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Drugs for acidity and heartburn are the largest selling the world over. Acidity is known to affect almost 70 percent of the population and new research now shows it to be the precursor for not just peptic ulcers, but also cancer of the stomach and the esophagus. In its natural, healthy state, our body is slightly alkaline, the opposite of acidic. If we could only maintain this state, many of the physical and emotional problems that plague us such as fatigue, headache, chronic illnesses, colds, flu, and even the inability to think clearly might rarely or never appear.

The truth is that everything that we are exposed to, right from the food we eat to the activites that we indulge in, exposed to a polluted environment, produce acidic chemicals, tipping us off from our ideal acid-alkali balance and resulting in a gamut of physical and psychological ailments. Our stomach normally secretes acid that is essential in the digestive process. This acid helps in the breakdown of food during digestion. When excess acid is produced in the stomach, it results in hyperacidity. Normally, there are some protective mechanisms against the acid, in the stomach and duodenum; however, an imbalance between the mucosal defenses and the amount of acid secretion can lead to erosions or even ulcers.

Hyperacidity is characterized by a deeply placed, burning pain in the chest behind the sternum (breastbone), which is commonly known as a heartburn. It occurs after meals and can last for up to two hours. It is more common at night when a person is in lying posture. A heartburn is usually relieved when the person sits up. In rare cases, there may be no pain; instead, only a feeling of indigestion with fullness or bloating of the abdomen along with burping, flatulence, sour waterbrash, or nausea may exist.

Reflux of the acid from the stomach into the esophagus can occur due to weakening of the sphincter in between. This could happen as a part of the normal aging process. Strenuous athletic activity, years of stress, or even a lifetime of eating junk food diet can result in the production of excessive acid. Consumption of alcohol, highly spicy food, irregular food habits, and excessive consumption of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin can predispose gastric hyperacidity. There is also a higher incidence of acidity in highly emotional and nervous individuals.

Eating a couple of bananas is recommended as they contain Vitamin U, an anti-ulcer factor. Bananas also neutralize the gastric acidity, while the mucilage in them coats the lining of the stomach. This protects the stomach against peptic ulcers. Drinking a mixture of cabbage and carrot juice not only neutralizes the excessive acid, but also regenerates the frayed mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines. Orange juice, taken in small quantities, is and excellent blood cleanser and alkalizer. Celery, rich in minerals, is also alkaline in nature.

Many people think that citric acid containing fruits like oranges, sweetlimes, lemons, and tomatoes should not be taken in acidosis since the body is already over-acidic. However, it has been proved that the end-products of these foods, on the contrary, increase the alkalinity of the blood. Grapefruit juice is especially useful in treating acidity. Raisins are useful in maintaining the acid-base balance of the body too.

Making minor changes in your diet and lifestyle can keep hyperacidity at bay regardless of your age or gender. Avoid foods and drinks that irritate your gastrointestinal tract such as fried or fatty food, alcohol, and coffee. Eat slowly and chew your food well. Don't drink a lot of water or other liquid along with your meals. Drink about 8 glasses of water a day between meals instead. Eat a reasonably heavy lunch and a light, early dinner. Lose weight if you are overweight. Stop smoking or chewing tobacco. Avoid clothing that is too tight around the waist.

Elevate the head end of your bed by 6 inches to prevent the contents of your stomach from rising upwards. Avoid lying down for 2 to 3 hours after eating, giving your stomach sufficient time to empty itself into the intestines. Take antacids to relieve yourself, but be aware of their side-effects if taken for prolonged periods of time. Always consult your doctor before you take any medicine. Avoiding stress and modifying one's lifestyle may prove very helpful in the treatment of hyperacidity and ulcers, particularly in people with a nervous or emotional disposition and those employed in high-stress jobs.

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