Ayurvedic Natural Remedies for Occasional Heartburn

These diet suggestions and natural herbal supplements will help you get to the root of pitta imbalance.

In This Article

Heartburn is on the Rise

Occasional heartburn has been found to plague more than 40% of adults living in the United States, according to peer-reviewed research.

Another study that followed 30,000 volunteers for 11 years showed that occasional heartburn concerns have risen by nearly 50%just within the last decade.

For relief, many turn to antacid medications, which suppress stomach acid but are often linked to a litany of serious side effects.

Logically, the idea of suppressing stomach acid for extended periods of time reeks of unwanted long-term consequences.

Stomach acid is crucial to properly digesting the foods you eat—particularly the harder-to-break-down foods like wheat, grain, nuts, seeds, and beans.

Your stomach acid is needed to manufacture a protein called the “intrinsic factor,” which escorts vitamin B12 to your brain and liver. Your stomach acid is your first line of defense against toxic material and undesirable microbes that are incessantly trying to make your gut their new home.

Suppressing stomach acid may temporarily alleviate the symptoms, but what can be done to address the cause?

See also Antacid Side Effects and Natural Solutions

Addressing the Cause of Heartburn with Ayurveda

Of course, occasional heartburn is not a new phenomenon and ancient Ayurvedic texts talked much about it.

In a general sense, occasional heartburn is an imbalance of pitta. Pitta is the fire of the body and is seated in the stomach. Excess pitta in the stomach is classically linked to heartburn.

Ayurveda suggests simple strategies to help reduce excess pitta, such as eating foods that are mostly cooling and avoiding foods that are spicy or heating.

To make this easy to decipher, the following salty, sour, and pungent foods can be heating.

To Reduce Excess Pitta, Avoid These Foods:

  • Beef
  • Beets
  • Black tea
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken (dark)
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus
  • Coffee
  • Corn
  • Dark grains
  • Egg yolk
  • Eggplant
  • Fermented foods and drinks
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Hard cheese
  • Honey
  • Most cooking oils except ghee and coconut oil
  • Most root veggies
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Sour cream
  • Sour fruits
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomato
  • Turkey
  • Yogurt
Foods that are cooling in nature will have these tastes and should be preferred: bitter, astringent, sweet foods. Download a complete list of cooling, pitta-balancing foods here.

Pitta-Cooling Herbs:

See also Gut Health for Your Ayurvedic Dosha

Digging Deeper into the Cause with Ayurveda

While balancing pitta is an important first step, it is also important to probe further into the cause. For example, why is heat building up in the stomach in the first place?

According to Ayurveda, the cause of this is upward-moving digestive energy. This is when the downward movement of the digestive tract is slowed, sometimes even reversed, allowing the acid and food contents of the stomach to linger for an extended period of time. This can cause occasional heartburn, gas, burping, and discomfort.

The longer the contents of the stomach linger there, the greater the chance for indigestion. Over time, after bouts of too much acid lingering in the stomach, the stomach can actually reduce the production of stomach acid in order to protect the stomach lining.

This is when antacids can really present a problem—lowering stomach acid when it is actually low, rather than high!

See also Ayurvedic Herbal Support for Belching and Bloat

Avipattikar Churna Beats Heartburn

Occasional heartburn can be caused by either too much acid or too little acid being produced in the stomach.

The solution to this is a powerful Ayurvedic herbal formula called Avipattikar churna, which makes up LifeSpa’s Cool Digest. Churna means mixture or blend. With 15 herbs in combination, Cool Digest has shown to naturally balance stomach acid production.

The herbs in Cool Digest are:

  1. Indian Jalap Root
  2. Clove Bud
  3. Indian Cassia Leaf
  4. Cardamom Seed
  5. Vidanga Fruit
  6. Cyperus Root
  7. Amla Fruit
  8. Belleric Myrobalan Fruit
  9. Chebulic Myrobalan
  10. Long Pepper Fruit
  11. Black Pepper Fruit
  12. Ginger Root
  13. Phyllanthus emblica (Amla Fruit)
  14. Tinospora cordifolia (Indian Tinospora Stem)
  15. Asafetida Resin (with Fenugreek Seed)

Instead of increasing or decreasing stomach acid, avipattikar churna safely and effectively supports the healthy lubrication or buffering of the stomach lining while supporting the normal production of stomach acid, according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.

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9 thoughts on “Ayurvedic Natural Remedies for Occasional Heartburn”

  1. A couple of years ago Dr Jonathan V Wright wrote an (other) article – this on stomach acidityi issues. He is a naturopath who writes for health magazines and so he tracks all of his patients for this purpose.
    He stated that in his practice he had treated “almost 2,000” patients with these issues – GERDS, Acid Reflux, and heartburn. Most of his patients came from MDs who never helped the problem. The TEN OTHER DOCTORS in his clinic ALSO have many cases of stomach acidity issues and not one of these former MD patients EVER had their ACTUAL pH measured. It is always just assumed to be too acidic.
    Dr Wright and colleagues usually use a Heidelberg Capsule – radio sending unit putting out real-time info on your intestinal pH and caught by a belt mounted receiving unit. He found that of “almost 2,000” patients with this heartburn etc issue ONLY TWO INDIVIDUAL HUMANS HAD EXCESS ACIDITY!!!
    The rest all had LOW stomach acidity. That is enough to both damage your esophagus if it bubbles up, and give one poor digestion which CAUSES the gas and backing up.

    In West Virginia “Brad” came to visit and mentioned that he got heartburn with every meal for the last seven years. We looked in our Jethro Kloss herb book, which listed inadequate chewing (and therefore inadequate salivary enzymes) as one factor. Another is to drink liquids with your meal – which dilutes both stomach acids and other enzymes. We should drink about an hour BEFORE meals – especially if dehydrated. That gives warmed water in our intestines to transport the digested materials into the blood, whereas if we are dehydrated – that water is pulled from the blood, and in extreme cases, from our cells INTO the blood to use in digestion.

    So – Brad didn’t want to eat without his glass of milk. Said to enjoy his heartburn. He stopped drinking with his meals, immediately stopped getting heartburn, decided he was cured. So he took a meal with milk and no surprise: heartburn…

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  2. For severe pitta, black pepper and clove bud are generally contraindicated. Some vaidyas allow older, whole clove bud in moderation. Long pepper can suit pitta fine in very limited quantities, if dried, and slightly larger quantities when fresh.

    For foods, onion, turkey, sardine, salmon, root vegetables (minus a few common items), honey, non-GMO/fresh corn, sweet citrus (tangerine, etc which are devoid of much sourness, including peel), chicken (general), rice (almost all, including brown), and beef are all usually considered neutral for those with a pitta imbalance.

    With some restrictions, meat that is relatively fresh and cooked less is pitta-pacifying, if it is left unsalted. Sweeter varieties of meat (domestic animals), if fed on predominantly pitta-pacifying diet, are exceptional pitta remedies when prepared correctly.

    Root vegetables (when prepared per individual) are generally regarded as pitta-pacifying and beneficial during pitta disease.

    Depending on the source, sardine and salmon can either be cool, cold, or hot in nature. Canned will upset the doshas to an extend, regardless of source. Certain varieties of river salmon, when eaten fresh, are pacifying to pitta and beneficial for vata. Fish generally increase kapha, and if kapha is associated with an individual’s pitta imbalance, this may worsen it. Experimentation with each individual (or special knowledge of the particular fish) will tell the whole story behind a person’s tolerance of these.

    Corn is good for subduing excess pitta, when fresh. GMO varieties farmed commercially will upset all doshas eventually. I make a special note about corn here: eat this sparingly no matter who you are, unless you are aware of its variety and growing conditions, including the qualities of the soil.

    Citrus in general has a pungent and sour quality that can upset pitta – but certain varieties and preparation techniques have strong pitta disease-alleviating properties. Aged peels of ripe sweet orange, tangerine, red grapefruit (and other bitter varieties like pomelo) can be stewed and eaten in moderation to cleanse excess pitta and remove the influence of kapha on pitta (which is a problem for many). Pitta imbalanced individuals may also be able to eat limited quantities of ripe sweet citrus, if it’s devoid of sourness – there are more varieties of citrus like this available today thanks to consumer demand. These may upset some people, however, and should be consumed by themselves (just like with melons) on an otherwise empty stomach.

    Fresh nuts are pitta-pacifying, minus a few common ones like peanut (if you count this as a nut). Heavier nuts are technically fine for pitta, and can be beneficial – like walnut, brazil nut, etc. Unfortunately, many who suffer from pitta imbalance also show signs of kapha imbalance, which is directly influencing pitta. These people should strictly avoid nuts. However, blanched/soaked almonds without the peel are good for all doshas, and can usually even be eaten in large amounts without upset. Pecans are usually tolerated better as well, especially if soaked for an hour and rinsed plenty. Those with digestive issues would do best to avoid nuts (other than soaked almond).

    Sweeter varieties of onion are just fine for pitta, but only if not over-cooked or eaten raw in excess. Lightly cooked sweet onions can help to reverse pitta-related fever and emotional upset. Just don’t overdo it, or the pungent principles can add up. More pungent (less sweet) varieties of onion, and onion which is under-ripe: both of these upset pitta.

    Depending on the variety of honey and depending on how it’s collected (etc), it can either diminish or further a pitta imbalance. Because there are so many types of honey, experimentation will be necessary unless speaking to a vaidya with knowledge on the particular honey. But honey can also worsen pitta in some individuals temporarily, due to more complex reasons. A practical recommendation is to avoid it if it upsets your particular condition, but not to avoid any and all honey based on principle. Some ancient sources say honey helps to correct pitta problems, and some say it worsens them – and I believe this is due to the fact that there are so many varieties of honey and conditions that exist to make it better or worse for a person.

    For peppers, sweeter, non-hot varieties (fresh/steamed bell peppers for example) are tolerated fine by many pitta-imbalanced people, and can be good for them. As a general rule, remove the seeds, and cook in a liquid.

    Brown rice isn’t categorically pitta-vitiating. On the contrary, old brown rice can be good for those with pitta problems. But rice is a bit like corn; modern rice has issues. Those with pitta imbalance can try basmati, jasmine, and other sweet, aromatic, medium-grain varieties, brown or white. When cooked well with ghee, they can act as a stabilizer and food medicine for pitta. Short grain varieties (esp. white) can be very good for pitta. Just like with nuts, rice is not technically off-limits for pitta, but when pitta and kapha imbalances intermingle, then they’re mostly contraindicated. Basmati and similar varieties are almost always well-tolerated, assuming the individual isn’t simply allergic or hypersensitive to rice. Last note: all starchy things can cause strange effects with dysbiosis.

    I’m giving this information because I believe modern ayurvedic recommendations are far too restrictive. I’ve seen people abandoning ayurvedic wisdom because it’s being simplified into ineffectiveness; and of course no one wants to be restricted to 10 or 15 bland items from the store, either. Many people don’t have access to a broad selection of healthy foods. So take the blanket statement, for example, that root vegetables are bad for pitta – for a person living in a food desert rural community, in the mountains, in a small industrial settlement, or in an environment that vitiates pitta. When the restriction is thus applied, the person may avoid cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, on and on – things that are just fine for pitta, and likely fine for their constitution. When this happens, they eat improperly, and often relapse, and the well-meaning information results in negative outcomes.

    If all of the above appears to be upsetting your pitta imbalance, consider dysbiosis or similar problems as the cause. Detoxification of “ama” can also lead to apparent pitta-related issues with foods that are generally considered fine. When that’s the case, temporarily avoid these foods and seek to fix the root problem. After that, even with a predisposition to pitta imbalance, a person should tolerate these things fine, assuming they haven’t in some way been made poisonous by commercial farming practices – but most of the time this can’t be fully avoided.

    Just my opinion of course. Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • I agree with your comment about “blanket statements”. By trying to make Ayurveda simplistic, I don’t feel it’s able to serve people as intended. Too, “one man’s poison is another man’s medicine”. That’s the beauty of Ayurveda, right?! It all depends on the individual. I feel it’s important to keep in mind there are always exceptions to the rule.

      Too, heartburn isn’t necessarily a pitta induced symptom. The root could be kapha induced, “blocking” the flow of food down the digestive tract; similarly, it could be vata “pushing” the food up instead of down.

      But yeah, stressing people out with restrictions doesn’t help. After all, Ayurveda teaches that most bodily issues are manifestations of the mental state…

      Reply
  3. This article is about occasional heartburn. Could people who suffer on a daily basis (diagnosed with GERD/Functional Dyspepsia/IBS/SIBO) follow it?

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  4. Thank you so much, this really helps! I just wish there was a link to the Cool Digest (or did I miss it?). The other Avipattikar Churnas have a TON of sugar. I was just going to email you to ask you about that when voila! So grateful for your generosity in sharing so much information, and all the hard work you do to help us all on every level! Your energy is such a wonderful recommendation for following this path. Am very comforted to know you’re here. ?

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  5. Hello,

    This post lists GINGER to avoid,
    THEN it has ginger INCLUDED in those of the ‘Cool Digest’.
    Looks contradictory.

    Thank you

    Reply

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