Natural remedies for acid reflux/GERD, based in Ayurveda
Acid reflux disease – also called Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which acidic digestive juices from the stomach move up into the esophagus (food pipe). The stomach normally secretes acid that is essential to the digestive process. When there is excess production of acid in the stomach, it results in the condition known as acid reflux.
Western perspective on GERD
Generally, acid reflux is considered a lifestyle disease: A diet comprising of fast foods, processed meat, fried meals, too much alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, smoking add to the problem. Several medications too can cause acid reflux.
Ayurvedic perspective on the disease
In Ayurveda, acid reflux is a result of aggravation or imbalance in the pitta dosha. The disease is called Amlapitta. Amla means sour taste and Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water elements. When the amla or sour quality of Pitta guna increases, it causes GERD. To reduce symptoms of acidity, Ayurveda teaches us that we need to balance the Pitta dosha in the body. Did you know that acid reflux, a disease of the Annavaha Srotas (gastrointestinal system), appears well-documented in numerous Ayurvedic scriptures?
What causes acid reflux?
Acid reflux can be caused by an excessive intake of Pitta-aggravating foods (spicy, sour, pungent). Fried foods and alcohol are big contributors too. Smoking can also cause hyperacidity. They form ama, which is toxins. Ama is described as the root cause of diseases in Ayurveda. We know that our mind and body are connected, so take a look at your lifestyle too. Overworking, sleep deprivation, lack of rest, emotional upheavals, repressed emotions, too much anger, guilt, and bitterness may also cause acid reflux.
Signs and Symptoms
Acid reflux often presents with symptoms like indigestion, tiredness, nausea, sour and bitter burping, heaviness, heart and throat burn, and a general dislike towards food.
Ayurvedic recommendations for managing acid reflux
- Be mindful of what you consume: Eat in a relaxed atmosphere and keep regular meal timings. Eat only when hungry and consume small portions. Avoid snacking throughout the day. Cut down on spicy, sour, fried, fermented, junk, and processed foods. Reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Basically, eat cooling foods, both energetically and in temperature. Eat your last meal 3-4 hours before you go to bed. Acidity is high during digestion and during Pitta time of night (10pm – 2am).
- Let go of what doesn’t serve you: Release the emotions that you maybe holding onto. Anger, criticism, judgmentalism, resentment, perfectionism … they all create heat in the mind and body, which further aggravates Pitta Dosha.
- Minimize stress and worries: Get your sleep hygiene in place. Prioritize sleep. Be in bed before 10pm daily. Get sufficient rest and pause in-between activities. Spend some time on inner reflections. Practice cooling movements: You can do so by taking nature walks, journaling, practicing gentle yoga (especially asanas that open the front body and twists), and swimming in cooler waters—they can help reduce both the intensity and rigidity. Try Sitali Pranayama as well as Chandra Bhedana—these are cooling breathing techniques. At the minimum, walk 100 steps after every meal.
- Increase cooling herbs & spices in your diet: The herbs and spices that pacify Pitta dosha are mint, cilantro, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and green cardamom. You can cook them to your meals or make teas with them.
- Avoid tight fitting clothes: They put pressure on your abdomen as well as Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). GERD may occur when LES is weak or doesn’t relax appropriately, allowing the stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus.