Hyperacidity is a disease of the upper digestive system. It stems from indigestion, as do many diseases in this region. Hyperacidity is a form of dyspepsia, which occurs when the digestive juices are incorrectly secreted and discomfort results. More specifically, hyperacidity occurs when the digestive processes are over-activated. In this case there is untimely secretions and pooling off gastric acids. This creates frequent churning in the stomach, even when it is empty. This condition not only causing extreme discomfort but can also lead to more serious conditions such as peptic ulcers.
It can be said that the root cause of hyperacidity is caused by emotional disturbances. This manifests in the way one consumes food. Overindulgence; eating too much and too quickly is a primary cause of dyspepsia. By eating too much and eating an imbalanced diet, one causes constant overstimulation of the taste buds and salivary glands. This causes constant stimulation of digestive activity in the stomach, even when the stomach is empty. An imbalanced diet is one which consists of excesses of sugar, condiments, sweets, refined foods, and excessively rich, spicy and pungent foods. The use of alcohol and cigarettes, especially prior to eating, also aggravates the condition, as does an excess amount of coffee and tea. It is also possible that a diet deficient in mineral salts can contribute to the problem.
In today’s fast-paced lifestyles, it is common to eat as quickly as possible. This is exacerbates the problem as one tends to consume more food in the same amount of time. It also becomes an issue when one tries to hide the amount of food one is consuming by eating it as quickly as possible.
These two problems combined cause several problems. One stops enjoying and savoring the food one eats. By eating less consciously and aware, less prana is received from the food as it spends less time in the mouth, where the salivary glands receive the prana. The digestive process starts with mastication. When food is not chewed properly, then this process is disturbed. Saliva is not mixed in properly and the food is not broken down correctly. Larger particles will also be swallowed which then need extra energy to digest. The result is an incorrect amount of alkaline saliva, acidic gastric juices, and enzymes being secreted which will lead to indigestion. When food is not digested properly the nutrients are not fully absorbed, leading to malnourishment. As the digestive system is weakened, it becomes unable to digest foods needed to correct the deficiency.
Emotional disturbances are at the root of this disease. Not being centered and present in our daily lives can occur for different reasons. When one eats too quickly, it is likely because of anxiety and worry, preoccupation with the past, or concern about the future, all of which does not allow one to be present. Anticipation of the next pleasure can also be a problem. Instead of enjoying the current bite, one is already looking forward to the next one. When one is not centered and present, one tends to eat quickly, not taking time to chew properly or savor the meal. One may also end up gulping in excess air, which can result in gas.
One’s external environment can also cause digestive problems. Stress and tension, be it from negative or even positive causes, will over-stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. Physical, emotional, and stomach mental pain stimulate the sympathetic nervous system which will slow down the digestive secretions and cause food to stay in the stomach longer. This, however, is more commonly associated with hypoacidity.
Looking to the chakras for additional insight, we observe swadhistana and manipura. Swadhistana chakra is associated with pleasure and with preservation of the species. Food and sex is associated with these innate urges. When we experience dissatisfaction with our sex lives we often turn to food for fulfillment, which leads to overindulgence. When swadhistana is thus blocked, tension spills over to manipura. When this is combined with an already existing case of dyspepsia it can lead to frustration, causing problems in our social lives, with family and work.
When we start to look at the symptoms of dyspepsia, it is very important to confirm with a medical professional that they are not symptoms of a much more serious condition with similar symptoms, like heart disease or ulcers. Four common symptoms of dyspepsia are abdominal pain, heartburn, belching, and regurgitation. Other symptoms can include headache, heaviness in stomach, irregularity of bowels, cold feet, and a weak pulse. In the case of longstanding conditions, it is possible to have a hacking cough, intermittent fever, palpitations of the heart, and irritability.
Abdominal pain will usually be a burning sensation, possibly combined with a feeling of fullness or bloating that can range from mild to severe. Someone suffering from an ulcer will often have an abdominal pain that is more similar to a gnawing pain. It is important to eliminate the presence of an ulcer before beginning treatment.
Heartburn is a result of acid irritation at the lower end of the esophagus, commonly known as acid reflux. It is felt as a burning behind the breastbone just in front of the heart and is caused by the movement of gastric juices out of the stomach up into the esophagus. It is critical to eliminate the possibility of any serious heart disease like angina pectoris, or any other chest condition with similar symptoms.
Belching can be caused by anxiety, gas producing foods, food eaten too fast and without awareness, or an obstruction of the outlet of the stomach leading to stagnation. Excess wind may also occur when air is swallowed unconsciously with food. Wind creates fullness and bloating in the upper abdomen, and can be released through the mouth or anus. Release can be self induced to relieve discomfort.
Regurgitation of gastric contents is generally a combination of belching and acid reflux. This is especially common after a large meal. Air, food, and acids will travel up into the throat and mouth leaving a bitter taste.
Current medical treatment for hyperacidity deals mainly with the symptoms, not the root causes which are emotional and environmental. While temporarily effective at decreasing symptoms, it does nothing to alleviate the disease, which will persist until one can deal with the root cause. Bicarbonate of soda can be used for relief, to neutralize acidity, but it is not recommended by medical authorities since it distends the stomach and could perforate an ulcer. Antacids are also commonly taken, the two main ones being magnesium trisilicate and aluminum hydroxide. Where the doctor recognizes the cause as being emotional, rather than treating the cause of the emotional distress, sedatives and tranquilizers will be prescribed along with the antacids. Dietary recommendations are also commonly made to reduce food causes.
With yoga, the main goal of the treatment is to eliminate tension and strengthen the body and mind. In doing so the root of the disease is addressed and can be eliminated rather than just treating the symptoms. The normal function of the digestive system can be attained.
Hyperacidity is a common disease in people who are stressed. One of the most important things yoga is used for is stress reduction. This can be done with the use of meditation, yoga nidra, mantra chanting and pranayama. Asanas are also used, but to a more limited extent to help tone the digestive organs. Diet recommendations and awareness in how one eats are also very important. Yoga can be used to help one relax, eat more slowly, and become aware of what the body is consuming. As one evolves in the practice, the desire for cleaner and simpler foods evolves naturally. In addition, as one’s overall health improves along with their mental abilities. With an increased ability to analyze situations and solve problems, stress is further reduced. Energies become balanced.
Though not the most important part of the yoga treatment for this disease, asanas can be quite helpful. The pawanmuktasana series 2 is specifically designed to strengthen the digestive system and eliminate energy blockages in the abdominal area. It is helpful for many types of digestive problems, including indigestion, acidity, excess wind and gas, and constipation. Vajrasana, the thunderbolt pose, is a strong useful pose for many reasons. With regard to digestive disorders, it increases the efficiency of the entire digestive system and can relieve hyperacidity and peptic ulcers. It is recommended to sit in vajrasana for 10 minutes after every meal to encourage efficient digestion. Shashankasana, child’s pose, is a pose that can be used that is very calming and reduces emotional stress. Bhujangasana, cobra pose, tones the abdominal organs and helps to stimulate appetite; it also improves and deepens breathing, which helps calm the nervous system. Finally, shavasana is a very important pose for the reduction of stress. It relaxes the whole psycho-physiological system. It promotes body awareness, and as the body relaxes, mind awareness and concentration increase as well.
Several techniques of pranayama are recommended for hyperacidity. Nadi Shoshan, alternate nostril breathing, initially without Kumbhak, is used to balance the brain hemispheres. It has a calming effect; relieving anxiety and improving concentration. Bhastrika is a powerful pranayama that can be used as long as there is no presence of gastric ulcer. Along with burning toxins and balancing the doshas, it balances and strengthens the nervous system, inducing peace and tranquility. In closing the pranayama practice, bhramari and sheetali can be used. Bhramari relieves stress and cerebral tension and in doing so alleviates anger, anxiety, insomnia, and increases the healing capacity of the body. Sheetali is a cooling practice that helps reduce mental and emotional anguish and encourages the free flow of prana which induces muscular relaxation and mental tranquility.
The use of all three bandhas; moola, uddiyana, and jalandhara, are recommended for patients in the practice of pranayama once the techniques have been mastered.
Cleansing techniques are an important part of the yoga program for hyperacidity. Jala neti, which is cleansing for the nasal passages and sinuses, also has a calming and soothing effect on the brain, alleviating anxiety, anger and depression. It can be practiced daily. Vaman dhauti removes excess mucus. For the emotional body it can help release pent-up emotions, emotional blocks or feelings of heaviness in the heart caused by inner and external conflict and pressures. This practice should be performed weekly in the absence of any ulcer. Agnisar kriya improves digestion, massaging the abdomen and strengthening the abdominal muscles and organs. It also helps to alleviate depression, dullness and lethargy. This can be a part of one’s daily yogic practice. Finally, laghoo shankhaprakshalana encourages the normal functioning of the intestines, and is recommended for digestive disorders. It can be practiced weekly. The full cleanse, shankhaprakshalana can be practiced every six months under proper supervision for increased benefits to the digestive organs.
As the root cause of hyperacidity is often emotional disturbances, it is vital to include a strong meditation and relaxation practice. Yoga nidra is a beautiful practice that should be performed at least once a day to promote deep relaxation. Lying in shavasana and focusing on taking in at least 100 yogic or abdominal breaths should be done daily as well. Following silence to conserve energy and calm the system in the practice of antar mouna is also recommended, as is sitting in vajrasana and concentrating on the movement of breath on the navel. Omkar chanting is also one of the most healing practices available and it is recommended to chant Omkar daily for 15-30 minutes. The chanting of other mantras such as mahamritunjaya which promotes healing is also advised.
All the above practices are very important in helping go to the root of the problem. It is very important, however, to change the way one eats. One most go from a mechanical way of eating to being conscious and taking pleasure in meals. The diet for someone suffering from hyperacidity should be simple, nourishing, and easily digestible. Spicy, rich and pungent foods should be avoided, as should cakes, refined flour and sweets that are highly acid forming. Alcohol and cigarettes are also discouraged, and consumption of coffee and tea should be reduced. It is recommended to eat freshly prepared natural foods such as boiled or steamed vegetables, rice, salads, fruits and pulses. Khichari is especially recommended, as is milk. Fasting one day a week is a very healthy practice that can be adopted. In addition, it is recommended not to eat late in the evening. One should eat at regular mealtimes, eat slowly, chew well, and not eat between meals. One should also not eat when anxious, tense, or excited as there is reduced awareness at these times. Self-awareness while eating needs to be cultivated.
Daily Practice Program
Pawanmuktasan series 1
Pawanamuktasan series 2
Vajrasan with abdominal breathing
Agnisar 100 strokes
Bhramari with Sheetali
Omkar Chanting and Closing Prayer
90 minutes total
Yoga nidra daily, lagoo shankhaprakshalana once a week
Jala neti daily and vaman dhauti once a week
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