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Acidity- Understanding through Ayurvedic principles

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Food has as much therapeutic value as medicines in Ayurveda. Acharya Charaka says a good Ayurvedic physician should be a proficient nutritionist and dietician. In the previous post, we understood how important it is to go into the details of our food and lifestyle habits for the long term management of acidity.

What better to do this than to explore it through the 8 food principles of Ayurveda. It will be useful to understand the properties of Pitta dosha since it is the main dosha causing acidity. Pitta properties are hot, sharp, light, oily, spreading and is salty, sour and pungent in taste.

Asta-Ahara Vidhi Visesa Ayatanani (Eight aspects of Dietetics) are one of the most useful dietary guidelines. Ahara Vidhi Visesayatana means the factors responsible for wholesome and unwholesome effect of the Ahara and methods of Ahara sevana (Special rule for diet intake)

These eight factors should be considered before taking food.

1. Prakriti 2. Karana 3. Samyoga 4. Rashi 5. Desha 6. Kala 7. Upyogasanstha 8. Upyukta

  1. Prakriti- Svabhava or Nature

Every food item has an inherent nature

For example: Urad dal- heavy; Green gram- light; Jack fruit- heavy; water melon- light; ash gourd- Sheetha (cold potency), Brinjal- Ushna (hot potency);

To address acidity, avoid foods which are spicy, oily, sour and salty and are hot in potency. Choose Tikta-bitters (like most gourd vegetables), Madhura- sweet (naturally sweet fruits, raisins, palm jaggery) and kashaya- astringent (coriander, jamun fruit)

2. Karana: processing or preparation

The processing or the mode of preparation of food influences the properties of the food item. Processing like heating (makes it easier to digest), roasting (makes it lighter, churning (curd is heavy while buttermilk become light), flavouring (increases desirability), storing (old rice has less starch), maturing (matured fruit has better benefits), soaking (makes the food easy to cook and nutritious) and roasting- (makes the food much lighter- rice when roasted becomes much lighter)

To address acidity, choose processes which break down heavy food and fats and make them light, nutritious and easy to digest.

Avoid fermented foods. (I get a lot of queries about consuming idli dosas in acidity. I understand it is a staple food for many Indians and probably impractical to avoid it completely. My suggestion is that the batter should be used only on the next morning after fermenting it overnight and should not be used again. This can be achieved by fermenting in smaller batches and used fresh the next morning, rather than fermenting the whole quantity and using for 3-4 days and sometimes the whole week)

Also avoid preserves and pickles. Mostly sour, oily or/and salty bases are used to preserve food.

3. Samyoga: Combination

When different foods are taken in combination and their properties are not complementary, toxins are formed in the body. This is explained as Viruddha Aahara, a very unique concept of Ayurveda. Several food items are mentioned as incompatible when taken with each other.

To address acidity, please avoid mixing honey with hot water and also honey and ghee in equal quantities.

Most importantly do not consume milk shakes and smoothies.

I highly recommend taking whole fruits and vegetables.

Both can be taken in form of juices too, but when you combine different fruits and different vegetables together, one will have to be very clear about the properties of each item as well as the change which occurs when they are brought together. So, best is to have them individually.

Another important rule is to avoid consuming seafood and milk products. Do not add milk product into the recipe and do not include milk products in the same meal.

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the practice of having honey and warm/hot water and sometimes lemon early in the morning. There is also a misconception that this is a practice sanctioned by ayurveda. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Mixing honey and hot water is considered to be one of the most incompatible and prohibited combinations in Ayurveda. It is the first example of Viruddha Aahara. This is an extremely bad practice, specifically for people suffering from acidity.

Early in the morning, the agni is ready to receive wholesome food. At this time, if pitta increasing foods like honey in combination with warm water is consumed, the increased pitta increases the acidity in the body and causes agnidusti (impairment of the agni) leading to disturbed digestion, acid reflux, discomfort in the chest and throat and other acidity symptoms later in the day.

We will continue this discussion again in the next post. As usual, keep your questions coming.

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