Written by John Immel,
What happens when this protective coating is all dried up? There is nothing to protect the delicate lining of the GI tract from harmful digestive acids. Stomach acids can penetrate into the tissues and literally start to dissolve them. The acids begin to burn the tissues and can cause a sensation of burning up from the inside out! If the acids continue to penetrate the lining of the stomach, it will create an open wound or sore - an ulcer.
The digestive tract is sensitive and it needs a particular environment to work at its best. A dry, dehydrated digestive tract is problematic and a leading cause of burning sensations in the stomach. Over time, chronic dryness may even contribute to the development of an ulcer, or the worsening of an existing one.
Intuitively, irritants like alcohol, coffee and spicy foods seem like the main offenders for the burning pain in your gut. Yes, these foods aggravate burning sensations, but dryness and dehydration are often hidden culprits as well. Be sure you don't overlook the fact that h pylori is a factor in many ulcers, nearly 80%! So get tested for h pylori if you haven't already.
So how can dryness actually cause a burning stomach? How can you tell if your digestive tract is dry and what can you do to keep it hydrated and juicy? This article will show you how to protect your digestion from dryness and soothe the hot, gnawing sensations in your gut.
How to Tell if Your Digestive Tract is Too DryDoes your tongue feel dry? This is the tell tale sign that the rest of your digestive tract is dry and parched too. Dehydration is a frequent cause of a dry digestive tract.
This dryness and dehydration may stem from not drinking enough water. Dryness can result from eating too many dry foods like musli and popcorn, as these absorb all your fluids. Foods with astringent taste, such as beans, dry up mucus. Food with bitter taste, such as dandelion greens, thin out the mucus, making it more like water. If you suspect dehydration, avoid foods with a diuretic effect such as celery, parsley and CCF tea as these increase urination. A lack of dietary fats can also lead to thin fluids, too thin to protect your stomach. On the contrary, a diet high in fats thickens your mucus, making it more viscous.
Finally, gas and bloating lead to dryness because they create toxins your kidneys must flush out. These toxins increase urine production, drying you out.
Stress and worry disrupt digestive function and create hyperacidity. Stress reduces circulation to digestive organs, which dries them out and thins the mucus layer. Then gastric juices will burn and inflame of the lining of the digestive tract.
Individuals that are stressed and erratic often skip meals. They override sensations of hunger because they are too busy to eat. Imagine your stomach is producing acid but there is no food to digest. The acids will start gnawing away at the stomach lining. Your stomach will be in a very vulnerable state if you skip meals, particularly if the mucous membrane is already thin.
How to Combat Dryness & Prevent Burning Sensations
LifestyleThe first step to reduce unwanted burning sensations is to ensure proper hydration. With proper hydration and nourishment, your body will produce a hearty protective layer of mucus. Without adequate hydration, the mucous membrane is likely to become thin, dry and depleted. Sip warm almond chai throughout the day. It will both nourish and hydrate you.
Next, establish a consistent routine, particularly eating meals at the same time each day. Get into a routine of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at roughly the same time each day (8am / 1pm / 6pm). This ensures the digestive acids don't start eroding the wall of the stomach. Implement a Vata pacifying lifestyle, including measures to reduce stress and agitation. Belly breathing and daily self-massage with oil (abhyanga) are perfect ways to whisk away tension and relax.
DietFoods with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes increase dryness. So avoid these. Instead, favor foods that are naturally sweet and gooey, like tapioca and oatmeal. Sweet and gooey foods are demulcent in nature. That means they have a coating quality. They help build the protective mucus layer in the stomach. Sweet taste is also anti-inflammatory and helps soothe burning sensations.
Include foods with soluble fiber, such as tapioca, chia seeds, oatmeal and okra. These are also gooey and demulcent and build protective coating. Avoid foods high in insoluble fiber like celery and kale. The roughage in these foods will scrape and irritate the GI lining. If an ulcer or burning inflammation is present, it can feel like rubbing a wire brush over the wound.
Add healthy fats such as ghee and avocado to nourish and moisturize dry tissues. Fat also protectively coat tissues. Focus on easy to digest meals to limit digestive strain like grandma's chicken soup, kitchari and applesauce. A cup of bone broth daily will also protect and hydrate the stomach lining.
HerbsCertain herbs, such as licorice root and marshmallow root help moisturize a dry digestive tract. Marshmallow is a strong demulcent, meaning it coats and protects the digestive tissues. Licorice is antidiuretic, helping the body retain water. Shatavari is a moisturizing anti-inflammatory that will cool burning sensations. Other ojas building herbs like vidari are helpful to nurture a thick, protective mucus layer.
Sweet, gooey and cool, Joyful Belly's custom formula Stomach Ulcer Tea relieves burning sensations and strengthens the stomach lining. Amalaki soothes and protects the tissues of the digestive tract. It's a rejuvenative herb that helps restore the lining of the GI tract. It is also anti-inflammatory. Astringent herbs like arjuna cool down inflammation, but they need to be mixed with demulcent herbs so they aren't drying.
ConclusionThese diet and lifestyle suggestions will help you protect your digestion from dryness. They were traditionally used to prevent burning sensations in the stomach. When it comes to ulcers, prevention is always better than a cure. If an ulcer has already developed, it is essential to seek medical advice before making any changes to your diet and lifestyle. For more detail about the Ayurvedic perspective on burning stomach sensations and ulcers, listen to this audio presentation.
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HOTHot is identified by increased body temperature, metabolism, or inflammation.
PUNGENTPungency is characterized by irritation, or sharp, spicy foods that irritate the mouth such as black pepper.
FIREResembles fire (tejas) in quality - hot, sharp, penetrating, light, dry.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.