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Dealing with Simple Indigestion

by Ron Kurtus (17 June 2007)

Indigestion is usually a pain or burning feeling in the upper part of the stomach, implying that your food is not being properly digested.

It can be caused by eating too fast, indulging in food that is hard to digest, and being under stress while eating. But also, it can be caused by digestive diseases or medications.

If it is a simple case of indigestion, the symptoms usually go away in several hours. Reducing or eliminating the cause is the best way to prevent recurrences of simple indigestion. But if the indigestion is persistent and severe, you should see a physician about the problem.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Health Disclaimer



Symptoms

The main feeling of simple indigestion is a pain or a burning feeling in the upper portion of the stomach. You may feel bloated or sick to your stomach, as if the food you ate is not being properly digested. Your stomach may rumble or you may feel as though something was lodged near the esophagus. Sometimes you may have uncontrollable burping.

Heartburn or GERD

In more serious cases of indigestion, you may feel nausea, heartburn or feverish. You may have a bitter taste in the mouth from stomach acid coming up into the esophagus. This may be a sign of an underlying problem, such as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers or gall bladder disease.

Calling the doctor

If you seem to have chronic indigestion, vomiting, severe pain in the upper right abdomen and/or weight loss, you should see a physician about the condition. Even more severe is vomit that looks like coffee grounds—indicating blood in the vomit—or stools that show visible blood or are black and tarry. In that case, it is very important to see a physician.

Also note that symptoms similar to indigestion may be a sign of a heart attack, if the indigestion is unusual and is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating or pain radiating to the jaw, neck or arm. If you have those additional symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Causes

Indigestion is frequently caused by eating too fast, especially high-fat foods. It is not caused by excess stomach acid. Lifestyle issues, medications or a disease can cause the indigestion symptoms.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle issues are the most common causes of simple indigestion. Eating during stressful situations, especially if you are eating too fast can cause indigestion. Eating too much or eating high-fat foods is another possible cause.

If you swallow excessive air when eating, it may increase the symptoms of belching and bloating, often associated with indigestion.

Drinking too much alcohol and smoking cigarettes are not only bad for your health, in general, but they also aggravate indigestion.

Medication

Some medications can irritate the stomach or have side effects that cause indigestion. Aspirin, estrogen, steroid medications, some antibiotics and thyroid medications can cause indigestion.

Diseases

Serious causes of indigestion symptoms are certain diseases, such as ulcers, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, thyroid disease or stomach infections. Diabetics may have gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach doesn't empty properly.

Although pregnancy is not a disease, it also can cause the feeling of indigestion.

Prevention

The best way to prevent indigestion is to avoid the foods and situations that seem to cause your indigestion. If you have been suffering from indigestion recently, consider whether you have been eating while under stress, eating too fast, stuffing yourself, or consuming too much acidic, spicy or high-fat foods. Self-analysis and them corrective action can help you prevent indigestion from occurring again.

Eating

Sometimes your stomach may just need a rest, especially if you have been eating too much of the wrong foods. Fasting for a day or eating only small helpings can give your stomach time to heal and get you back to normal. Eating small meals helps, such that the stomach does not have to work as hard or as long.

Swallowing air when eating can aggravate indigestion and cause gas and uncomfortable belching, you should eat in a manner to minimize that situation. Take your time when eating and don't rush through your meal, gulping down the food. Chew with your mouth closed. Try not to talk rapidly while eating.

Reduce or avoid foods that are spicy, highly acidic or high in fat content.

You can include digestive enzymes capsules with your meal to help you digest the food. Often, as people become older, they need some assistance in the digestive process.

Drinking

Drink fluids after your meal, instead of during the meal. Try to avoid drinks that contain high amounts of acids such as citrus fruit drinks and beverages that contain caffeine. Also avoid alcoholic beverages, since alcohol can irritate the stomach lining.

Stress

People who live a harried, stressful lifestyle are more prone to get indigestion. You may be able to cope for a long time, until suddenly, your body says, "Enough!' Suddenly chronic indigestion flairs up.

You should take a look at your lifestyle and make adjustments to reduce your stress. "Take time to smell the roses." If necessary, go to a stress counselor to learn methods for managing stress.

Smoking and alcohol consumption are often related to stress. Both also can irritate the stomach.

Avoid eating under stressful conditions, such as an argument at the dinner table. Also, try to relax after meals.

Exercise

Doing physical exercise on a full stomach can disrupt the digestive process. It is better to exercise before a meal or wait for at least one hour after eating before you exercise.

Sleep

You should not lie down right after eating, because food and stomach acids can go into your esophagus, causing irritation. Wait at least three hours after eating at night before going to bed.

When you have indigestion, use pillows to prop yourself up and sleep with your head elevated to help allow digestive juices to flow into the intestines rather than to the esophagus.

Antacids

Antacids are supposed to neutralize excess stomach acid and can provide temporary relief of indigestion. But some studies indicate that they have more of a placebo effect than actually stopping indigestion. Another problem can be excessive use of antacids. If they work for you on occasion, you can use them to relive indigestion.

Summary

Indigestion is usually a pain or burning feeling in the upper part of the stomach, implying that your food is not being properly digested. In serious cases, where vomiting includes blood or where heart attack symptoms are included require immediate mediation attention.

Indigestion can be caused by eating too fast, indulging in food that is hard to digest, and being under stress while eating. But also, it can be caused by digestive diseases or medications. Reducing or eliminating the causes of indigestion the best way to prevent recurrences. But if the indigestion is persistent and severe, you should see a physician about the problem.


Take care of yourself


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Indigestion - From WedMD

Indigestion - Mayo Clinic

Indigestion - From Wikipedia

General Health Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Indigestion


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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