which tries to find its way out of the body either through the oral or rectal pathway thus exhibiting symptoms of amlapitta.
Weakening of digestive fire (agnimandya), sour or bitter belching, heart and chest burn (retrosternal burning), nausea/vomiting, aversion towards food, heaviness in abdomen, distention and pain in abdomen, chest pain, headache, bad breathe, foul smelling loose motions or constipation, itching all over the body, fainting, giddiness, chronicity of the disease may further lead to gastric or duodenal ulceration, inflammations of GIT, etc.
Here’s what you need to do:
Taking antacids is just a temporary fix that suppresses the problem which then bounces back in blown up proportion.
Treating the root is treating the cause: Finding out the patient’s history, finding the fault in diet and lifestyle is half the treatment done.
Improving digestive system’s functions: Indigestion is the first sign of any digestive disorder which should be corrected first. The patient needs to adopt appropriate nutritive and dietary schedule which includes warm, easy to digest meals.
Langhan or fasting when the previous meal is undigested and eating only when hungry should be followed for any kind of indigestion.
Eat cereals that are at least a year old. Opt for rice, wheat, millets, barley or green gram instead of yellow dal for curries; vegetables like bottle gourd, ridge gourd, snake gourd, ash gourd, sponge gourd, spinach and amaranth over cauliflower, brinjal, potatoes, cabbage, etc; and avoid tomatoes in excess. Avoid pickles, vinegar, sauces, ketchup, etc.
Sipping water boiled with herbs like dried ginger, coriander seeds, jeera seeds, etc, boost the digestive power and reduce inflammation too. (Have this after consultation)
In acute inflammatory acidity attack avoid oil completely. Say no to milk and milk products, raw foods like salads or juices, non vegetarian food and even nuts and dry fruits. These are heavy for digestion and can further aggravate the problem. Have simple vegetarian food with spices like ginger, garlic, curry leaves, coriander powder, cumin, rock salt, etc, to enhance the taste and digestion too.
Avoid drinking excessive water when you are hungry because it can weaken the digestive fire. Also, avoid excessive water intake after meals.
Avoid incompatible foods like non vegetarian with milk or cold drinks and juices with meals or fruits with meals, etc. These combinations lead to curdling of the food once mixed in the stomach and therefore cause sour indigestion leading to hyperacidity.
Avoid eating stale, excessively spicy and oily food. Avoid eating fermented food, junk food and bakery products regularly. Maida products or heavy cereals, energy bars, etc, also cause hyperacidity.
Avoid tea or coffee and stay away from alcohol or any sort of addictions.
Avoid late nights or skipping sleep at night. Sleeping during the day is not appreciated if one has digestive issues. Adopt measures to combat stress if you are dealing with a lot of it lately.
Exercise is very important to improve metabolism. Physical activity especially in the morning on an empty stomach for 30 to 45 minutes is recommended. Practising a few asanas will help disperse heat and tension from the stomach, small intestine, liver and spleen area where pitta tends to accumulate. Practising vajrasana after every meal will greatly improve digestion. Matsyasana, fish pose, is cooling and calming and particularly good in terms of releasing heat from the solar plexus. In cases of severe hyperacidity, one should avoid most forward bends as these compress the abdominal area and create more heat.
If you constantly suffer from hyperacidity, there is a definite cause hidden in your diet or lifestyle. Find the cause and seek the right intervention before it is too late.
(Writer is CMO at Traya Natural Health Centre, Dona Paula)