You might have at one time or the other have that burning in your throat that you’re not quite sure of. It feels like your throat and your chest at the same time, particularly after eating.
If you have, then you have experienced heartburn. Heartburn is a common symptom of GERD and Acid Reflux, but to varying degrees of intensity. It’s like a gradation from one level of ‘burning’ to the next.
Heartburn occurs with mild to severe pain in the esophagus. It is as a result of a back flow of the stomach contents into the throat. The pain is felt more severely in the esophagus because the protective lining there is more delicate than that in the stomach. This causes the esophagus to be more liable to get burned by the acidic contents of the stomach. In fact, the digestive system is not as it should be.
But how does heartburn come about? It occurs in the situation of Acid Reflux and GERD.
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Acid Reflux: The Precursor of Heartburn?
Acid Reflux, also known as hyperacidity or gastritis, is a situation in which the stomach contents back up into the esophagus. As said above, because the esophagus is not built to take the same kind of irritation the stomach is exposed to, this esophagus complains, and you feel that pain.
What causes the acid to back up in the first place? Well, between your stomach and your esophagus is a sphincter, which is a ring of muscle. This sphincter is the gatekeeper, and mediates passage of materials between the two structures. This sphincter is called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter(LES). This LES opens up when you swallow, and allows the swallowed substance to pass into the stomach to begin or continue the process of digestion.
However, sometimes, this sphincter refuses to close properly, and as a result, it fails to carry out its gate-keeping work efficiently. As such, it allows the return of stomach contents back into the esophagus.
Now, in the stomach is an acid that aids in digestion, hydrochloric acid(HCl) to be precise. This acid is concentrated enough to dissolve metals. If you’ve ever crushed bones before, you have this acid to thank for helping you digest them. Now imagine an acid of this strength. The stomach is protected against it, but not the throat. This is why you feel the burning sensation.
This situation gives a brief description of Acid Reflux.
Acid Reflux can be known by these symptoms it commonly exhibits.
- Sore throat
- Sour taste in mouth
- Bitter taste in the back of the throat
- Burning and pressure that can extend to around the breastbone
GERD: The Big Boss Steps In.
GERD(Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease) is Acid Reflux at an advanced level, so to say. GERD is chronic form of Acid Reflux. The transition to GERD occurs when Acid Reflux occurs up to or more than two times in a week. At this point, the situation starts to get more worrisome, as it can degenerate quickly. Not to mention the debilitating symptoms such as:
- Bad breath
- Damage to tooth enamel due to exposure to excess acid;
- Heartburn, of course;
- Chest pain;
- Persistent dry cough;
- Trouble swallowing;
- Asthma, etc.
Aside these symptoms, if GERD is left untended, it can cause the rising of secondary issues such as inflammation of the esophagus- esophagitis, and even cancer!
Ayurvedic Perspective of Heartburn, Acid Reflux and GERD.
These conditions are as a result of a disorder in the pachaka pitta, the pitta in the stomach and the small intestine. This pachaka pitta influences the stomach acid, digestive enzymes and pepsin, which all aid in digestion in one way or another.
Further, pachaka pitta is part of johara agni, the digestive fire in the stomach. If this agni is too high, the fire burns very hot. Then, the acidic content of the stomach and the other digestive aids runs correspondingly high, leading to a perpetual feeling of hunger and also the condition of hyperacidity.
What are other causes of Hyperacidity and its complications?
- Heartburn results from an incontinent LES;
- Consuming a lot of food containing hard-to-digest long-chain fatty acids in foods like meat and diary lead to excess acidity;
- High vitamin C levels in a person with an already predominant pitta dosha can precipitate hyperacidity;
- Consumption of excess salt;
- Hyperacidity has a higher chance of turning into GERD if a person is:
- Overweight or obese;
- Has hiatal hernia, which reduces pressure in LES, leaving it loose;
- Pregnant. In a pregnant person, the heightened levels of progesterone relaxes the Lower Esophageal Sphincter(LES), so that it allows more reflux. Aside this, the increased abdominal pressure due to the growing uterus increases reflux. The symptoms of GERD usually worsen in the third trimester of pregnancy.
- On medications like antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, sedatives/pain relive drugs, antidepressants, which all serve to weaken the LES.
The way out of suffering Heartburn.
Medicine in its modern face has several approaches to the treatment of heartburn and the related conditions.
- For mild heartburn, antacids work just fine. They neutralize the excess acid in the stomach.
- H2 Blockers reduce the production of stomach acid itself, so that there’s less acidity.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors work similarly to the H2 Blockers, but they are effective for much longer.
However, all of these solutions have multiple side-effects that start from gut imbalance and end at weakening your bones, heart, and other important body tissues.
Ayurvedic, Side-effect free remedies for Treating Acid Reflux and GERD.
Numerous remedies abound, from home remedies to those that should only be administered with due attention of an Ayurvedic Practitioner like those on ground here at Medhya Herbals.
- An home remedy you could try yourself involve mixing:
- 1 part of ground turmeric;
- 2 parts of ground cumin;
- 3 part ground coriander;
- 4 part ground fernel;
All added to vegetables or legumes while cooking. This formula helps to regulate digestion and eliminate excess stomach acid.
- Crush 5-6 Tulasi leaves and boild them in 250ml of water for about 15minutes. Filter out the resulting mixture and drink the extracted tea.
- Virechena Therapy: This helps to move acidic fluid from pitta regions, thus helping to reduce the burning.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda contains sodium carbonate, an alkali. When taken, it helps to neutralize the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. The reaction gives off salt, water and carbon-dioxide.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: It has a full arsenal of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus to battle acid reflux and to burn down fats. It can be taken with water or honey.
- Shatavari: it works well to alleviate hyperacidity. Aside this, it has an added bonus of working for dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, diarrhoea, stomach ulcers, chronic fever, and more.
Living a life free from heartburn.
A few simple lifestyle adjustments can go a long way to alleviating the symptoms of and preventing heartburn altogether:
- Losing weight significantly reduces the risk of developing Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease.
- Quit smoking and drinking.
- Do not lie down immediately after eating. Give it some time, perform light activities for a while.
- Avoid mental stress and worries. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness exercises can help with that.
- Chewing a sugar-free gum can help reduce reflux and the secreted saliva can assist in washing the acid that might come up back down so it doesn’t linger and inflame the throat.
- Upvata(fasting), while taking only water and fruits one day in a week can help too.
- As per Ayurveda, people who sleep on their left side can increase digestive fire by so doing, and risk hyperacidity. Sleeping on the right can, however, aggaravate vata. Alternating sides is a good practice.
Proper Diet to Manage Acid Reflux and GERD.
Some diets and dietary habits include:
- Avoid spicy, acidic, and fatty foods.
- Avoid sour food. Sour food promotes acidity in the stomach, causes acidic pH.
- Tea, coffee, carbonated or alcoholic beverages are things you want to avoid too.
- Don’t eat too fast when you eat. Chew slowly. Let there be ample timing between meals.
- Banana is a potassium-rich natural antacid, so include more of it in your diet.
- The alkaline properties of potato help to neutralize stomach acid.
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