Treating indigestion and acid reflux caused by Hypoacidity(diluted gastric acid, in Ayur-Veda known as Amla-Pitta)
Most people assume acid reflux is caused by excess acid secretions, or hyperacidity. While a hot, burning sensation is the outcome of acid reflux, hyperacidity is actually not the most common cause. More commonly, acid reflux is a sign of too little acid or diluted acid. The deficiency of acid causes food to sit too long in the stomach, causing the acid to regurgitate. Suspect hypoacidity if food seems to sit stagnant in the stomach after you eat, and if your appetite has become weaker. Also, suspect hypoacidity if you feel fatigued or sluggish after eating. Burping or any kind of bloating in the upper GI tract on a regular basis is also an indicator, particularly if you had an easy to digest meal.
The main cause for this condition is excess wetness in the digestive system, which in turn dilutes the gastric fluids (gastric acid, enzymes, bile), therefor harming the normal process of food breakdown in the stomach and duodenum. The diluted gastric fluids are excess in quantity but deficient in quality. The attempt to digest would be similar to the attempt to wash the disheswith only a drop of soap and lots of cold water, in contrast to using a concentrated soap with only sufficient hot water.
The excess wetness and diluted acid content of the stomach easily spills upwards, like a jug full to the brim that is shaken. This upward spill is the reason for any sensation of burning, pain or irritation of the esophagus. although the acid is diluted and too weak for proper digestion of food in the stomach, it is still offensive acid for the esophagus mucus membrane lining, that is not normally meant to come in contact with acid, diluted or not, from the stomach. Although heartburn is the main symptom of this condition, not every heartburn indicates diluted gastric acid.
Like milk poured to a jag that was used for yogurt, it will immediately go sour, the same goes for any food entering the stomach that is burdened with excess diluted acids,and it will quickly go sour, causing a feeling that any food eaten will bring upon an acid sensation, even if this food is not acid on its own.
What causes this condition?
- Offensive food combination
- Old non fresh food
- Spoiled food
- Very sour food
- Foods that cause a burning sensation
- Foods with hot and oily quality such as fried foods
- Eating before the previous meal has been digested, eating on a full stomach
- Indigestion and phlegm conditions
- Food items that are hard to digest
- Alcohol, wine, especially wine gone sour
- Sour milk
- Foods items which are considered wet: freshly harvested rice, tomatoes, eggplant, pickles, fruit, yogurt
- Daytime sleeping
- Extensive bathing
- Excessive drinking
- Drinking water near, during and right after meals
This is a chronic condition. Even if one refrains from the above causes, this condition will not change immediately.
Possible manifestations for this condition:
- A sensation of indigestion
- Tiredness without straining
- A general sensation of heaviness throughout the body
- Burning sensation – of the chest, heart or throat
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal distension
- Intestinal noise
A few versions of this disturbance:
- Upward spill – as explained above, the flow of diluted acid up may cause thirst, burping or vomiting (with or without connection to food), either a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, burning of the stomach, chest or throat, headache, a burning sensation in the palms and/or soles, a general sensation of excess heat, Dizziness, real lack of appetite, a fever, rash and itchiness, goose bumps, sweating, yellowish skin.
- Downward slide – burning sensation of the rectum, diarrhea.
- Upward and downward may manifest simultaneously.
- Accompanied by excess dryness (excess Vata Dosha) – tremor, extreme weakness, possibly fainting, a sensation of prickling needles, general pain, dizziness, goose bumps, much yawning. This condition will respond positively to oiling and lubricating.
- Accompanied by excess heaviness (excess Kapha Dosha) – sticky phlegm, laziness, lack of appetite, feeling cold, thick coating of the tongue, weakness, itchy skin, nausea, much sleep.
- Accompanied by excess heat (excess Pitta Dosha) – intense burning sensation, respond positively to cold and sweet items.
- Combination of excess Pitta and Kapha Dosha – burning sensation, lack of appetite, sweet taste in the mouth, head ache.
Catch 22 – the contradiction treating acid reflux caused by hypoacidity
The main objective in treatment would be to strengthen the acid secretions of the stomach and stimulate digestion. This is done by the use of stimulating spices and herbs that are bitter, sour or pungent in taste. This will certainly speed up digestion, but because the lining of the esophagus may be irritated from reoccurring acid reflux, it will react negatively to the digestive stimulants, resulting in more burning sensations and pain.
It is essential to first sooth and heal any irritated mucus membrane lining before stimulating and reinforcing the digestive action, using cooked food which is soft and creamy in texture, and by the use of medicinal herbs such as Fillipendula Ulmaria, Glycyrrhiza Glabra, Calendula Oficcinalis, Ulmus Rubra, Matricaria Recutita.
Once the mucus lining is healed, Common kitchen herbs and spices, like black pepper and fresh ginger, can stimulate digestion and the secretion of gastric juices. Fennel seeds are a particularly good, mild digestive that is appropriate in cases of acid reflux. Ayurvedic herbal formulas such as Hingwashtak Churna and Trikatu stimulate acid secretions in hypoacidity.
General guidelines for treating this condition
The main objective in treatment is to sooth the mucus lining, absorb the excess wetness and reinforce the digestive power. This is done by the following suggestions:
- A daily exercise routine, walking for 20 minutes 3 times a day*.
- A very light and easy to digest diet. For certain individuals, fasting may be appropriate, under supervision*.
- Small meals, complete awareness to the food while eating, thorough masticating, stop eating at 80% full.
- Avoid wet food such as soups and reduce drinking. Consume fluids by sips and only as much as your thirst quenching requires. That said, it is important to keep hydrated. When dehydrated, your body produces less acid. If you are dehydrated and your tongue is regularly dry, sip warm water until the tongue and palate stay moist. This indicates sufficient hydration for acid production.
- Avoid all sour and pungent foods at start, minimize slat.
- The diet should contain mostly the bitter and mild sweet (complex carbohydrates) taste.
- The diet consists of cocked food, served warm, relatively dry texture.
- Grains: barley, bulgur, old basmati rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, oats.
- Cooked vegetables*: carrot, celery root, parsley root, beet root, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, butter nut squash, zucchini, fennel, celery stalks, chard, green peas, string beans, asparagus, green artichoke.
- Fresh vegetables: lettuce, endive, coriander.
- Legumes well prepared: green mung beans*, green lentils*, and tofu* (for only those who are accustomed to and familiar with eating legumes).
- Animal protein: eggs*, chicken breast*.
- Oils and fats: clarified butter (Ghee), coconut oil*, olive oil*, avocado*, almond butter*, almonds.
- Dairy: milk* (cooked with grains into porridge), cottage cheese*, white spread Cheese* ricotta cheese*.
- Fruit: cooked/baked apples and pears, cooked raisins*, cooked dates*, cooked dried apricots*.
- Sweeteners: old honey.
- Spices: turmeric, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom*, cloves*, rock salt*, Lime*, thyme*, hyssop*, Basil*, oregano*.
- Drink: boiled herbs such as fennel seeds, infusions such as chamomile, green tea
*Requires individual diagnosis
A daily menu example:
Breakfast: cooked and warm quinoa/buckwheat/millet with green leaves and few almonds.
Snack: baked apple and pear.
Lunch (veg): cooked barley, cooked vegetable, cooked legume, and small leafy green salad.
Lunch (non-veg): cooked quinoa, cooked vegetables, roasted chicken breast, and small leafy green salad.
Snack: baked apple and pear.
Dinner: green oat omelet or cooked bulgur with scrambled egg and steamed vegetables.
Optional herbal remedies: to be subscribed by a practitioner