acid reflex article
c 2013 Pat O’Brien, CAYP, CCH, AADP, AHG

How to Prevent and Reverse Acid Reflex Naturally

 

Prescription and over the counter anti-acids: you’ve tried them all like thousands of

other Americans, but without them, you just can’t 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

driver’s 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 people’s 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, here’s how to do it. Bon appetite!