acid reflex article
c 2013 Pat OBrien, CAYP, CCH, AADP, AHG
How to Prevent and Reverse Acid Reflex Naturally
Prescription and over the counter anti-acids: youve tried them all like thousands of
other Americans, but without them, you just cant seem to get rid of that annoying
heartburn, acid indigestion, burning sensation in your abdomen and esophagus. Chronic
heartburn, and even acid reflex, can be treated and reversed naturally. While some cases
of acid reflex are caused by stomach muscle and esophageal sphincter problems, most
cases are caused and can be prevented by diet. The journey begins in your kitchen- as
many different foods help put it out as well as contribute to its onset. There are also at
least 20 different herbs available on the market today that are natural anti-acids and they
are cheap too. Learn how to treat the root cause of your problem, and you are back in the
drivers seat: in charge of your own health care!
What better way to treat acid indigestion and acid reflex than to dig into a bowl of vanilla
ice cream or sip on a glass of cola or cows milk. Yes, you read correctly. These food
items are natural anti-acids, as are many other sweet foods. Sugar is a natural acid buffer
in Ayurvedic medicine with a ph of 7, making it neutral. You experience this effect when
you add it to tart strawberries, sour lemons (lemonade) or blackberries when making a
pie. There is a therapeutic use for this processed, nutrient stripped white substance after
all. Alternative naturally sweet foods include: ricotta cheese, sweet tree ripened fruits
such as red delicious apples, pears, purple/red grapes, dates, figs, honeydew, coconut, and
pure maple syrup. In Ayurveda, low acid vegetables and other food products include
white potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce,
kale, collards, most leafy greens/salad material, sprouts, cucumbers, asparagus, avocado,
summer squash, zucchini, green beans, okra, parsnips, plain tofu, wheat bread, wheat
pasta, white rice, vanilla pudding, and butter.
But wait! Before you begin eating that salad, pay careful attention to the type of
dressing you are drizzling on top of it. Is it sour, or more on the sweet side? If it is a
raspberry vinegarette or simple oil and vinegar dressing, chances are that it is sour and
only adding to your existing problem. Watch out, too, for hidden sources of vinegar
in items like ketchup, mustard, relish, tartar sauce, pickles, marinades, etc.
Which brings me to the number one cause of chronic heartburn: too much acidity in the
gut. Both acid reflex and chronic acid indigestion are caused from too much acid, period.
Ayurvedic medicine recognizes that some peoples systems naturally make and secrete
more hydrochloric acid than others to begin with, due to strong genetic factors.
Remember, what's healthy for one person may not be healthy for someone else, as
everyone's body is different. However, any food or beverage that is acidic and if
consumed frequently enough and in large enough quantities will cause it to develop in
sensitive people. What foods are acidic? Basically any substance that is sour is the
greatest offender such tomatoes, pomegranates, grapefruit, lemons (people usually add
this to water), limes, tangerines, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries,
cranberries, granny smith apples. That even includes sour natural supplements and herbs
such as vitamin C, hawthorne berries, hibiscus, amalaki, as well as many digestive
products on the market containing hydrochloric acid. Digestive enzyme type
supplements also raise acidity in the gut. Be careful for hidden sources of acidity in
multivitamin formulas that contain sour herbs. Also look for formulas with a lower
vitamin C content, if you must.
Another hidden culprit is often fruits that are suppose to be sweet but are more tart
because they are under ripe such as: green bananas, sour oranges, green pineapples,
grapes, sour peaches, etc. Unless the fresh fruit you buy is sweet, you may be
genetically better off buying it canned, swimming in light syrup. Even fruit juices are
now much more acidic than they were years ago due to the added citric and ascorbic
acids. Their ph is especially lower if the company is using concentrates from fruits that
were not fully tree ripened. Tree ripening allows the natural sugar content to reach its
peak. Baby food fruit jars on the market have dramatically changed from the 1960's also
and fall into this category of adding acids. This explains in part some of the cases of acid
reflex and general heartburn in small infants. There are many factors that effect the
acidity of fruit products from the climate where the fruits are grown to
even picking and shipping processes. Mass food production has changed the nature and
quality of our food supply and wild weather patterns have done the same. Generally
speaking, warm dry climates are ideal for creating fruits with a high natural sugar
content. Hence grapes grown in the northeastern US are naturally more acidic than those
grown in parts of California. Even different fruit species have different flavors and ph
levels to them. Valencia oranges are generally suppose to be sweet. There are dozens of
grape varieties. Globe grapes (also know as table grapes), tend to be much sweeter than
the traditional concord grape. Thompson grapes tend to be sweet also if allowed to fully
ripen on the vine.
Speaking of grapes and thinking of wine, fermented foods come as a surprise to most
because we often don't think of them as acidic. However, in Ayurveda they too, are
considered sour. For example, to make yogurt, you have to let it ferment and in some
cases "sour". Foods that fall into this category include tempeh, miso, soy sauce,
pickles, cheeses, sourdough breads, alcohol and coffee. Coffee? Yes, the process of
making coffee from the actual beans is a fermentation process. You may notice that while
coffee has a bitter taste upon first sipping, it also has a sour/acidic after taste or "bite".
Spicy foods, on the other hand, are what we are most familiar with in the cause acid
related GI disorders. Since more restaurants than ever before in US history are adding
stronger spices to their dishes, this makes recovery more challenging. Say goodbye to
your chilies, salsa, cayenne pepper, barbecue sauce, curries, horseradish, wasabi paste,
cinnamon, ginger, chai tea, black pepper and even garlic. The hotter and more pungent
the spice or seasoning, the more it will aggravate and cause acid indigestion because in
Ayurvedic medicine spices raise and stimulate digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid.
In Chinese medicine, spices raise digestive "fire". Your best bet is to order the dishes on
the menu "plain" when can, or have the chef leave out one or two seasonings in your
meal. Your body will thank you later.
Whether you're raising digestive fire (heat) from spicy foods or acidity
from sour foods, neither are always good for you depending on who you are. Many
medical problems in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have acidity or
heat/inflammation as their root causes. In Ayurveda, osteoporosis has an acid cause and
in Chinese medicine hypertension and diabetes have huge inflammatory components.
Western medicine has finally come around to acknowledging this as well. Again, I repeat,
the ability to eat spicy and acidic foods without developing acidic or inflammatory
medical problems is genetic.
The good news is that along with avoiding or minimizing these foods and beverages you
can temporarily use natural anti-acid herbs to regain control. Some of these are:
dandelion, peppermint, cumin, coriander, fennel, chamomile, marshmallow root, licorice
root, slippery elm, shatavari, red raspberry leaf, aloe vera gel, and red clover. Stronger
herbal anti-acids include bitters: neem, goldenseal, echinacea, bupleurum, and gentian
root, to name a few. (Be sure to take these herbs in pill or tablet form, not alcohol extract,
as alcohol is acidic. Also avoid the herbs if on any blood thinning medications or several
weeks prior to any surgery). Basically in Ayurveda, cold bitters lower stomach fire as
well as gently help suppress digestive enzymes and acids. Sweet cooling herbs act as
demulcents by soothing, coating and supplying moisture or lubrication. This is excellent
for the person whose stomach lining is dangerously too thin or has eroded for various
reasons. This is also good for the person that has some esophagus damage. Some of the
herbs in this coating category are the marshmallow root, licorice root, Solomen's seal,
rehmannia root, slippery elm. Many Chinese or Ayurvedic herbal formulas exist that can
be used. See an Ayurvedic or Chinese practitioner for personalized recommendations.
So the next time you decide to order a plate of spaghetti with a sour tomato sauce
or a pizza with chicken wings when dining out, add a pinch of sugar to the tomato sauce,
have a salad with a sweeter dressing, a glass of soda or glass of milk, and follow it up
with a dish of vanilla ice cream for dessert to help offset and neutralize the acidity. If you
are having pizza and wings, hold the spicy pepperoni and order the wings plain. If your
spouse wants to go out to a steak house, fine. Order your steak plain and tell the waiter or
waitress to hold the sour cream off your baked potato but bring it with the salt and butter
if you like. Then if you still need to, pop a natural anti acid. Not the type of eating I
recommend on a regular basis, but if you must cheat, heres how to do it. Bon appetite!