Ayurveda And Acid Reflux – Tips To Manage Acid Reflux
Does eating a heavy diet take a toll on your digestive health? Many a time, we let our eating habits take the best of us, which might lead to poor digestive health. Poor digestive health can be reflected in multiple ways, including acid reflux. It is a condition where the same acids that aid digestion may potentially lead to tremendous discomfort, corrosion of the stomach lining, and various other complications. However, if managed properly, acid reflux can be dealt with effectively, and good digestive health can be restored. So, if you have encountered acid reflux or know someone troubled by it, read this post and appreciate how Ayurveda can come to your rescue.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when acid is pushed up from the stomach back into the esophagus. It generally happens when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus weakens or stays open for a long time, allowing the acid in the stomach to flow into the esophagus. Our stomach contains strong acidsthat help in breaking down the food we eat and potentially protect our body against pathogens.1 Even though the lining of our stomach is adapted to tolerate the presence of digestive acids, the esophagus is not. So, when the gastroesophageal sphincter, the valve that lets food into the stomach, fails, the content starts traveling back into the esophagus.
It is vital to mention that if the symptoms of acid reflux occur more than twice a week, it might lead to a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (a chronic and severe form of acid reflux.). As per a survey2, acid reflux affects around 20 percent of people in the United States.
How do you know if you have acid reflux?2
Even though people use heartburn and acid reflux interchangeably, heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux can cause an uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest, which can move up into your neck and throat. A person may feel discomfort behind the breastbone area, which may last from a few minutes to several hours.
While heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux, stomach fluids may sometimes reach the back of the throat, causing a bitter or sour taste. In some cases, it may also include:
Regurgitation of food or liquid from the stomach into the mouth.
Pain and difficulty when swallowing.
Chronic cough and hoarse voice
- Chest pain. etc.
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Ayurveda’s take on acid reflux3
According to Ayurvedic wisdom, acid reflux results from aggravation or imbalance in the Pitta dosha. Ayurveda defines GERD (chronic acid reflux) as “amlapitta,” which means that the Pitta component of the body that regulates digestion is at a surplus level. This aggravation leads to heartburn (hrit daha), bitter taste in the mouth (tikta udgara), and indigestion (avipaka), etc. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends balancing the Pitta dosha in the body.
Tips to manage acid reflux
Ayurvedic and western medicine experts suggest that modern lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, unregulated intake of fried, hot, spicy, and heavy meals, and high consumption of tea, caffeine, and alcohol are potential causes of acid reflux.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, acid reflux is an imbalance of the Pitta dosha. However, there are several remedies that can help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux and address the root cause of the symptoms:
Correct and mindful eating: Ayurveda and other healthcare professionals often recommend that people suffering from acid reflux should be mindful of what they eat and how much they eat. It is important to reduce the intake of high-fat foods4, sour, and spicy foods as they trigger acidity. Moreover, having multiple small meals is better than large meals as most reflux symptoms take place after a meal. Having just one to two large meals per day mayworsenreflux symptoms.5 Therefore, eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day isadvisable. Furthermore, growingevidencesuggests that low-carb diets may relieve acid reflux symptoms6.
Timing meals: It is advised that people consume their last meal of the day at least 3-4 hours before sleeping. Ayurveda suggests7toeat warm food and eat only when the previous meal has been digested entirely.
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Physical activity: Engage in moderate exercises and maintain healthy body weight.Research8 shows that having excess belly fat may be associated with a higher risk of acid reflux. Therefore, maintaining weight and exercising are crucial. One can incorporate any kind of physical activity and exercise in their routine, including yoga, dance, walking, etc., to get regular physical activity.
Mental/emotional state: Excessive stress can also trigger acid reflux9. Therefore, it is important to release such emotions and calm our nervous system. Mind-body practices such as meditation can help in calming the nervous system, regulate all of the internal functions of the body and reduce the chances of acid reflux.
Hydration: Staying hydrated throughout the day can also pacify aggravated Pitta and potentially help reduce the chances of acid reflux. While it is not recommended to drink excessive water after meals, sipping small amounts of warm water during a meal can help in the digestion and absorption of food10. When you drink enough water, it can help you in relieving more than half of your health issues, as it can potentially help in flushing out impurities and improving the digestion process.
Sleep on your left side: We may potentially reduce the chances of acid reflux at night if we get enough sleep. Research11 has highlighted that sleeping by lying on your left side may decrease acid exposure in the esophagus. The logic is quite simple. The esophagus enters the right side of the stomach. So, when you lie on your right side, stomach acid could potentially cover the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of reflux. Whereas if you sleep on your left side, the lower esophageal sphincter will be above the level of stomach acid. Therefore, sleeping on your left side is recommended when you want to avoid acid reflux.
Elevate your upper body when you sleep: Making a small change in how you sleep can also reduce acid reflux. Simply elevating the head12 of our bed couldpotentially help reduce symptoms of acid reflux and enhance our sleep quality. Areview13 of four studies highlighted that elevating the head of the bed lowered acid reflux and symptoms like heartburn and regurgitation. Similarly, the use of a wedge14 to elevate your upper body while sleeping may help with acid reflux.
Limit intake of alcohol, carbonated beverages: Higher alcohol intake could be linked to increased symptoms of acid reflux as itpotentially14 increases the production of acid, relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, and impairs the ability of the esophagus to clear out acid. It is also encouraged to stay away from carbonated drinks as they canpotentially lead to acid reflux15.
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Acid reflux may not be a fatal issue, but it is not something that should be taken lightly. A combination of mindful eating habits, regular exercise, meditation, hydration, etc., can help keep acid reflux at bay and maintain a healthy digestive system. A combination of these practices can potentially help address the underlying issues of acid reflux and its symptoms, effectively.
- https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/definition-facts https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/symptoms-causes
- 5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25396005/
- 6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii S0929664617305910#:~:text=Nonetheless%2C%20obese%20patients%20with%20GERD,acid%20exposure%20and%20improved%20symptoms.