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Hyperacidity: Treating the root cause

Sujal Torgal Patil

One is likely to suffer from a digestive upset easily than any other health issue in today’s era, the reason being our faulty eating habits. Hyperacidity or acid indigestion is one such common disorder which has become a part of the modern lifestyle. Almost 60 per cent of the population suffers from it at least once a month. Each one of us at some point in our life has suffered from acidity. ‘Curry, worry and hurry’ are considered to be its important causes. It is one of the first symptoms/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 the acid levels or the acid escapes the stomach cavity and enters the oesophageal area (upwards) or duodenal area (downwards) it becomes a problem.

Ayurved 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).

The 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-early, etc.

 Eating spicy, oily, salty, sour, fermented, fast, greasy and heavy food recurrently.

 Stress: Hectic routine, hurried mannerisms, deadline-oriented work, etc.

 Sleep irregularities: Improper amounts, timings, 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, carcinomas of GI tract  also result in the above symptoms

 Certain medications like NSAIDs or antibiotics act as pitta vitiators causing amlapitta.

All these above factors result in an excessive increase of vitiated pitta dosha, which tries to find its way out of the body either through oral or rectal pathway, thus exhibiting symptoms of ‘amlapitta’.

Symptoms:

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/duodenal ulceration, inflammations of GIT, etc.

Taking antacids is just a temporary fix and on the contrary, suppresses the problem which bounces back in blown up proportion.

 Treating the root is treating the cause: Finding out a patient’s history, finding the fault in their diet and lifestyle is half the treatment done.

 Improving the functions of the digestive system: 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 is the rule to be followed for any kind of indigestion.

 Eat cereals which are at least a year old. Opt for rice, wheat, millets, barley, and green gram instead of yellow dal for curries. Eat vegetables like bottle gourd, ridge gourd, snake gourd, ash gourd, sponge gourd, spinach, amaranth over cauliflower, brinjal, potatoes, cabbage, etc. Avoid tomatoes in excess. Avoid pickles, vinegar, sauces, ketchup, etc.

 Water boiled with herbs like dried ginger, coriander seeds, jeera seeds, etc, if sipped throughout the day instead of normal water helps boost the digestive power and reduces inflammation too. (Should be taken 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, even nuts and dry fruits. These are heavy for digestion and can further aggravate the problem. Opt for 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 items with milk, or cold drinks and juices with meals or fruits with meals, etc. These combination leads to curdling of the food once 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 foods 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. Also sleeping during the day is not appreciated if one has digestive issues. Also, 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 30-45 minutes is recommended. Certain yogic practices like slow and deep breathing are focus on the navel and the solar plexus. Making time to practice a few asanas will help disperse heat and tension from the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen areas where pitta tends to accumulate. Vajrasana, if practised after every meal will greatly improve digestion. Matsyasana, fish pose, is cooling and calming, particularly good for releasing heat from the solar plexus. In cases of severe hyperacidity, one should avoid most forward bends. These will compress the abdominal area and create more heat.

Avoid instant acidity medications or syrups and suspensions. They are temporary solutions and moreover worsen the problem. Instead if you constantly suffer from hyperacidity, there is a definite cause hidden in your diet or lifestyle. Find the cause and do a proper intervention before it is too late.

(Writer is chief medical officer at Traya Natural Health Centre and can be reached at wellnesstraya@gmail.com)

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