Acidity refers to a set of symptoms caused by an imbalance between the acid secreting mechanism of the stomach and proximal intestine and the protective mechanisms that ensure their safety. The stomach normally secretes acid that is essential in the digestive process. This acid helps in breaking down the food during digestion. When there is excess production of acid by the gastric glands of the stomach, it results in the condition known as acidity. However, there are certain types of ulcers where acid secretion is either normal or even low. Acidity is responsible for symptoms like dyspepsia, heartburn and the formation of ulcers (erosion of the lining of the stomach or intestines). Acidity tends to have a much higher incidence in highly emotional and nervous individuals. It is also more common in the developed and industrialised nations, though a recent increase in incidence has also occurred in the developing countries. Consumption of Alcohol, highly spicy foodstuffs, non-vegetarian diets, and Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) also predispose to gastric acidity

Symptoms and Signs : Dyspepsia and heartburn are often the main symptoms of acidity. Heartburn is characterised by a deeply placed, burning pain in the chest behind the sternum (breast-bone). It occurs after meals and is brought on by excess intra-abdominal pressure like lifting weights or straining. It can also occur at night on lying down and is relieved when the individual sits up. The pain is very closely related to posture. Regurgitation of the gastric contents may also occur. The symptoms of ulcers are mainly pain that can be either localised or diffused. Sometimes it radiates to the back or to the chest.

The most common symptom is dyspepsia, a burning or aching pain in the upper abdomen sometimes described as a “stabbing feeling penetrating through the width of the gut”. Rarely, there is no pain at all, but only a feeling of indigestion or nausea. Eating a meal usually relieves the pain in duodenal ulcer, but in a gastric ulcer there may be no change, or the pain may become worse. Peptic ulcer disease can sometimes occur without symptoms. Symptoms may also arise when there is no ulcer present, which is known as non-ulcer dyspepsia

Prevention : Prevention mainly consists of avoiding the known causative factors like alcohol consumption, spicy foods, drugs like NSAID’s, steroids etc. Patients with highly nervous and emotional disposition and those involved in high-stress jobs must be given psychological treatment. Avoiding non-vegetarian diets is also useful in minimising symptoms of acidity.