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Top Tips to Get Rid of Indigestion

By James C. Qualified Nutritionist | 31st October 2017

Although it is usually benign, indigestion is a common disorder that can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. This article reviews the symptoms and causes of indigestion and summarises some top tips to get rid of digestion.

Indigestion Defined

Indigestion refers to feelings of pain or discomfort in the chest or abdomen. The medical term for indigestion is dyspepsia, which is an umbrella term for a range of symptoms that manifest themselves in the upper portion of the digestive system. Indigestion is also sometimes used to describe heartburn, which can occur both in isolation and in combination with dyspepsia. The majority of people will have indigestion at some point in their life, and it is most commonly experienced following a bout of eating.

What Are the Symptoms of Indigestion?

In addition to abdominal pain, dyspepsia is associated with following symptoms:

  • Feelings of being overly full
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What Are the Symptoms of Heartburn?

Heartburn is felt as a burning sensation behind or below the sternum. It is the result of irritation in the oesophagus which in turn is caused by the reflux of stomach acid.

What Causes Indigestion?

In less frequent, milder cases, where a medical investigation is not warranted, the exact cause of indigestion often remains elusive, and the symptoms are usually attributable to a sensitivity of the stomach lining to stomach acid. Occasionally, however, indigestion can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, and anyone who regularly suffers from indigestion, or who has more severe symptoms, should consult their general practitioner.

Several factors that can trigger indigestion have been identified. These include:

  • Stress
  • Medication
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation of the stomach or duodenum
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

How to Get Rid of Indigestion

A variety of treatment options exist for indigestion, and your GP will be able to provide advice on the best course of action, based on the nature and severity of your symptoms.

For people who only experience occasional episodes of indigestion, simple self-help techniques and lifestyle changes might be sufficient for relief of their symptoms. Here are some of the most effective ways to get rid of indigestion...

Manage Body Weight

Being overweight can put excessive pressure on a person’s abdomen, and this pressure can cause acid to pass from the stomach into the oesophagus. Through the maintenance or achievement of a healthy body weight, you can reduce their risk of acid reflux, which is considered to be one of the more common causes of indigestion.

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothes

In a similar way to an excess of body fat, clothes that are tight-fitting can exert pressure on the midsection, forcing food and acid from the stomach into the oesophagus. It is advisable for people who are prone to indigestion to wear loose-fitting garments, in order to reduce abdominal pressure.

Give Up Smoking

For some people, smoking can be a contributory factor in the causation of indigestion. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can irritate the stomach. In addition, they can also relax the oesophageal sphincter, which is a ring of muscle that normally keeps acid in the stomach. 

Meal Timings

It is beneficial for some people to organise eating patterns so that they are conducive with preventing the symptoms of indigestion. For example, planning meals so that they are consumed at least one hour before exercising, and three hours before sleeping can help to avoid indigestion.

Monitor Symptoms

Taking note of the symptoms, and the foods and activities that preceded them can help you to pinpointing the specific triggers. Once you have established the things that set off a bout of indigestion, you can design a strategy to deal with the offending practices or food item.

Eliminate Common Triggers

One method that can help to reduce indigestion is the elimination of the foods and drinks that commonly cause symptoms. Spicy foods, fatty foods, acidic foods, tomatoes, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol are all known to cause indigestion in some people. After these items have been removed from your diet, you will be in a position to assess whether or not there is an improvement in your symptoms. You can then reintroduce these contentious foods and drinks one a time in order to test their acceptability in isolation.

Natural Remedies

There are number of supplements that are popularly taken to support digestion and to deal with infrequent bouts of indigestion. These include:

  • Milk thistle – traditionally used to relieve the symptoms of occasional indigestion.

  • Ginger – traditionally used to treat indigestion and nausea.

  • Peppermint oil – traditionally used to treat digestive disorders.

  • Liquorice – traditionally used to treat stomach-related disorders such as indigestion.

Sleep at an Incline

For people who experience reflux during the night, sleeping so that your head is positioned higher than your feet may help. This can be achieved by propping up your head and shoulders using an extra pillow or two. The theory is that the action of gravity will help prevent acid moving up from the stomach into the oesophagus while you are sleeping.

Alter Your Eating Patterns

Large or heavy meals mean that the stomach has to work harder. Eating smaller meals more frequently is preferable for people who are prone to indigestion, and care should be taken to eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. It is also important to avoid swallowing an excessive amount of air during eating, by maintaining a closed mouth while chewing.

References
1.    BUPA. “Indigestion”. URL: . [Accessed on 5th May 2016].
2.    NHS Choices, 2014. “Indigestion”. URL: . [Accessed on 5th May 2016].
3.    Web MD, 2014. “Indigestion”. URL: . [Accessed on 5th May 2016].
4.    Talley NJ. Functional dyspepsia: new insights into pathogenesis and therapy. The Korean Journal of Internal Medicine. 2016, May.
5.    Giacosa A, et al. Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract? European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2015, April.
6.    Lee KL. The Indigenization of Liquorice and its Meaning During the Early days of the Joseon Dynasty. Ui sahak. 2015, August.
7.    Kligler B, Chaudhary S. Peppermint Oil. American Family Physician. 2007, April. 
8.    Madisch A. A plant extract and its modified preparation in functional dyspepsia. Results of a double-blind placebo controlled trial. Zeitschrift fur Gastroenterologie. 2001. Jul. 
Article by James C. Qualified Nutritionist

James Connell is a university trained nutritionist with almost a decade and a half of professional experience. James is particularly interested in public health nutrition, and the influence that the foods we eat can exert on our wellbeing. In his spare time, James enjoys cycling and rock climbing, and has also travelled extensively.

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