Fire in the belly!

This is not the fire that propels you to work and get things done. We explore what causes stomach acid and how to control it.

Stomach acid plays an important role in digestion, but due to high stress, fast and processed foods, and over the counter drugs, there are many who have excess or less production of this acid. Adequate acid in the stomach helps in carrying out the function of digestion adequately and helps to lead a normal and healthy life.

“Excess of stomach acid causes heartburn, sour stomach, nausea and pain. It can also lead to serious health complications over a long period of time,” explains Dr K. Rakesh, senior gastroenterologist at Asian Institute of Gastroentrology.

Q. What are the causes for excess stomach acid?
Excess acid in the stomach is generated when one consumes too much spicy and oily food on a daily basis. It is also caused due to alcohol, smoking, caffeine, stress and bacterial infections acquired from eating outside food regularly. Excess acid is also produced when the person is suffering from gastric cancers.

Q. What is the prevalence of acidity in India? How many people are found to suffer from this common problem?
The prevalence of acidity in India is around 23 per cent. Maximum people complain of bloating, belching, flatulence and heart burn. The excess production is due to the types of foods that we eat — too gassy in nature and also foods having too many different types of spices.

Q. Due to its re-occurrence, do many people self-medicate before approaching doctors?
Self-medication is seen in 50 per cent of the cases. They use the same prescribed drugs again and again. If that is not found to work then they opt for over the counter drugs suggested by the chemists. Most of the people come to the hospital after experimenting with three to four different medication regimes. It requires a lot of probing to find out which medicines they have already used as often it does not work on them. What most patients do not understand is that along with medications, certain lifestyle changes in terms of avoiding spicy, oily, fast and processed foods is also important. Many continue to take the medicines but also continue with these foods whereby the medicines are not able to have the desired effect. Medicines given over the counter are over prescribed and highly exploited due to which there are issues of resistance and also side effects.

Q. It has been found in clinical examination that those who suffer from recurrent episodes of acidity take medicines three to four times in a week. What are the side effects of these medicines?
Recurrent and long-term use of acidity medicines causes osteoporosis, fractures, infections of salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, pneumonia, chronic kidney disease, deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, iron and B12.

Q. What are the secondary diseases that develop due to over-medication or long-term use of these medicines?
Long term use of antacids develops drug resistance. The secondary diseases that are caused over a period of time are malabsorption, infections, osteoporosis and chronic kidney diseases.

Q. Does too much of medication for acidity also lead to stomach cancer?
Yes, long term use of these types of medicines can lead to the development of gastric polyps and nodules which may turn malignant in the due course.

Q. What the best natural home remedies to control acidity?
The best natural remedies to control acidity are butter milk, basil, banana, ginger, clove and cinnamon. Along with this, lifestyle changes and regular exercises go a long way in helping to control the problem.

Q. Is it very severe after 50 to 60 years of age? If so, what are the lifestyle changes that senior citizens must opt for?
Acidity gets severe with increasing age and senior citizens have to opt for lifestyle changes like decreasing the intake of spicy and oily foods, opting for small quantity food at frequent intervals and avoiding stress.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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