Ayurveda Q & A PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dr. Tom Yarema   

Ayurveda has been practiced in the U.S. for only about 30 years, yet it is a 5,000-year-old Indian system of medicine and yoga’s sister science. Readers are invited to submit questions for “Ayurveda Q & A” to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Ayurveda has been practiced in the US for only about 30 years, yet it is one of the systems of medicine native to India and is thousands of years old. Readers are invited to submit questions for “Ayurveda Q & A” to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr. Tom Yarema
Dr. Tom Yarema
Q: I have sharp stomach pains from too much acid. I also have heavy back, neck, head and shoulder aches. I went to see a doctor who did not find problems on an ultrasound or from blood tests and my stomach is free of the pylori bacteria often found with ulcers. The doctor told me to change my diet to soothe my stomach and esophagus and prescribed Prevacid. He said I am experiencing pain due to inflammation of my stomach and esophagus. Is there anything I can do from an Ayurvedic perspective?

A: Stomach pains and indigestion are some of the most common complaints in general medicine, and the purchase of over-the-counter (OTC) stomach remedies are only outstripped by general pain relievers. The commonality of these complaints coupled with rapid symptom relief afforded by modern pharmaceuticals (H2-blockers, proton pump inhibitors) has fostered a multi-million dollar industry. While offering temporary relief, from an Ayurvedic perspective, their chronic use does a great disservice.

Ayurveda, like many systems of natural healing, places the optimization of digestion at the foundation of healing. Conversely, incompletely digested food matter, incompletely processed emotional experiences, overwhelming mental input and unresolved spiritual challenges lodged within the cells or tissues contribute to the causes and manifestations of disease. Covering up the symptoms of digestive disturbances without correct diagnosis and addressing the root cause is a modern-day travesty.

Living animal cells constantly absorb nutrients and oxygen and release energy, carbon dioxide and water. All of the body’s waste products (carbon dioxide in the exhaled breath, urine, stool, and sweat) are naturally acidic. Our cells are engineered for two types of metabolism: a relaxed and balanced oxygen consumption/energy production state, or a stress-responsive oxygen deficit/necessary energy production state. In the latter, acid production is as much as sixteen times more than normal. Chronic high levels of acid production challenge the tissues and organs stimulating them to increasing their acid production. Over time, they become overwhelmed and can eventually burn out.

As the de-acidification process fails, the body stores the acidic wastes in tissues (as ama, or toxic material) which then leads to inflammation and degeneration. Many wise physicians see fibromyalgia as retained acids causing inflammation in the soft tissues of the muscles and fascia, and osteoporosis as advanced failure to de-acidify, with the body leaching calcium and phosphorus salts from bone to buffer retained acids.

Before the body leaches from its own tissues or diverts and stores the acids, it will recruit an organ capable of secreting even more acid. The stomach lining, capable of producing a highly acidic secretion, can increase these secretions in an attempt to de-acidify the organism. However, this excessive secretion can cause pain, and over time, the stomach lining will lose its ability to hyper-secrete, and later burn out and lose its ability to secrete the normal acids essential for protein digestion.

Unfortunately, low acid secretion can produces the same symptoms as hyper-secretion. People taking OTC acid-blocking agents can make the situation worse if they are secreting low to no stomach acid. It is important to know your doshic composition and understand the compensatory mechanisms in our individual short-term digestive disturbances. It is also important to know how to accelerate your bodies’ own healthy de-acidification mechanisms.

Kapha (earth and water elements) digestive disturbances (heaviness of body, fullness of abdomen, dullness of mind) are typically improved by lighter, more astringent foods (puffed grains, toasted seeds, roasted vegetables), with strong spicing by bitter and/or slightly pungent herbs, teas and condiments like garam masala, cinnamon-fennel tea, and spicy pickled chutneys. Stimulation of the diaphragm and release of any trapped stomach air will also help, thus belly laughing (laughing yoga!) and even burping can be valuable.

Pitta (fire element) digestive disturbances (burning pain, emotional irritability, sour acidic taste in mouth) are typically improved by teas promoting downward movement of contents of stomach, intestines and gallbladder, coupled with nervous system sedatives (strong mint-licorice-chamomile tea). High pectin juices like watermelon can stimulate gentle purgation, releasing excess acid. Cooling breathwork, gentle yoga and a fresh and pleasant environment with welcome distractions; good friends and happy conversations cool the steamy pitta.

Vata (air and ether/space elements) digestive disturbances (cramping, twisting, writhing pain with nausea) are typically improved by external warming of the stomach with a hot water bottle or warm blankets and sucking on a slice of ginger root while resting in bed. For those whose high acid production persists for more than a day or two, it is important to begin a concerted program of regular de-acidification.

Methods of Reducing Acidity:

  • Increase the volume of breath exhaled through intentional breathwork. This is one of the most effective and easiest methods of acid removal.
  • Frequent consumption of small amounts of non-caffeinated teas appropriate for your dosha (constitutional type) increases acid excretion through urine.
  • Gentle relaxed sweating using as much of the body surface area as possible: walking with full-length sweat shirt and sweatpants.
  • Sweat in a relaxing hot bath with bath salts. By adding a couple drops of pleasant-smelling essential oil to the bath water,
    some of those high acid-producing cells will forget their worries and remember their original, sublime way.
  • Consistent healthy bowel movements release large amounts of oil-soluble acids. Learn how to use food to lubricate the digestive system, trap acidic oils and encourage downward movement through Ayurvedic nutrition. [See sidebar for cookbook
    suggestions.]
  • Finally, for those whose acid production remains sixteen-fold due to insurmountable stressors, I recommend disciplined yoga, consistent meditation and the prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971): God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Before using any of the above Ayurvedic remedies, consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner or healthcare provider. The information given here represents the opinion and recommendation of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine.

Dr. Thomas R. Yarema, MD is the medical director at the Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine in Aptos, CA, the national director for the Kerala Ayurveda Clinics and author of Eat Taste Heal: ayurvedaonline.com


Ayurvedic Cookbooks

Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad
The Ayurvedic Press: Ayurveda.com

Eat-Taste-Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living by Thomas Yarema, MD, Daniel Rhoda and chef Johnny Brannigan
Five Elements Press: EatTasteHeal.com

The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and Usha Desai
Lotus Press: amadeamorningstar.com

Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar
Lotus Press: amadeamorningstar.com

Heaven’s Banquet: Vegetarian Cooking for Lifelong Health the Ayurveda Way by Miriam Kasin Hospodar
Penguin: miriamhospodar.com

The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook: Healthful, Healing Recipes for Life by Amrita Sondhi
Arsenal Pulp Press: arsenalpulp.com

The Chopra Center Cookbook: Nourishing Body and Soul by Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Simon and Leanne Backer
John Wiley: chopra.com

 
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