Most people suffer an occasional bout of indigestion that is marked by an uncomfortable heaviness or burning sensation in the stomach, heartburn or a feeling of being bloated. However, if this begins to occur very frequently, and causes a lot of discomfort, it is important to pay attention because these are the typical symptoms of acid reflux.
What is Acid Reflux or Hyperacidity ?
The stomach contains a certain amount of hydrochloric acid that, along with the enzyme called pepsin, plays a vital role in the digestion of food. When there is an excess secretion of this gastric acid, the condition is called hyperchlorhydria or what we commonly call acid reflux; this excess acid leads to all the symptoms of this condition.
In normal conditions, the valve between the oesophagus and the stomach – called lower oesophageal sphincter – controls the one-way movement of food. In some persons, this valve does not completely and as a result, some of the acid from the stomach escapes backwards into the oesophagus, leading to heartburn – the typical burning sensation in the region just below the heart.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux or Hyperacidity
A person who suffers from acid reflux will experience a few typical symptoms such as:
Some persons also suffer from anaemia and weight loss when acid reflux is a chronic problem.
According to Ayurveda, acid reflux is called Amlapitta – a disease due to excessive acid production in the stomach. This is called a gastrointestinal disorder and is said to originate due to a lack of balance in the secretion of enzymes of the gastrointestinal tract.
As a result, there is an increased amount of heat and sourness generated in the body, impairing the Pitta Dosha. As a result, the digestive capacity is affected, resulting in the formation of ama or toxins which accumulate in the digestive channels. Treating such acid reflux therefore requires the removal of these toxins and pacifying the impairment in the Pitta Dosha.
The Ayurvedic concept of acid reflux says that the condition is caused due to faulty eating habits such as:
In some persons, there may be an excessive secretion of the digestive enzymes due to the stimulating effect of the Vata Dosha – this condition is called as pachaka pitta. Excess of enzymes causes a drying out of the mucous membranes that line the stomach and this leads to it getting irritated and subsequently, the development of ulcers.
Ayurveda makes use of certain specialized procedures to treat acid reflux. Before recommending these, the physician takes a complete diet history to understand the client’s present eating habits and lifestyle. After the identification of what is causing the problem, he or she is recommended particular therapy, dietary changes and lifestyle to overcome the acid reflux.
Ayurveda recommends the use of specific herbs that have the ability to reduce Pitta Dosha and get rid of the toxins generated in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the common ones include:
Amla (Indian Goosberry):
The Indian gooseberry fruit obtained from Emblica officinalis plant is a strong pacifier of the Pitta Dosha and therefore, very effective in acid reflux treatment. Besides, it also contains vitamin C which helps in rapid healing of the injured tissues of the stomach.
Obtained from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, the stem of licorice has powerful action against excess acid production in the stomach. It helps give relief from the burning pain of acid reflux.
Yashtimadhu (Indian Licorice) is beneficial in treating acid peptic disease. Scientific studies have shown that its extract reduces gastric acid secretion and inhibits the formation of peptic ulcers. Yashtimadhu treats ulcers by accelerating mucin excretion by increasing the synthesis of glycoprotein at the gastric mucosa, prolonging the life of the epithelial cells and antipepsin activity.
Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus):
The juice obtained from the root of the Asparagus racemosus plant is very effective against acid reflux; it may be administered as such or in the form of a formulation made with ghee (clarified butter).
In a study conducted by Dr Poonam Sharma it has been found that the methanolic extract from the fresh roots of Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) has ulcer protective effect. It increases the mucous secretion and keeps the acid and pepsin levels stable. Also roots of Asparagus racemosus showed considerable in-vitro antibacterial properties.
Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba):
Obtained from the Eclipta alba plant, bhringaraj is a very useful antiulcer herb. It helps to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach.
Both the kernel as well as the liquid found in the coconut have a protective action against damage to the gastric mucosa by excess acid.
To cure stubborn and very chronic problem of acid reflux, panchkarma detox plays very important role.
This is therapeutic emesis or induced vomiting to get rid of the waste products and mucous in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Water extracts of neem (Azadirachta indica) or snake gourd (Trichosanthes dioica) are used to induce vomiting.
This is therapeutic purging where purgative substances that increase the Pitta dosha are given to the patient. Some of the commonly used purgatives include senna leaves, flaxseeds, castor oil or Triphala. After several hours of consuming this, there is a natural bowel movement, which may be repeated several times. By this method, the toxins in the gastrointestinal tract are eliminated and it helps to reduce the suffering from acid reflux.
Some yoga postures help to stimulate the digestive system to secrete appropriate levels of the digestive enzymes and also reduce the acid reflux.
The most effective ones are Virasana (Hero Pose), Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose), Baddha Konasana (Cobbler Pose), Makarasana (Crocodile Pose), Mayurasana (Peacock Pose), Padahastasana (Foot-Hand Pose) and Shavasana (Corpse Posture).
In many persons, improper eating habits are mainly responsible for problems with digestion that lead to chronic acid reflux. Here are a few tips that are recommended as lifestyle changes for persons with such problems.
Along with all these measures, it is vital to remember that because the brain controls the secretion of gastric acid, stress plays an important role in deciding one’s state of digestive health.
In general, anxiety, nervousness, anger and being on edge tend to worsen the symptoms of acid reflux and therefore, one must strive to stay calm at all times. Along with the recommended yoga postures, the regular practice of breathing techniques and meditation to keep the mind calm can therefore help greatly in combating chronic acid reflux.
If you have been suffering from acid reflux for very long and found that medication only makes you feel better temporarily, it is time you consulted us for a holistic form of treatment based on the principles of Ayurveda. Most modern medicines treat only the symptoms of acid reflux without addressing the basic cause and that is the reason why you only have temporary relief.
With Ayurveda, we can help you combat the root cause of the acid reflux and thus, find a more lasting solution to your health problems. Get in touch with us today to learn how you can get back to a state of good digestive health at the earliest.
Dr. Gurnam Saini
Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery
MD Alternative Medicine
Panchkarma Detox Expert
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Ayurveda stads for extensive and elaborate clinical examination to understand thenature of the disease