Indigestion: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment: We’ve all probably dealt with it once or several times throughout our lives after enjoying a favorite dish or some not very healthy to-go food. Indigestion, or dyspepsia, refers to a condition in which the stomach does not digest food properly, resulting in upseting symptoms ranging from pain and general discomfort to heartburn and belching.
While it is generally a benign condition resulting from poor dietary choices and bad lifestyle habits and does not pose any serious health risks on its own, indigestion can also be caused by invisible medical conditions that require professional help. Symptoms may vary from person to person and treatment will almost always require a more or less drastical change of diet.
So what is indigestion? First of all, indigestion is not a disease, but more like an overlap of symptoms of poor digestion. We basically do not digest food well. And the reason why our stomach fails at its one task is generally our fault. Whether it’s because we eat bad food, highly processed foods or simply foods that are bad for us although good for others, stress a lot, skip meals or sleep or do not properly manage connected health issues, we are generally directly responsible for such an outcome.
Indigestion can often resolve by itself, but it can leave us thinking we are dying in the meantime. The condition can successfully mimic heart problems such as chest pain or heart attack pain and this can be very unsettling both for heart sufferers and for people who have never experienced heart issues. Resting, relaxing, taking natural remedies or over the counter medication such as antacids can help greatly depending on the situation.
Recognizing an episode of indigestion can save you a lot of time and unnecessary worry. Although you may not be experiencing all of the symptoms at once, here is a list of what you should look for when trying to identify an indigestion:
1) Bloating. A slight abdominal distension or swelling of the stomach as a result of feeling full as well as stomach discomfort are signs of indigestion.
2) Intestinal gas. Whether it’s flatulence or belching (burping), eliminating air on either sides is a sign of indigestion. Unless standing up straight improves belching problems, then you might have indigestion.
3) Nausea. Indigestion is brought on by either eating something bad or by eating too much of something. Eating too much overwhelms the stomach and nausea appears, signaling indigestion. Vomiting can also occur. It really depends on how bad your indigestion is.
4) Movements in the stomach. A small percentage of people experiencing indigestion have reported feeling movements in their stomach. They may be painful or simply dynamic. It is believed that intestinal gas is the cause for feeling things move in your stomach.
5) Heartburn. Indigestion is almost always accompanied by heartburn, an abdominal pain stretching towards the upper abdomen. For this reason, some people may even end up mistaking a really bad indigestion for heart problems. However, heartburn is often a symptom of acid reflux, an underlying health problem that can also trigger indigestion episodes. In such cases, cold night sweats may also occur.
Indigestion does not discriminate. Children, young adults up to the elderly can frequently experience indigestion, especially of they enjoy unhealthy foods or foods they are especially sensitive to. Here is what can trigger your indigestion:
1) Eating too much at once.
2) Eating highly processed foods, fatty foods or junk food.
3) Irritating foods (garlic, onions, pepper, chili, spicy foods).
4) Foods you are particularly sensitive to.
This may include garlic, bell peppers, onions, beans, spicy foods, vinegar, citrus fruit, etc.
5) Alcohol and coffee.
6) Stress, fatigue.
8) Medication (aspirin, antibiotics, pain relievers in general).
9) Bad position while eating and afterwards, during digestion.
However, if you experience indigestion episodes regularly and they are not related to any pronounced dietary or lifestyle habits, then your indigestion might actually be a symptoms of a medical condition such as:
1) Gastric ulcer. It has been shown to affect more than 10% of the world population. It frequently appears in the elderly and the socially unprivileged who cannot afford to eat properly or are under continuous stress, also known as chronic stress. Individuals abusing NSADs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) are also a risk factor for ulcers.
2) Helicobacter pylori infestation. Helicobater pylori is a bacteria we all have, but which is not dangerous unless ‘activated’. According to research, around 70% of patients with gastric ulcers and 90% of people with chronic gastritis have it wrecking havoc in their digestive tract.
3) Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This is a disorder of the digestive tract with symptoms similar to indigestion: abdominal pain and discomfort and bloating. However, irritable bowel is also characterized by inconsistent bowel movements ranging from diarrhea to constipation.
4) Infection. Bacterial or, more often, viral infections can affect the stomach and cause symptoms that may be mistaken for indigestion: nausea, pain, discomfort.
5) Gastroparesis. This is a rather serious condition characterized by food moving slowly or stagnating in the stomach as a result of damage to the stomach never, the vagus nerve. Gastroparesis is basically a partial paralysis of the stomach which result in indigestion-like symptoms.
6) Medical treatments. Medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (aspirin), pain relievers in general as well as antibiotics or other types of medication can trigger indigestion-like symptoms or cause the condition to worsen. The longer you take the medicines, the worse it may be for your digestive tract. Conventional medication is both efficient and strong, hence the damage it can do to the sensitive stomach mucosa which has to digest it.
However, indigestion is not a deal-breaker. There are many things we can do to prevent it from occurring or reoccurring. It’s mostly a matter of healthy eating and healthy living. Here is a list of solutions and recommendations for your troublesome indigestion:
1) Avoid coffee, alcohol and caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
2) Stop smoking.
3) Avoid citrus fruit, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic and onions.
4) Avoid acidic, pickled, fatty and spicy foods in general, as well as junk food.
5) Stop eating foods that are bad for you, whatever they may be.
6) Eat slowly, chew calmly and stay relaxed.
7) Avoid tight clothes that may compress your stomach and prevent good circulation.
8) Never lie down after eating. Wait at least 2-3 hours and move a little after each meal.
9) Drink some tea, accordingly to your doctor’s recommendations.
I admit that I have dealt with several severe indigestion episodes when I was younger. And it took me long enough to figure out how to manage the condition as it was caused by both gastritis and bad eating habits. Eating mostly low-fat, home-cooked meals and increasing my ratio of healthy fresh foods, giving up coffee, sodas and processed sweets has done wonders for me.
In the process, I also learnt which foods really work for me and which not. For instance, I can’t eat garlic, onions, whole milk or hard cheeses, but it really helps to include yogurt, fresh cheese, whole grains and home cooked meals in my diet. This is a crucial step in dealing with all stomac-related problems: finding out which foods work for you and which don’t. It gets easier from there, and so do indigestion episodes.