Indigestion is one of the most common problems that we face as humans. The trigger could be anything from a spicy meal to a compromised digestive system to a food allergy to even tight clothing that can make you feel super uncomfortable. Almost all of us are familiar with the symptoms–the cramping, the boating, the acid reflux, excessive gas formation in the stomach, the nausea, etc.
And while it may not be as serious as it feels, unless you have an underlying condition that requires urgent medical attention, it can ruin your day and make for some embarrassing moments as well. However, help is at hand in the form of tried and tested home remedies and certain lifestyle changes that will go a long way in soothing your symptoms. But before we tell you about these wonderful home remedies, let’s take you through what indigestion is all about.
What are the symptoms?
Have you ever felt very full after eating a regular meal and have not been able to finish it? Do you suffer from heart burn and a gnawing sensation in your tummy? Have you been experiencing a lot of gas? Well, all of these symptoms signal that you could be suffering from indigestion.
The most common symptoms of indigestions are persistent or recurrent feeling of abdominal discomfort accompanied by gas and bloating. Other people could suffer from a burning sensation in the stomach or in the upper abdomen.
However, if your indigestion is accompanied by the following symptoms, it could signal something serious that warrants medical attention immediately. Is your vomiting much more severe than what is normal? Are they any traces of fresh or dried blood in your vomit? Does your vomit look like coffee grounds? Have you suddenly started losing a lot of weight? Are your stools black in colour? Have you noticed blood in your stools? Are you suffering from severe pain in any part of your abdomen?
On another, but equally serious note, do remember that symptoms of indigestion are similar to those of a heart attack. So if your indigestions isaccompanied with breathlessness, sweating, chest pain, or pain radiating to the jaw, neck, or arm, seek medical help right away.
Why do we get indigestion?
Why do we have to be saddled with a condition like indigestion that seriously interferes with our ability to enjoy good food and live life to the fullest? Well, that has a lot to do with the way that you have been leading your life in the first place.
For example, if you are fond of spicy, greasy food; tend to gobble up your food quickly without taking a break; overeat on a regular basis; or lie down right after you have had a heavy meal; you can rest assured that your digestive system is going to revolt.
Other lifestyle factors that could make you prone to digestive discomfort include smoking, overindulgence in too much alcohol, stress eating, fatigue, anxiety and even swallowing too much air while eating can give you much abdominal discomfort.
Besides these lifestyle factors, indigestion can also be caused by a number of other reasons, some of which are serious underlying medical conditions. Please see a medical practitioner immediately if you suspect that your abdominal discomfort could be more than plain indigestion.
Severe indigestion can be caused by stomach peptic ulcers that are sores on the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or duodenum caused by H. pylori bacteria; GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), gastroparesis (common in patients with diabetes, this is a condition where the stomach does not empty out completely); infections of the stomach and digestive system; gall bladder disease; irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pancreatitis or bile duct abnormalities, thyroid disease, pregnancy and in rare cases, some forms of cancer.
Interestingly, the cause of digestion cannot always be pinpointed that easily. And when that happens, it’s called functional dyspepsia. Functional dyspepsia is said to be caused by an irregularity in the way the stomach muscles perform the squeezing action that is so important to move around the food in the intestine.
Certain medications also cause digestive upsets as a side effect. For instance painkillers like aspirin ibuprofen and naproxen; oestrogen and oral contraceptives; steroid medications, antibiotics and thyroid medication can leave you feeling uncomfortable.
Home remedies for indigestion
While there are many medications to tackle indigestion, certain home remedies and lifestyle changes go a long way in dealing with this condition.
Avoid loading your stomach with heavy meals. Instead of one big meal after a long interval, eat smaller meals throughout the day. This way you won’t strain your digestive system.
Cut down on all the spice and grease and choose lighter healthier meals like soup, salads and grilled and broiled food instead that won’t give you heart burn.
Avoid gobbling up your food in frenzy as that makes you swallow a lot of air that will end up in your intestine and give you discomfort. Eat smaller morsels slowly and chew thoroughly.
No matter how much you enjoy your post meal siesta, do not lie down after eating as it will give you a lot of heartburn. Also lie down with you head at an elevation of 6 inches above your feet. This prevents the digestive juices from flowing back into the oesophagus.
Cut down on tobacco, alcohol and caffeine
All these three elements are known to irritate the digestive system and are, hence, best avoided. Cut down on carbonated drinks as well because, contrary to what you may think, fizzy drinks don’t aid digestion but actually make it worse.
Discuss your medications with your doctor if you suspect that they may be to blame for your abdominal discomfort. He may change the dosage or the composition.
Since stress and anxiety trigger heartburn and indigestion, try to relax yourself through meditation or yoga.
Keep a food diary
Sometimes indigestion is caused by certain foods to which you may have intolerance or an allergy. Keeping a food diary will help you identify those triggers. For instance, certain acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes cause reflux and indigestion in some people.
You may know this already, but wearing very tight clothes, especially ones that constrict your stomach can push up what you have eaten into your oesophagus.
Rushing off to exercise right after you have eaten will make you very uncomfortable. Give yourself a break for an hour or so after you have had your meal.
Peppermint has a wonderfully soothing effect. It’s an antispasmodic so it will help reduce stomach pain and cramps. Its minty flavours supress nausea. Drink peppermint tea to aid your digestion. Do not take peppermint if you have acid reflux because peppermint relaxes the muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus and that may cause the acid to flow back.
Chamomile tea works on different levels. While it calms anxiety and stress— both causes of indigestion—it also soothes your digestive system by reducing stomach acid in the gastrointestinal tract. Its anti-inflammatory properties lessen the pain.
Chamomile tea is easily available in the form of tea bags, so drink a cup as and when necessary. If you are on blood thinning medication, you need to ask your doctor before you drink chamomile tea because it contains an anticoagulant that interferes with the body’s ability to form blood clots.
Apple cider vinegar
This wonder home remedy for numerous conditions has something for indigestion too. Apple cider vinegar increases acid production in those who produce too little stomach acid and hence suffer from indigestion. Just dilute two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water 30 minutes before eating. Do ensure that you always drink it diluted to avoid and side effects.
Dried ginger slivers have always been used in Indian homes to munch on after a meal to aid digestion. Ginger also quells nausea. Ginger works on indigestion by reducing the stomach acid—too much stomach acid causes indigestion. Make a decoction by boiling ginger root in water and drink it when necessary.
It has antioxidants like gingerols and phenolic compounds that reduce gastric spasms and intestinal irritation. It is also known to reduce inflammation. You could also chew on ginger slivers. Do not have more than 3 to 4 grams per day as too much can cause gas and heartburn—the very symptoms you want to avoid.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Like apple cider vinegar, baking soda too has many varied uses. It is a quick-acting stomach acid neutraliser and is safe and non-toxic. Mix half a teaspoon in about 100 ml warm water and drink for relief from indigestion bloating and gas. Note that adults should not have more than seven 1/2 teaspoons in a 24-hour period.
Interestingly, lemon water has an alkaline effect that neutralises the stomach acid. Drink a solution of 1 tablespoon lemon juice in warm water and drink before you have a meal. The alkaline effect of lemon water also neutralizes stomach acid and improves digestion. Mix a tablespoon of lemon juice in hot or warm water and drink a few minutes before eating.
Coriander seeds are a staple spice in Indian foods and with a reason. These tiny aromatic seeds have unique antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties that will ease your indigestion by stimulating the production of gastric juices. Coriander seeds containthe oil called urandrol that helps in detoxifying the liver.
It also increases appetite. So if you have been suffering from improper digestion, all you need to do is boil coriander seeds in water. Cool the reduction and drink it for a week for relief. Some people even chew the seeds.