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What is Indigestion?

Indigestion commonly referred to as dyspepsia is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by uncomfortable symptoms experienced in the upper abdomen such as heartburn, bloating, fullness, and nausea. While occasional indigestion is often harmless and can be attributed to overeating or consuming spicy foods, persistent or chronic indigestion may indicate an underlying medical condition. Understanding the medical aspect of indigestion is crucial in recognizing its causes and finding appropriate solutions.

Symptoms of indigestion

The most common symptoms of indigestion include: 

  1. Discomfort in the upper abdomen
  2. Feeling too full after eating
  3. Burning sensation in upper stomach
  4. Bloating
  5. Burping
  6. Gastritis
  7. Nausea

Causes of indigestion

Poor Dietary Choices 

In today’s world dietary choices have gone for a toss. Junk food consumption is extremely high. Unhealthy eating habits is one of the biggest contributors to indigestion Consuming a diet high in fatty and spicy foods puts additional strain on the digestive system. These foods are harder to digest and can lead to increased acid production, resulting in heartburn and discomfort. Overeating or eating too quickly can overwhelm the stomach, causing it to produce more acid than necessary. 

To prevent indigestion, it is important to maintain a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Identifying trigger foods and eliminating them from the diet is very important. Portion control also helps in controlling indigestion

Irregular Eating Patterns

Skipping meals or having irregular eating patterns can cause indigestion. When there is too long a break between meals, the stomach acid is still produced in small quantities and with no food to digest, it can cause indigestion. Also, heavy meals taken at once can cause indigestion.

It is essential to establish regular meal times and maintain a consistent eating schedule. Eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day instead of large, heavy meals can also help prevent indigestion. By providing the stomach with a steady supply of food indigestion can be controlled. 

Sedentary Lifestyle

Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little to no physical activity can contribute to indigestion. Digestion gets slowed down if there is no movement. The food in this case remains in the digestive system for a longer period of time. This delay in gastric emptying can lead to bloating, discomfort, and indigestion. 

Walking, jogging and yoga are considered to be the best exercises. Physical activity stimulates digestion by increasing blood flow to the digestive organs. Exercise also promotes healthy muscle contractions that help move food through the gastrointestinal tract. Regular exercise can improve digestion and reduce the incidence of indigestion. Physical activity has been shown to enhance gastrointestinal motility.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress hormones such as cortisol can directly impact the digestive system by altering certain gastric secretions. Stress can also disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and cause digestive issues. Stress can lead to muscle tension, including the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, which can impair the movement of food and cause symptoms of indigestion.

By addressing stress through relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies, it is possible to mitigate the impact of stress on digestion and reduce the occurrence of indigestion symptoms.

Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

Smoking and alcohol are big contributors to indigestion as well. Smoking troubles the stomach lining and can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, leading to acid reflux and indigestion. Alcohol increases acid production in the stomach and irritates the stomach lining, causing inflammation and indigestion symptoms. Smoking is probably one of the worst triggers for gastric issues. The chemicals in tobacco damage the stomach lining 

Reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption can significantly improve digestive health and reduce the frequency of indigestion episodes. Stop smoking!

Poor Eating Habits Before Bedtime

Dinner is meant to be a light food. Our body’s digestion system is at its slowest in the night. Consuming heavy meals or snacks close to bedtime can be a recipe for indigestion. The other habit that is a recipe for indigestion is sleeping immediately after eating. When you lie down shortly after eating, gravity no longer assists in keeping stomach acid down. This can lead to acid reflux and heartburn. Additionally, lying flat can cause discomfort and a feeling of fullness, leading to disturbed sleep patterns. From a scientific perspective, when you lie down, the esophagus and stomach are on a more horizontal plane, which makes it easier for stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. This can result in the symptoms commonly associated with indigestion

The other thing that should be avoided is sleeping immediately after eating. There should be a three hours gap between the last meal or snack and sleeping time. This allows sufficient time for digestion to occur and reduces the likelihood of experiencing indigestion symptoms during sleep.

Excessive Caffeine Consumption

Coffee is a widely used beverage. However excess caffeine can cause indigestion. Caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid and can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to reflux into the oesophagus. This can result in symptoms such as heartburn, stomach discomfort, and indigestion.

Scientifically, caffeine is known to increase gastric acid secretion, which can contribute to the development of indigestion. Caffeine intake should be limited and should not be consumed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Inadequate Hydration

Drinking 3-4 litres of water keeps the gut moving and helps in smooth digestion. Water helps in breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and moving waste effectively. Not drinking enough water and being dehydrated can contribute to indigestion. Insufficient hydration can lead to slower digestion, constipation, and discomfort, which are all common symptoms of indigestion. Water plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of fluids in the digestive system. It helps soften the stool and promotes smooth movement through the intestines.

To prevent indigestion, it is important to stay adequately hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water or more, depending on your activity level and climate.

Eating Too Quickly

Eating too fast is also a common cause of indigestion. When eaten too fast, the stomach and the digestive system do not have sufficient time. Also, the large food particles that enter are not broken down easily. This can lead to increased stomach acid production and discomfort. Additionally, rapid eating can cause you to swallow excess air, leading to bloating and gas.

The process of digestion begins in the mouth, where saliva helps break down food and initiate the digestion of carbohydrates. Chewing food thoroughly allows the saliva to mix with the food and promotes better digestion. Taking the time to eat slowly and mindfully can enhance the overall digestive process and reduce the occurrence of indigestion.

Lack of Sleep

Sleep and gut are connected in quite a lot of ways. Poor quality sleep can adversely impact digestion. Sleep deprivation affects the functioning of the digestive system, including slowing down gastric emptying and reducing the production of digestive enzymes. This can lead to symptoms such as bloating, discomfort, and indigestion. Sleep deprivation has been linked to alterations in the hormones that regulate appetite and digestion, such as ghrelin and leptin. These disruptions can affect the normal functioning of the digestive system and contribute to indigestion symptoms.

Prioritizing quality sleep and establishing a consistent sleep routine can have a positive impact on digestion and help alleviate indigestion.

Treatment of Indigestion

Dietary Treatment

The most important aspect of fixing indigestion is to fix the diet. Here are a few food items to avoid to get relief from indigestion

  1. Fatty Foods – Fried foods, meat, and sauces are filled with fat and end up causing indigestion
  2. Spicy Foods – Pepper, Hot sauces, and curry can lead to the irritation of the stomach lining
  3. Carbonated Beverages – Fizzy drinks can cause indigestion and bloating
  4. Alcohol – Alcohol is a big culprit as it increases acid production and also irritates the stomach lining
  5. Caffeine – Coffee and tea can also stimulate acid production.

More such items like citrus fruits and tomato-based products can also lead to indigestion. All these can be avoided to find relief from indigestion. 

The addition of healthy foods like curd, yogurt, and buttermilk can aid in providing relief from indigestion

Stress Management

In a lot of cases, stress also might be a cause of indigestion. In these cases making mental health a priority and focusing on managing stress can also help in relieving indigestion. Exercise and Yoga are known to provide serotonin to the body and help in relieving stress and may help in relieving indigestion as well. 

Medication

  • Antacids: Antacids consist of calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, and simethicone. This helps in providing relief in case of mild indigestion.
  • Anti-biotics: In case of fighting an infection like H Pylori, antibiotics are prescribed
  • H2 Blockers: H2 blockers decrease the amount of acid in the stomach
  • PPI: Protein Pump Inhibitors are very effective in treating indigestion symptoms like heartburn

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