How to Relieve Acidity? Causes, Symptoms, Home Remedies and ConcoctionsLuke Coutinho
Have you experienced a severe burning sensation in your chest right after a meal? Or slept at night to feel food rise back up your throat and leave a rancid or sour taste in your mouth? What you are experiencing is acid reflux or acidity. It’s also called acid regurgitation or gastroesophageal reflux. Acid reflux happens when your stomach acids flow back up into the esophagus, the tube that carries foods and drinks from the mouth to the stomach.
It affects millions of people across the globe and has become a household name today. It can cause an uncomfortable burn in your chest that radiates toward your neck, which is heartburn.
If you experience it more than twice a week, seek the right help. If left untreated, it can cause innumerable ailments in the long run, like cancer, diabetes, poor skin and hair quality, inability to lose weight, and a lot more.
What happens when your body turns acidic?
Your intelligently designed human body has a pH regulator that can keep its internal environment alkaline automatically. But you have poor eating habits and follow the wrong lifestyle – your body produces too much acid leading to acidity, burping, bloating, and flatulence.
Several conditions can lead to high stomach acid. In most cases, it is due to an overproduction of gastrin, a hormone that signals your stomach to produce more stomach acid.
What are some signs that you may have high stomach acid?
• You have abdominal discomfort, which is even worse on an empty stomach
• You feel nauseous or pukish
• You experience bloating
• You feel heartburn
• You experience diarrhea
• Your appetite has decreased
• You experience unexplained weight loss
Remember, each of the trillion cells in your body needs an adequate supply of oxygen to carry out various functions. When your body is highly acidic, it deprives your cells of the amount of oxygen they need. When they become anaerobic, your body is pushed out of homeostasis, and you become vulnerable to health problems and disease. But don’t panic. There are simple lifestyle changes and natural home remedies for instant relief from acidity.
But before learning these, you must first understand what triggers acidity or acid reflux.
- Big meals. Eating large meals puts pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle. Think of it as a valve or a gate between your esophagus and stomach. Located at the bottom of the esophagus, it opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes to not let food and stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. Eating big meals can weaken or relax the LES, cause acid to flow back into the esophagus, and lead to heartburn.
- Fatty and fried foods late at night. These take longer for your body to break down. And you already know that your body is not designed to do this late at night. Your digestion slows down post sunset. This causes more acid secretion because the food stays in the stomach for longer.
- Eating and then immediately lying down. Lying down immediately after meals can make your acid rise back into the esophagus.
- Excessively eating acidic foods like raw onion, tomato, garlic, mint, chocolates, peppermints, cheese, or citric foods.
- Excessively consuming spicy foods. These irritate your esophageal mucosa. If you are sensitive to these, avoid or reduce their intake.
- Excessively drinking coffee or doing so on an empty stomach can add to an already acidic environment in your body and trigger reflux.
- Wearing skin-tight clothes put pressure on your abdomen and forces acid from your stomach back into your esophagus.
- High blood pressure medications. Several medicines can have acidity as a side effect because your body needs to produce more stomach acid to break them down.
- Being overweight, obese, or pregnant can make you more vulnerable to acid reflux.
- A disrupted circadian rhythm. Yes, sleep and circadian rhythm are linked with your digestive function. The Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology suggests that sleep disturbance or late night shifts can make you vulnerable to acidity.
Chronic stress throws your body out of a state of homeostasis. Studies show that stress can delay gastric emptying, modify gastric secretions, and impair how food moves or breaks down in your system.
- Keeping irregular meal times and long gaps between meals. When you eat around the same time every day, your body muscles and stomach memory enables it to produce acid uniformly. Your average meal takes about four hours to digest, after which your stomach produces hydrochloric acid automatically for digestion. So if you give a gap of more than four hours between meals, you become acidic naturally. When there’s no food in your stomach, the acid starts eating on the inner mucosal lining of your stomach and delicate tissues of your esophagus, leading to ulcers and acid reflux.
- Processed foods and refined sugars inflame the stomach, affect acid activity, and trigger reflux symptoms.
- Improper chewing. Remember, digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing helps you break down food into smaller bits and extract maximum nutrients from them. Not chewing your food well causes it to go into your stomach undigested. It pushes your stomach to produce more acid to break these larger chunks down and causes more acidity.
- Today the quality of milk that most of us consume is questionable. The process of homogenization and pasteurization makes milk acidic. To neutralize its pH level, your body starts leaching calcium from bones.
- Smoking and alcohol directly affect the gastric acid secretion and interfere with digestive functions.
- Even a 1% drop of water in your body can lead to acidity, fatigue, and numerous issues. Staying hydrated can help improve the pH balance and ease symptoms of acid reflux.
- Carbonated drinks expand in your stomach, strain, and put pressure on your digestive system. It worsens stomach acid and slows down the digestion process.
Exposing the truth about antacids
Most people prefer popping over-the-counter (OTC) antacids like candy without realizing the side effects or addressing the root cause of their acidity. The more antacids you take, the more your body becomes immune to them. As you increase the dosages and frequency of taking these, your body becomes prone to its side effects. Most antacids have magnesium that may cause diarrhea. To avert this, pharmaceutical companies also add aluminum, which can lead to constipation. If you are on medication for high blood pressure or kidney diseases, antacids can wreak havoc in your body. It is not to scare you but alert you to make an informed choice by keeping your medical professional in the loop. Remember, antacids only treat acidity only at a symptomatic level.
Here are some simple lifestyle changes that can help you address the root cause and relieve acidity:
- Avoid keeping long gaps between your meals. Plan your meals better and stick to that schedule.
- Don’t eat your meals too quickly. Chew every bite mindfully to extract maximum nutrients and aid digestion.
- Eat regular meals at fixed times so that your intelligent body muscles and stomach remember that they will get food at these particular times and produce acid uniformly. Follow the circadian rhythm and eat your last meal of the day at or closer to sunset. Keep your dinner the lightest meal of the day.
- Assess what you eat. Wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, lentils, whole grains, seeds, and nuts consumed in the right quantity help your body produce the right amount of acid to break it down. Raw foods when consumed the right way can help you produce digestive enzymes.
- Avoid excessively consuming processed junk food, refined sugars, salts, aerated drinks, tea, coffee, or chocolate.
- Say no to night-time snacks as acid reflux at night is a lot more harmful.
- The best way to deal with acidity is to keep it alkaline. While your body has a pH regulator which automatically keeps it alkaline when faced with excess acidity, it needs you to step in. Drinking lemon water or eating a bowl of cucumber, carrot, or raw veggies can help.
- Stay hydrated. Drink adequate liters of water and keep a track of it. Most people are perpetually dehydrated. Water helps your body flush out the extra acid that remains in the stomach post digestion. Avoid drinking water immediately after a meal. It can dilute the digestive juices and acids needed for digestion. Try to keep a 30-minute gap before and after meals to drink water.
- Light and moderate exercise can help keep your acidity in check. Take a 10 to 30-minute walk after every meal. Movement helps improve gastric emptying. If you work out, don’t overtrain because exhaustive exercises can worsen your symptoms.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothes.
- Improve your posture. Sit up straight and walk with your shoulders back. This gives your stomach more room and keeps the esophagus in an upright position.
- Check the side effects of any medication you have. When on antibiotics make sure you take probiotics and B complex too. Antibiotics wipe out good and bad bacteria from your intestines and deplete the B-complex vitamin, thus making your body more acidic.
- Breathe deep. Practice yoga, pranayamas, and certain breathing exercises to reduce acidity. Pranayama like Kapalbhati and Agnisar kriya may be particularly useful in addressing it. Studies suggest that this combination increases diaphragmatic tone and reduces reflux from your stomach to the esophagus.
- Every time you inhale oxygen, you help your body balance its acidic and alkaline levels naturally. Here’s a simple exercise. Before your meal take three deep breaths so that you flood your body and stomach with oxygen and inculcate a method of mindful eating. So with every spoon that you take, try to get into the habit of taking a deep breath. One inhale and one exhale.
- Maintain healthy body weight. Having excess weight increases abdominal pressure. This cause stomach acid leaks and increase the chance of acid backflow.
- Don’t skimp on sleep. When you feel acidic, sleep on your left side instead of your right and elevate your head.
- Managing your stress levels will help you drastically reduce the severity of your symptoms. Meditation, affirmations, and visualization exercises can help. Also, remember that your gut is connected with your brain through the vagus nerve. This may explain how when you are stressed, you experience gut issues like acidity, indigestion, and heartburn.
Simple foods to help relieve acidity:
You may remember your parents and grandparents often turning to the kitchen pharmacy for ingredients that could provide you instant relief from acidity. Here are a few of these:
• Ajwain, carom seeds, or Bishop’s weed is loaded with thymol and aids the release of gastric juice from the stomach and speeds up digestion. It is excellent for acidity, gas, and flatulence.
• Fennel seeds or saunf are loaded with anethole, estragole, and fenchone and are highly anti-inflammatory. You can chew them as is or brew a cup of fennel tea.
• Cardamom is loaded with chemicals that improve gastrointestinal motility (the movement of food through the intestine). Make some cardamom tea or chew on these for relief from reflux.
• Drinking lemon water after 30 – 45 minutes of the meal helps to neutralize the excess acid levels.
• Sabja seeds or sweet basil seeds are super cooling for your body and excellent to overcome acidity. Simply add 1-2 tbsp to water. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes. Once it swells up, becomes transparent, and attains a gel-like consistency, drink it. The water content in these neutralizes the acidic effect of HCL in the body, soothes the stomach lining, and relieves you from the burning sensation.
• Basil leaves are excellent for digestion. You can chew them or boil 3-4 basil leaves in water to make tea.
• Jaggery activates your digestive enzymes. It may explain why many Indians eat jaggery post a meal.
• Cloves improve saliva production, aid digestion, and reduce peristalsis (muscle contractions in the digestive tract).
• Cumin boosts digestive enzymes, speeds up digestion, and increases the release of bile from the liver. Bile helps digest fats and certain nutrients in your gut.
• Fiber-rich foods aid gut motility, absorb water and soften stools.
• Soaked black raisins are rich in fiber and act as natural laxatives. Eating them can ease and prevent constipation and keep your digestion in check.
• Loaded with fiber, oatmeal is beneficial for excess stomach acid.
• Banana is highly alkaline and rich in potassium. Eating ripe bananas can combat stomach acid and coat your mucosal lining to reduce reflux symptoms.
• Cucumbers are highly alkaline, neutralize acids and aid digestion.
• Coconut water is a good source of electrolytes like potassium that maintain pH balance and help control acid reflux.
• Licorice protects the mucosal coating of your esophageal lining and reduces the effects of high stomach acid.
• Ginger speeds up the emptying of the stomach and reduces the likelihood of stomach acid flowing up into the esophagus. Ginger can also reduce inflammation and may relieve symptoms of acid reflux.
• Melons are alkaline fruit, aid digestion, and are loaded with magnesium, which is often an ingredient in medication used to treat excess stomach acid.
• Buttermilk. A combination of yogurt and cumin populates good gut bacteria and aids digestion.
• Ayurveda considers kokum water as an excellent digestive tonic.
• Barley grass powder can help neutralize excess acids and aid digestion.
• Jaljeera stimulates your digestive enzymes, aids digestion, and reduces the incidence of bloating and flatulence. Get the recipe here.
Simple concoctions for relief
Try this ajwain-saunf tea
This remedy uses simple kitchen ingredients from every Indian household loaded with a myriad of health benefits. All you need is ajwain or carom seeds, saunf or fennel seeds, and some warm water for quick relief from acidity, heartburn, and other indigestion issues. Boil half a tsp of ajwain and saunf in water and reduce it to half for consumption. You can also add ajwain to your Indian cooking while saunf can be eaten post-meals. You can also add saunf to your classic Indian masala chai.
Check out this elaichi-pudina-laung concoction
Boil 1/4 tsp elaichi/cardamom powder, 3-4 crushed pudina/mint leaves, and 1-2 laung/cloves in 2 cups of water. Reduce to half. Strain and sip warm.
Make rice kanji
Soak leftover cooked rice in water in a clay pot/mud pot. Allowed to rest overnight at room temperature. The following day, consume 1-2 tbsp of the rice along with the water on an empty stomach.
Try this jeera-ajwain-adrak-saunf concoction
Boil 1 tbsp of fennel, 1 tbsp of cumin, 1 tsp of bishop’s weed/carom seeds, a little cardamom, ginger, and 1 clove in water to make a tea. Reduce it to half and sip warm.
Disclaimer: Keep your medical professional in the loop before making any dietary changes, especially if you have a medical condition. Make an informed decision.
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