Acid indigestion is a problem affecting many people. Common indications include flatulence, bloating, and heaviness or heartburn after eating (Skeen, 2004). It causes extreme discomfort and can lead to ulcers (Skeen, 2004).
Poor eating habits like irregular meal times, eating wrong types of food, eating too fast, eating too much, inadequate chewing, excess fluids with meals, poor food combinations, or eating when stressed or anxious can cause indigestion (Mabey, 1988).
A balanced diet is essential in eliminating acid indigestion, and restoring healthy digestive function. It also enhances the effectiveness of herbal treatment (Tierra, 1998, p.47). It includes primary, secondary and tertiary foods (Tierra, 1998, p.47) as detailed below:
Holford (2004) says that elevated homocysteine level increases the risk of over fifty diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers and diabetes (p.136). Homocysteine has also been shown to damage arteries, brain and DNA itself (Holford, 2004, p.138).
1. Primary foods include whole grains as 20-30% of the diet, and proteins as 20-30% of the diet (Tierra, 1998, p.47).Avoid processed grains such as white rice and all flour products including whole grain flour (Skeen, 2004). Whole grains have more nutritional value, higher in vitamins and minerals, which are vital for maintaining good health and efficient digestive function, and fiber (Tierra, 1998, p.48). Processed grains and flour products are much lower in nutritional value and fiber and will sap vital energy, contribute to blood-sugar fluctuations, weight gain, and constipation (Skeen, 2004).
Beans should be consumed in small portions as they are higher in carbohydrates (Skeen, 2004). Tofu and tempeh are lower in carbohydrates and are good vegetable sources of protein. If not allergic, they should be consumed in larger volume (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief, n.d.). Animal sources of protein should consist mostly of fish, lean cuts of baked or broiled chicken or turkey, and eggs preferably from free-range, organic chickens (Skeen, 2004). Traditional Chinese standards recommend two to four ounces of meat daily cooked in a soup with herbs like ginger or garlic to offset any toxic reaction (Tierra, 1998, p.63). Organic meat is preferred (Tierra, 1998, p.63). Avoid frying (Skeen, 2004).
2. Secondary foods are fresh seasonal vegetables, mostly lightly cooked, as 30-40% of the diet (Tierra, 1998, p.50). Whenever possible, get locally-grown vegetables. Avoid over consumption of vegetables or eating too many in their raw state, as this will over stimulate elimination causing the body to be weak and cold contributing oftentimes to excessive water retention (Skeen, 2004).
3. Tertiary foods include dairy, eggs, and fruits which make up 5-10% of the diet, and fats and oils as 2% of the diet (Tierra, 1998, p.50).
Locally-grown and in-season fruits are the most beneficial to the body (Skeen, 2004). Avoid all fruits that have been picked green and later ripened after delivery to the market (Skeen, 2004). Fruits that are tree ripened will contain more nutrients (Skeen, 2004). Fruit juices should be used very sparingly or not at all as it is mostly fruit sugar and used unwisely can overload the system with sugar producing metabolic disturbances that create abnormal cravings leading to disease (Skeen, 2004). Whole fruits when eaten to excess not only overly stimulate the eliminative process and cause digestive disturbances, such as gas and bloating, but also over stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin making one feel lethargic (Skeen, 2004).
Avoid all processed oils and fats such as margarine, and use unrefined olive oil, sesame oil, and ghee (Skeen, 2004). Flax seed oil, 1 tablespoon per 100 pounds of bodyweight, is also recommended daily to insure that the body receives its daily supply of essential fatty acids required to keep the body healthy (Skeen, 2004).
There is no need for supplements with a balanced diet as our body has the capacity to produce enough of the necessary vitamins needed to maintain health' (Tierra, 1998, p.61). Though cooking may destroy some of the nutrients, it actually improves our body's ability to absorb what is there (Tierra, 1998, p.61). Oriental nutrition recommends longer cooking for weak bodies and shorter cooking for strong bodies (Tierra, 1998, p.61). The addition of a small amount of sea vegetable such as kelp, dulse, nori, kombu, wakame, arame or hiziki to the diet can help possible trace mineral deficiencies (Tierra, 1998, p.61).
Adequate protein intake with healthy fats and oils reduce the craving for excessive carbohydrate consumption and helps with the protein production in the body (Tierra, 1998, p.52). It assists in the loss of excess body fat and helps to maintain a healthy body weight, satisfies the appetite, and gives food better taste (Tierra, 1998, p.52). A certain amount of healthy fat, like olive oil, sesame oil, and clarified butter (ghee), each day is required for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K (Tierra, 1998, p.52).
Kitchen spices not only add flavor to your food, they also improve the assimilation of nutrients, and aid digestion (Skeen, 2004). They include basil, marjoram, rosemary, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
There are some herbs which are actually herbal antacids. They effectively relieve acid indigestion by neutralizing excess acids in the stomach and intestines (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief, n.d.). Some of these herbs protect the stomach lining as well and many also relieve other digestive ailments as well as help maintain healthy digestion (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief, n.d.). They include cinnamon, ginger, aniseed and cardamom (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief, n.d.). Take a pinch each of the powdered spices and a smaller pinch of black pepper and steep it and the other herbs in a cup of boiled hot water. One cup of this is recommended after each meal (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief, n.d.).
In his book, The New Age Herbalist, Mabey (1988) recommends infusions of fennel, mint, dill, chamomile, aniseed or lemon balm to be taken after a meal. He also advices taking bitter decoctions, like gentian or dandelion root before a meal to stimulate the appetite and digestive secretions and activity. (p.202)
'Herbs relieve indigestion most effectively when taken in the form of teas or warm beverages' (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief, n.d.).
To make the above infusion, take one teaspoon of dried herb to a cup of boiling water. To make a decoction, use one ounce of broken down dried root or bark to just over a pint of water (Mabey, 1988, p.193). Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Strain the decoction while it is still hot (Mabey, 1988, p.135).
The recommended herbal remedy will work effectively when combined with a balanced diet. By doing so the possibility of eliminating acid indigestion is very high. It is important to take good care of the digestive system to be free of acid indigestion, and other gastrointestinal ailments (Skeen, 2004).