Acid reflux, essentially a lifestyle imbalance disorder, is called Amlapitta in Ayurveda. The most common understanding about acid reflux is, it is caused by excessive formation of acids in the stomach. But interestingly according to Ayurveda, acid reflux is a result of weak Agni or digestive fire (in other words, insufficient production of stomach acids). Weak digestive fire causes indigestion leading to food stagnation and regurgitation.
Ayurveda, in this regard, discusses and works with a startling facet to human health-Prana or life force. According to Ayurveda, Prana or life force in each organ of the body flows in a particular direction. For us to remain healthy, the natural course of the prana of each organ should not change. In keeping with this, the stomach energy should be downward trending. But due to an imbalanced lifestyle over a long period of time, the food stagnates and the energy rises upwards triggering regurgitation. People take antacids for immediate relief for acid reflux but this actually worsens the problem. It weakens the stomach acids further, as we learn from its very nomenclature.
Some Indicators Of Amlapitta-
-Skin dries up
-Bloating, gaseous formation, burping
-burning sensation in the upper ribs or epigastrium region
-shortness of breath when condition is aggravated
-voice is affected
-pain and uneasiness worsens at night
-aggravates by lying down or bending over
Here are a few things Ayurveda experts recommend you do, to deal with acid reflux problem:
1) Food and lifestyle habits require an immediate overhaul
Acid reflux is a screaming indicator that your eating habits and lifestyle in general require immediate attention. At the root of acid reflux is a Pitta aggravating diet and lifestyle. In Ayurveda, Pitta dosha regulates metabolism and heat in the body, therefore digestion. Pitta governs the digestive fire. But when Pitta is vitiated, it weakens this digestive fire. So, to deal with acid reflux (a result of hyper acidity), you need a pitta pacifying diet and lifestyle. Toxic, oily or difficult to digest food aggravate pitta and consequently acid reflux.
2) Have Pitta balancing or pacifying foods
It is recommended for those who have a vitiated Pitta, to have foods with cooling properties (not necessarily products like ice cream which actually have a heating effect on the body)
For a Pitta pacifying diet-
- Dairy- Milk, butter and clarified butter is recommended. But avoid sour foods and dairy products like sour cream, cheese and yoghurt
- Sweet foods- Naturally sweet foods can be had. Honey and molasses should be avoided. Sweet fruits like grapes, melons, mangoes, avocadoes and coconuts can be had. Avoid sour fruits. Among the vegetables, you can have sweet potatoes, asparagus, cucumbers, okra, leafy vegetables, zucchini and other sweet tasting vegetables. Avoid tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic and spinach.
- For cooking and other uses, olive and sun flower oil is recommended. Avoid almond and sesame oil since it has Pitta aggravating qualities.
- Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, preserved or frozen foods, red meat.
- Avoid drinking water or fruit juices within half hour of eating.
3) Calming exercises, meditation and yoga
Meditation benefits people with any dosha imbalance, but more so for those of us with an aggravated Pitta. Breathing exercises like Sudarshan Kriya (a powerful rhythmic breathing technique), Sahaj meditation (an effortless meditation tool) and Yogic asanas-all help to increase oxygenation in the body, therefore calming the mind and relieving the system of stress toxins. A lot of hyper acidity patients lead an extremely stressful life which aggravates the Pitta.
4) Exercise light
People with aggravated Pitta should only do very light physical exercises.
5) Avoid stress
It is also recommended to avoid extremely stressful situations and instead engage in spiritual practices which help reduce this stress. An overworked mind and body along with stressful work life causes Pitta to aggravate.
6) Pranayama or Breathing exercises
Sheetali Pranayam is considered very helpful for pacifying Pitta.
Sheetali means cooling down in Sanskrit. In this breathing exercise or pranayama, air is inhaled through the mouth and exhaled through the nostrils. This action of inhaling through the mouth cools down the entire body and relaxes the central nervous system.
How to do it?
Sit comfortably with legs crossed
-Role your tongue and inhale through the passage of your rolled tongue.
-After inhalation, close your mouth and hold the breath.
-After about 6 seconds, exhale from your nostrils.
If you are finally planning to give your body and mind a complete overhaul, Panchakarma is the best starting point to jumpstart the process. Panchakarma (meaning- Five actions to achieve total detoxification) is recommended to balance the Doshas in the body and remove the toxins or Aama completely from the digestive system. They also help to significantly reduce the stagnation of body fluids and better circulation of blood. Panchakarma is a set of cleansing processes prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors, based on the Dosha constitution of an individual. These treatments, using natural oils and lepas or masks, are tailor-made targeting the specific imbalances and Aama in the body. In the U.S., one of the most popular, traditional and aesthetically centers for Panchakarma treatment is The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina, where you receive holistic Panchakarma care beginning from diet, Dosha specific oil massages, to detoxification therapies from some of the most experienced hands in Ayurveda sciences.
8) Pitta pacifying oils
Once you have your Dosha imbalances diagnosed by a certified Ayurvedic practitioner at the Art of Living Retreat Center, and you find your Pitta is aggravated (which causes acid reflux in the first place), you can also use Pitta pacifying body oils.
10) Marma treatment
The ancient non-invasive art of Marma healing, found in Ayurveda, works spectacularly on the energy channels in the body. Marma experts help you to remove the blocks in these channels which could be a result of emotional stress, fatigue, improper diet, irregular sleep and not enough rest. When Prana flows smoothly through the body, it restores vitality, brings good health and enthusiasm. In case of acid reflux, Marma healing at specific points in the abdomen region is known to correct the course of Prana and bring instant relief.
11) Home remedies
- After meals, have some fennel and rock sugar.
- You can also have raw mint leaves for instant relief. Mint juice can also do wonders for treating acid reflux.
- Cucumber, coriander, and seasonal veggies in summer also help
- Make fresh butter milk and consume it instantly for quick relief
- Khichdi, a very light on the stomach South Asian preparation made out of lentils and rice is a magic food for those struggling with acid reflux.