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Acidity Treatment in Ayurveda: A Holistic Approach to Digestive Health

Acidity, commonly known as acid reflux or heartburn, is a widespread gastrointestinal issue affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation, discomfort, and other symptoms. While modern medicine provides effective treatments for acidity, Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine from India, offers a holistic approach to address this condition. In this article, we will explore the Ayurvedic perspective on acidity, its causes, symptoms, and various natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can be employed for its treatment.

What is acidity?

Acidity is nothing but acid reflux where the contents of the stomach or the stomach acid are pushed back into the food pipe or esophagus. When acid reflux happens repeatedly it may lead to gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can be called chronic acid reflux.

Causes for Acidity

Eating large meals frequently, lying down soon after the meals, eating too much spicy, pungent, soft beverages, alcohol, smoking eating close to bedtime, being obese, pregnancy, certain medications like pain-killers, anti-depressants, etc., and hiatus hernia are all the causative factors for acid reflux.

Symptoms of Acidity

Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), difficulty in swallowing, the feeling of food caught in the throat, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, chest pain, upper abdominal pain, cough, sore throat, and hoarseness, vomiting are the symptoms seen.

Tests and Treatments

Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy, barium swallow X–ray, etc. are a few diagnostic tests to mention. Antacids, proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, and foaming agents are the medications prescribed. Surgery is the rarest option if untreated with medications.

 acid reflux

Understanding Acidity from an Ayurvedic Perspective

Ayurveda, which translates to “the science of life,” is a comprehensive and holistic system of medicine that dates back thousands of years. It emphasizes the balance of three fundamental energies or doshas within the body – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. According to Ayurveda, acidity primarily results from an imbalance in the Pitta dosha, which is associated with fire and digestion.

In Ayurveda, digestion is considered a vital process for maintaining overall health. When the Pitta dosha becomes aggravated, it can lead to excessive production of stomach acid, which, in turn, causes acidity. Factors such as diet, lifestyle, and emotional stress can contribute to this doshic imbalance.

Amlapitta

In Ayurveda, symptoms of acid reflux or gastrointestinal reflux disease can be correlated with a condition called Amlapitta. The references to this condition are found in various treatises like Charaka Samhita, Sushrutha Samhitha, and so on. But, the first treatise to describe in detail as an independent disease was Kashyapa Samhitha.

As per the definition of Amlapitta in Kashyapa Samhitha, the vidagdha ahara (undigested food) in the stomach remains with amlata in it and hence causes mandagni (impaired digestion process) thereby causing food into amla bhava and aggravating pitta dosha and this is Amlapitta. 

Causes for Amlapitta

Kulattha sevana (horse gram intake), ati ushna- drava- snigdha-ruksha-teekshna ahara sevana (excess intake of hot-liquid-unctous-dry-penetrating foods), pitta prakopa aahara sevana (foods that cause aggravation of pitta dosha), amla sevana (excess intake of sour foods), dushtanna sevana (foods which are stale), etc. are the food items that cause Amlapitta.

Lifestyle factors include amatra bhojana (having large meals), akala bhojana (untimely food intake), apriya ahara (food that is disliked), divaswapna (day time sleeping), vega vidharana (suppression of natural urges), etc. and the psychological factors are krodha (anger), bhaya (fear), shoka (grief), etc. 

The common symptoms of Amlapitta are:

  • Avipaka (indigestion),
  • Tiktodgara (bitter belchings),
  • Amlodgara (sour belchings),
  • Gaurava (heaviness in the body),
  • Hriddaha (burning sensation in the chest),
  • Kantha daha (burning sensation in the throat),
  • Shiro ruja (headache),
  • Adhmana (abdominal distension),
  • Guru koshtha (heaviness in the abdomen),
  • Amla koshtha (acidity in the stomach),
  • Klama (fatigue) etc. 

Types of Amlapitta

The types described are: urdhwa gati (upward movement), adho gati (downward movement)based on the movement of dosha. Based on the dosha it can be vataja, pittaja, kaphaja types and also vataja, kaphaja, vata-kaphaja types.

Complications as mentioned by Kashyap samhitha are jwara (fever), atisara (diarrhea), aruchi (anorexia), pandu roga (anaemia), shula (pain abdomen), shotha (generalized edema), bhrama (giddiness) and grahani roga (bowel disorder).

Ayurvedic Approach to Treating Acidity

Ayurveda aims to address the root causes of acidity by rebalancing the Pitta dosha and promoting healthy digestion. Treatment typically involves a combination of dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, and stress management techniques.

  1. Dietary Guidelines:
    • Consume cooling foods and drinks such as cucumber, coconut water, and mint to pacify the Pitta dosha.
    • Avoid spicy, sour, and fried foods.
    • Favor easily digestible meals and eat at regular intervals.
    • Incorporate herbs like coriander, fennel, and cumin in your diet, as they have cooling properties.
  2. Lifestyle Modifications:
    • Engage in regular physical activity to improve digestion and reduce stress.
    • Practice stress-relief techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm the mind and reduce emotional triggers.
    • Ensure an adequate amount of sleep to support overall health and balance.
  3. Herbal Remedies:
    • Ayurveda offers various herbal remedies to alleviate acidity. Some commonly used herbs include aloe vera, licorice, and Shatavari. These herbs can be consumed in various forms, such as teas or powders, after consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner.
  4. Ayurvedic Detoxification:
    • Panchakarma, a renowned Ayurvedic detoxification therapy, can be recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner to eliminate toxins and restore balance.
  5. Home Remedies:
    • Natural home remedies like drinking a glass of cold milk or chewing fennel seeds after meals can provide quick relief from acidity symptoms.

Acidity Treatment in Ayurveda

Treatment for Amlapitta is vamana (emesis therapy) if the condition is in an upward movement and if it is the downward movement of dosha, virechana (purgation therapy) is advised. Also, it is said in the classics of Ayurveda that when the dosha is in pachyamnashaya vamana (emesis therapy) is given while pakwashaya virechana (purgation therapy)is given. If the dosha is not completely evacuated from the digestive tract then langhana (fasting therapy), laghu ahara bhojana (foods that are lighter for digestion), pachana aushadhi (digestive stimulants)have to be given.

Ayurvedic Medicine for Acidity

Ayurvedic Medicine for Acidity

Ayurvedic Medicine for Acidity is selected depending on the severity of the disease and strength of the patient. Along with the medicines and treatments diet and lifestyle are also very important in curing acidity. Below are a few commonly used Ayurvedic medicines in acidity treatment.

  1. Avipathi Choorna
  2. Avipathikara Choorna
  3. Amruthothara Kashaya
  4. Aragwadhamrutadi Kashaya
  5. Drakshadi Kashaya
  6. Guluchyadi Kashaya
  7. Thiktakam Kashaya
  8. Vidaryadi Kashaya
  9. Narikela Khanda
  10. Mahatiktakam Ghritam
  11. Sukumara Ghrita
  12. Dadimadi Ghruta
  13. Dashamulaharitaki lehya
  14. Pachanamruta Kashaya
  15. Shanka Bhasma
  16. Pravala Bhasma
  17. Mukta Bhasma
  18. Amlapittanataka Louha
  19. Pravala panchamruta
  20. Sutashekara Rasa
  21. Amlapittantaka Rasa

The Role of Ayurvedic Dietary Principles

Ayurvedic dietary principles play a significant role in managing acidity. The emphasis is on selecting foods that balance the Pitta dosha and promote optimal digestion. Here are some dietary guidelines to consider:

  1. Consume Foods with Cooling Properties:
    • Foods like sweet fruits (e.g., pears, melons), dairy products (especially ghee), and leafy greens have cooling properties and can help pacify Pitta.
  2. Embrace Digestive Spices:
    • Incorporate digestive spices such as ginger, turmeric, and cardamom into your meals. These spices support digestion and reduce acidity.
  3. Avoid Acidic and Spicy Foods:
    • Steer clear of acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes, as well as spicy and fried foods, as they can aggravate acidity.
  4. Maintain Proper Hydration:
    • Drinking warm water throughout the day can aid digestion and prevent the accumulation of excess acidity in the stomach.
  5. Mindful Eating:
    • Eat in a calm and mindful manner, avoiding overeating and consuming meals in a rushed or stressed state.

An old variety of rice, wheat, barley, green gram, masoor, cow’s ghee, cow’s milk, fried flour, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, pomegranate, honey, sugar, banana flower, old pumpkin, Indian gooseberry, fig, dry grapes, black grapes, boiled and cooled water, coconut water, etc are beneficial in acidity.

Maintain proper body weight, breathing exercises, regular exercise, regular brisk walking, maintain timely food intake, and elevate head during sleep, sleep on the left side.

Avoid spicy, pungent, salty, and sour foods, avoid lying down immediately after food intake, avoid frequently large meals eating, avoid staying hungry for a long time, avoid smoking and alcohol, etc.   

Acidity Treatment at Home

Acidity Treatment at Home
  • Fennel:
    • One teaspoon of fennel powder with warm water and some sugar added to it and taken internally.
    • Fennel tea. 
  • Black cumin seeds: Chew cumin seeds or one teaspoon of black cumin seeds are boiled in one glass of water to drink.
  • Ginger: Chewing raw ginger or drinking ginger tea.
  • Baking soda: Half a teaspoon of baking soda is mixed with half a cup of water and taken as a drink.
  • Basil leaves: 3-4 basil leaves for chewing or boiled in water. This decoction is taken sip by sip.
  • Apple cedar vinegar: One to two teaspoons of raw apple cedar vinegar is mixed with one cup of water and can be used for drinking once or twice a day.
  • Cloves: One or two crushed cloves can be consumed.
  • Cardamom: One or two crushed cardamom can be eaten.
  • Buttermilk: Buttermilk with a little black pepper powder and some coriander leaves.
  • Coriander seeds: Seeds of coriander are soaked in hot water overnight and the next day it is filtered. This is taken twice a day.
  • Amla: Three to six grams of amla powder is taken with one glass of lukewarm water.
  • Cinnamon tea: Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon to water and boil. Drink it twice a day.
  • Jaggery: A piece of jaggery can be sucked after meals to relieve the symptoms of acidity.
  • Banana: Bananas can be taken along with milk.
  • Licorice: One or two licorice roots can be chewed once or twice a day.
  • Mint leaves: Fresh mint leaves tea helps to relieve acidity.
  • Black raisins: 4-5 black raisins can be soaked in water overnight and consumed the next morning on an empty stomach.
  • Ajwain: One teaspoon each of Ajwain and jeera powder is added to boiling water. Boil this until it turns golden brown. This can be taken two times in a day.
  • Cold milk: Drinking cold milk twice a day helps get relief from symptoms of acidity.
  • Almonds: Raw almonds can be eaten to relieve acidity symptoms.
  • Turmeric: Adding turmeric to regular preparation of food or a pinch of turmeric added to milk helps in acidity.
  • Fruits like papaya, watermelon, and pomegranate can be consumed as whole fruits or in the form of juices.
  • Lime juice: Once or twice a day lime juice is beneficial in reducing acidity.
  • Aloe vera juice: Drinking aloe vera juice one or two times a day is helpful.
  • Coconut water: Tender coconut water relieves acidity.
  • Lukewarm water: Drinking lukewarm water is always good for digestion and thus relieves acidity.

When to see a doctor

Seek a doctor if the symptoms do not subside after two weeks of taking medications, or if the symptoms aggravate you must visit a doctor.

Conclusion 

Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to the treatment of acidity by addressing the root causes and imbalances within the body. By following Ayurvedic principles of diet, lifestyle, and herbal remedies, individuals suffering from acidity can experience relief and restore balance to their digestive system. It’s important to consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner for personalized guidance and treatment plans. In adopting these natural and time-tested practices, individuals can work towards achieving optimal digestive health and overall well-being.

NOTE: 
“This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call or visit your doctor.” 
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