How To Cure Acidity With Ayurveda
For years together, Ayurvedic scholars have maintained that agnimandya, or indigestion, is the principal cause of several diseases. Any impairment of agni (a fundamental bodily bio-element) causes amlapitta.
In traditional Ayurvedic terms, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn, or acidity is known as ‘urdhvaga amlapitta’ (symptoms manifested in the upper gastrointestinal tract) or ‘adhoga amlapitta’ (symptoms manifested in the lower gastrointestinal tract). It affects millions of people across the globe. Medically, acidity occurs when gastric juices from the stomach are pushed to the lower part of the esophagus. Although a simple condition, it leads to severe discomfort for the individual.
By its very name, acidity stems from the imbalance of the Pitta dosha (governed by the biological elements of fire and water). Ayurveda, considered one of the most ancient scientific and holistic approaches to life, provides innumerable remedies for this condition. After all, it's all about balancing the body, mind, and spirit. But first, let us understand the causes and symptoms of acidity.
Understanding the root cause of acidity
When two doshas (Vata and Pitta) are predominant in your prakriti (your unique, natural doshabalance), a dynamic dance takes place within your body, owing to your lifestyle factors, the change of seasons, and external influences.
According to studies, the combination of these two doshas reduces jatharagni – the bioenergy, ‘digestive fire’, or agni present in the stomach and duodenum. This is responsible for digestion. However, reduced jatharagni leads to food remaining vidagdha or undigested. Eventually, the food becomes acidified, thus resulting in amlapitta.
Some of the fundamental features of amlapitta or acidity are:
Avipaka (or indigestion)
Hritkantha daha (severe heartburn)
Gaurava (a feeling of heaviness)
Utklesha (dizziness or nausea)
Tikta-amlodgara (bitter or sour burping)
The most common causes of acidity are as follows:
Vihaara (Lifestyle habits)
- Eating more food than the body demands or lying down immediately after meals increases ama (toxins) in the stomach, leading to acidity.
- Smoking cigarettes containing nicotine aggravates the Pitta
- Irregular eating habits or skipping meals altogether leads to poor digestion.
- Improper sleeping patterns or lack of physical activities disturb the balance of the doshas leading to vikriti (imbalance).
- Consuming Pitta-aggravating foods that are spicy, fried, sour, or salty can upset the digestive system. Moreover, indulging in citrus fruits, tomatoes, radish, onion, garlic, or grapefruit can irritate the Pitta. Excess intake of any of these increases acid production in the body.
- Carbonated drinks, coffee, or hard alcohol can cause internal heat to get accumulated in the body. It can further irritate the esophagus when mixed with stomach acid.
- Hormonal imbalance related to pregnancy
- Psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, or depression
- Existing medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, or diabetes
- Stomach conditions such as peptic ulcers or tumors
According to Ayurveda, agni, the ‘digestive fire’, is the gatekeeper of good health. What you eat nourishes the fire in your digestive system. The volume and strength of the stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile (in the GI tract) constitute agni. It transforms the food that you consume in your body into the building blocks of sustenance and energy you require to thrive and be fully functional. Any imbalance in your metabolic health leads to an impaired agni, thus resulting in acidity or gas.
The symptoms of acidity
Some of the most frequently encountered symptoms of acidity or acid reflux are:
- Heartburn (discomfort in the stomach that goes on to the chest)
- Regurgitation (backfire of food to the esophagus)
- Pain that intensifies on lying down or bending
- Bloating (feeling heavy in the stomach)
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Sore throat or vomiting
- Flatulence (passing of gas)
Treating acidity with Ayurveda
Ayurveda focuses on balancing the doshas in the body – the Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Pitta, derived from the word ‘tapa’ or ‘heat’, drives metabolism in the body. It regulates the body temperature and aids digestion. An aggravated Pitta disallows agni from digesting food appropriately, resulting in the build of ama (toxins). Further, lifestyle choices such as consumption of junk food or stress and even lifestyle disorders result in acidity.
If you constantly get bouts of acidity or gas, it is essential to focus on balancing the Pitta dosha in the body. Here are some natural Ayurvedic remedies that could help you:
Cumin seeds: As an acid neutralizer, cumin stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes in the body. Since it is alkaline, cumin cools down aggravated acids, thus acting as a natural treatment for acidity. Boiling one teaspoon of cumin seeds in water and drinking the water after it cools down or roasting cumin seeds in ghee in cooking can relieve indigestion and acidity.
Avipattikar Churna: This herbal remedy has carminative, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, which help cure acidity by promoting the production of digestive enzymes. It contains various natural ingredients such as black pepper (Piper nigrum), amla (Emblica officinalis), behada (Terminalia belerica), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and vidanga (Embelia ribes), to name a few.
Shatavari: Shatavari or Asparagus racemosus is an adaptogenic herb that protects the stomach against acid attacks owing to its cytoprotective (cell protective) nature. With its antioxidant properties, this ancient herb helps relieve the symptoms of aciditywhen consumed with milk. A study also reported that it helps reduce stomach ulcers.
Amla: Amla, or the Indian gooseberry, has anti-inflammatory compounds and natural antioxidants. It is a natural Ayurvedic treatment recommended for acidity. Amla reduces Pitta dosha in the body by soothing the stomach. It can be consumed as a dry powder, tablet, or even a juice.
Tulsi: The Indian holy basil or tulsi is an effective digestive agent. It is soothing, and its antioxidant properties aid mucus production in the stomach and provide immediate relief during symptoms of acidity. Tulsi also reduces peptic acids in the stomach while reducing discomfort.
Oils: Certain oils help balance Pitta dosha in the body by relieving stress. Since Pitta’s attributes are oily and hot, choosing contrasting oils that are cool, flowery, sweet, and calming in nature is essential. These could be:
Calming and cool oils to aid sleep and relaxation: Lavender, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, vetiver, fennel
Flowery and sweet oils to reduce hyperactivity and sleeplessness: Rose, spearmint, honeysuckle
Cooling carrier oils such as coconut, olive, or sunflower oil are ideal.
Learn more about Pitta dosha: Pitta Dosha Symptoms | 10 Ingredients to Cool Pitta | Pitta Diet: Everything You Need To Know
Besides incorporating these natural Ayurvedic products into your diet, you must remember a few do’s and don’ts to reduce acidity. These are purely based on Ayurvedic principles that will help you calm your Pitta dosha.
- Eat a Pitta-pacifying balanced, nutritious ahara (diet) which is saatvik (pure) in nature, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Including certain raw fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, coriander, pumpkin, and banana helps reduce stomach acid.
- Eat at regular intervals without skipping any meals. This will balance an overactive digestive fire associated with Pitta dosha.
- Add cooling herbs and spices such as turmeric, fennel seeds, ginger, coriander, and asafoetida to your daily diet.
- Consume ginger or cumin tea once daily since they have deepan (appetizer) and paachan (digestive) properties.
- Make lifestyle changes such as reducing the intake of tea, coffee, and alcohol. These caffeinated drinks are quite sharp and penetrating for the Pitta.
- Improve your sleeping habits with a fixed time of going to bed every evening and waking up every morning to maintain optimum doshas in the body.
- Try to consume tender coconut water to reduce acidity. It is not only digestive in nature but also calms the stomach while acting as a natural coolant.
- Incorporate ghee in your meals to stimulate digestion and reduce Pitta and body heat.
- Overeat at any time, as that will aggravate the Pitta.
- Eat right before bed, as that will make you feel heavy and increase the chances of indigestion.
- Consume ice-cold or carbonated drinks, as their acidic nature ignites agni (digestive fire).
- Eat junk, processed, or canned food that lacks prana (the life force), as they make you feel heavy and result in acidity.
- Include viruddha aahaara (contradictory food combinations), such as consuming hot food with cold beverages or milk with fish will slow agni and digestion.
Do remember that any natural treatment of acidity takes time and effort from your end. You must focus on pacifying the aggravated Pitta in your body.
Besides adding these Ayurvedic remedies to your daily routine, you can also practice yoga and pranayam to maintain harmony in your body by balancing your doshas.
Don’t know your dosha yet? Click here, participate in a quick 3-minute quiz, and you are good to go!