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The stomach produces hydrocholoric acid as a normal part of the digestive process. Stomach acids help to break food down. In fact the stomach has epithelial cells that produce an alkaline base to protect the stomach lining from the strong acids. Stomach acidity or hyperacidity is caused when excess acid is secreted in the stomach.

A muscular valve called LES keeps stomach acid in the stomach. It opens to allow food into the stomach and to allow belching and then closes again. If the LES opens too often or too far, stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus. This causes a burning feeling due to the irritation of the esophagus lining. This is known as heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). This can occur if a person with stomach acidity lies down in bed or even changes position.

Who can get affected by stomach acidity?

Stomach acidity affects almost everyone at some time or the other and is not a serious condition. 50% of pregnant women get stomach acidity due to the pressure on the stomach.

Stomach acidity and heartburn are considered serious if it is chronic as it can cause scarring of the esophagus, stomach ulcers or cancer

What are the symptoms of stomach acidity and heartburn?
  • Burning sensation in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts from a few minutes to several hours.
  • Chest pain especially after bending or lying down.
  • Burning in the throat or hot, sour or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat
  • Belching

You should call a doctor immediately if

  • You experience heartburn along with difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, vomiting, extreme abdominal pain, fever or black or bloodstained stools
  • If you take an antacid and it does not relieve pain within 15 minutes (this may indicate a heart attack)
  • Your heartburn is aggravated by exercise and relieved by rest. (this may indicate heart disease)
  • You have chronic heartburn
What causes stomach acidity and heartburn?
  • Current research showed that a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori promotes acid production in the stomach by releasing an acidic enzyme pepsin
  • Fatty and spicy foods generally trigger stomach acidity and heartburn since these are more difficult to digest and cause the stomach to produce excess acids to break them down
  • Emotional disturbances such as stress, anger, fear also seem to trigger excess acid production
  • Beverages such as coffee, tea and sodas increase acid content in the stomach.
  • GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a chronic condition that causes heartburn
  • Hypercalcemia or excess calcium in the body can also cause hyperacidity
  • The basic cause of heartburn is due to the muscular valve LES that is not as tight as it should be. Too much food in the stomach or too much pressure causes the LES to become loose. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, onion, chocolate, alcohol, coffee and peppermint cause the LES to relax and allow the acids to seep through to the esophagus.
  • Certain anti-biotics and aspirin also trigger heartburn.
How is stomach acidity and heartburn conventionally treated?

Doctors generally recommend over-the-counter antacids or bismuth subsalicylate to neutralize stomach acid. Cimetidine, ranitidine or omeprazole may also be prescribed to reduce the stomach's acid production.

What are some natural ways to prevent and remedy stomach acidity and heartburn?
  • Fried, spicy and hot foods should be avoided
  • Avoid overeating
  • Sit upright during meals and after meals. Do not lie down immediately after a meal
  • Chewing fennel seeds helps to relieve heartburn
  • Chewing carom seeds after a heavy meal helps to reduce acidity
  • Dried ginger slices are also an excellent remedy after heavy meals
  • Dried gooseberry slices also help greatly in digestion
  • Milk promotes stomach acid so reduce consumption of milk
  • Quit smoking and drink in moderation

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