The Tale of Hyperacidity
A few weeks ago, I got super duper angry. My anger ate away at the lining of my stomach (hyperacidity) which caused a painful gastritis attack. Last week, I wrote about the single best thing I did to release both and anger and pain.
As promised, this week I’m writing about what I’ve been eating.
I Know! Juice Cleanse!!!
Most people’s first impression when they feel like they are overloaded with waste/toxins is to go on a cold-pressed juice cleanse. This can work over short time spans in spring & summer for people who have strong digestion and get enough daily exercise. However, in Ayurveda, you eat only based on what you can handle at the moment. It doesn’t matter how many nutrients or enzymes are in the skin of fresh fruits and vegetables if you can’t assimilate them into your system. The way to know how you assimilate foods is your poop!
The first thing I noticed was that my stools were either loose or had cooked food particles in them. Since my stomach acid was too busy eating away at the lining of my stomach, I just wasn’t digesting much. This meant no raw food (hard to digest) even though summer time salads looked so appealing. I upped my water intake and allowed myself room temp water instead of hot water, except I still had warm water in the morning to clean me out after a night’s rest. Licorice tea or just slippery elm tea felt good- almost like it coated my stomach and protected me.
Stage 1 Eating
For the first two weeks, I opted for soothing foods. I ate coconut milk/chia seed/oatmeal in the morning. I had a banana midmorning. For lunch and dinners, I either ate a coconut based curry with easy to digest fiber/fat/vegetables sweet potato, carrots, avocado, asparagus, etc. or I ate mung daal and rice. Spicing food was new for me because I had to come up with flavoring that did not subtly overheat my system like garlic, mustard seeds, or even black pepper can do. I found that coconut oil, crushed fennel seeds, and a very tiny bit of lime worked most times. I also used turmeric, fresh ginger (not the powder), and pinches of pink salt.
While both lemon and lime have alkalizing effects, my sore stomach could not handle the slightest bit of lemon. However, since lime is a lot more cooling to the body, I could have small amounts to enhance flavor. Ginger can heat the system (especially dry ginger) but its post digestive effective is sweet on the body (even thought it tastes a bit spicy on the tongue). This means fresh ginger in small amounts can soothe and remove waste. It’s magical!
I avoided citrus fruit (orange mainly) because they were too acidic for the hyperacidity. I also cut out most wheat, dairy, meat, legumes and nuts to give my stomach some rest. Within two weeks, I could digest quinoa, a few other legumes, and blanched almonds. The mung bean is a miracle – it is the most digestible bean in the bean kingdom and is a natural antacid. This is why mung beans are the first protein given to Indian babies. Even in my worst pain, I found split yellow mung bean daal and rice very soothing.
Some health practitioners recommend fasting to give your digestion a break. This depends on your body-type. Since I needed to have something in my stomach for the acid to chew on besides my own stomach lining, fasting would have been terrible for me. Fasting works better when you have a underactive stomach not a stomach on hyperdrive like mine.
P.S. If you find out your digestive issues are caused by bacteria proliferations (e.g. candida, sibo, or h pylori), you’ll want to cut out fruits till you heal because bacteria feed on this sugar first before your body gets the chance to use the energy. H pylori is usually treated with antibiotics. There are Ayurvedic antibiotics with less side effects (turmeric, neem, goldenseal extract) but it takes diligence and patience.
Stage 2 Eating
After 2 weeks, I could handle cooked bitter greens like kale, dandelion, arugula, broccoli rabe, watercress, or some collards at lunch. I focused only on adding cooked bitter greens to my lunch. Ayurvedic sages discovered that the bitter taste slowly cleans out the liver. Sour foods (such as fermented foods), spicy food, and fried foods aggravate the liver. Currently, there is a renaissance in eating fermented foods for the proliferation of gut bacteria in the stomach and intestines (e.g. kombucha, kimchee, sauerkraut). Ayurveda recognizes the value of fermented food which is why most Indian dishes are served with a mango or turmeric pickle but when ferments are over used or mixed with too much sugar (kombucha), there comes a point where it’s too harsh. What is that point? Look at the color of your stools. If they tend towards very dark brown vs medium brown then there’s too much fermentation going on inside and you might want to ease up on fermented foods and alcohol.
Further down the road, once I’m comfortable my stomach lining has healed, I’ll work on cleaning my liver and gallbladder more. The easiest non-herbal yet non chemical way to clean the liver and gallbladder is 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in 24 oz of water (or more) once a day. The malic acid in apple cider vinegar opens up the bile ducts and can melt liver & gallbladder sludge. The only caveat is that it’s rough on the stomach lining so you want to make sure that you don’t feel any tenderness when someone puts pressure on your stomach. If I don’t feel like my stomach is strong enough, I’ll consider gentler Ayurvedic herbs.
Pain Helps You? What?
While I can now “graduate” to other foods, I’ve largely kept with some version of the above meal plan until the pain resolves. I’m no longer in deep pain and no longer hate my pain. What I realized is that pain is an indicator that the body is working. Instead, I just freaked out because I hadn’t been in pain like that before. This made things worse.
Not only does pain clue you in on where the body is working but pain is a sensor on a cellular level to “mobilize the troops” in your body. Chronic pain is a larger issue but the body is still doing its job. When pain lasts a long time, your body is signaling that it needs a reinforcement or a change of some sort. If only we knew what to do at all times! In truth, our bodies do know what they need but we’ve distanced ourselves from being able to pick up on this. It is the goal of Ayurveda, Yoga & Meditation to close the gap we have with nature.