A Complete Guide: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Indigestion is a set of symptoms including discomfort, feeling of fullness soon after eating, chest pain sometimes accompanied by heartburn, and others. Indigestion may or may not have any apparent causes. The most common type of indigestion is functional dyspepsia, also known as non-ulcer dyspepsia.
Indigestion is common, short-term, and diminishes with changing the lifestyle or over-the-counter medications. Nonetheless, it is highly discomforting and can signify a grave underlying condition. Therefore, it must not be overlooked.
What is Indigestion?
Medically known as dyspepsia, indigestion is a collection of symptoms like abdominal cramps, difficulty in digesting food, a tight full stomach, and sometimes hyperacidity. It affects the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, a set of body organs involved in digestion.
Although sometimes heartburn and indigestion are considered the same, they are, in fact, different conditions. While indigestion is a broader term for multiple digestive problems, heartburn is only a type of indigestion. It is also known as Acid Reflex and happens when stomach acid comes into the esophagus. They may occur simultaneously or separately.
There are many signs or symptoms of indigestion. It is essential to understand these signs to get a better idea about the condition. Although indigestion is common, its symptoms may vary from person to person. Some of the general symptoms are discussed below:
Feeling of Fullness Before Finishing A Meal
Also known as early satiety, it happens when your tummy feels full after consuming only a small amount of meal. Consequently, you are not able to eat a full meal. It feels odd, discomforting, and lasts longer.
Belching is also known as burping. It happens when the body tries to get rid of extra air through the upper digestive tract. Belching occurs when you swallow air along with food.
Nausea and Vomiting
Both nausea and vomiting are associated with heartburn. People who suffer from acid reflux during indigestion may experience a bitter taste and excessive coughing and burping. These conditions can lead to nausea or even vomiting.
Heartburn and Abdominal Pain
Heartburn and upper abdominal pain are the most common signs of indigestion. Sometimes stomach acid comes in contact with mucosa, a sensitive protective lining of the digestive tract. The acid can break down the lining, thus causing irritation, burning, and pain.
Stomach growling is also known as stomach gurgling or stomach noises. The stomach makes noises when food, liquid, or gas passes through the digestive tract, specifically the stomach and small intestine. Typically stomach growling is usual and nothing to worry about. However, frequent and loud growling is a symptom of indigestion.
Some of the rare and severe symptoms of indigestion are:
- Complications while swallowing
- Continuous vomiting
- Black stool
- Blood in stool
- Blood in vomit
- Sudden weight loss
- Feeling asthmatic
- Sudden pain in the neck, chest, arm, or jaw
- Constant abdominal pain
- Sweating and yellowish skin
One or more of these symptoms indicate a severe condition. It will help if you visit your doctor if you are experiencing these signs.
What Causes Digestion Issues?
There are two leading causes of indigestion.
- Health-related conditions
Different people encounter indigestion either due to one or both causes mentioned above.
Indigestion due to lifestyle
Mostly indigestion is related to lifestyle. Either a drastic change in lifestyle or a sedentary lifestyle may lead to indigestion. Some of the most common causes of indigestion related to lifestyle are discussed here.
Overeating may lead to severe indigestion; after overeating, the stomach inflates, pushing against other organs and causing discomfort. Also, overeating causes the stomach to release extra enzymes, hormones, and hydrochloric acid. An excessive amount of these metabolites can immediately lead to indigestion.
Our digestive tract is a collection of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, liver, and intestines. When you drink alcohol, it comes in contact with each of these organs, affecting their functionality. For example, excessive drinking can lead to increased production of hydrochloric acid. HCl in excessive amounts can damage the internal lining of the stomach, causing alcoholic gastritis. Alcoholic gastritis, in turn, stimulates indigestion.
During a stressed condition body’s sympathetic nervous system becomes active. This system triggers the fight or flight response, preparing the body for impending danger. During fight or flight response, the functions that are not required at the moment are slowed down. Digestion is one of those functions. In this way, stress can cause indigestion. Moreover, chronic stress can have more drastic effects on the digestive system.
Smokers encounter digestive problems more often than non-smokers. Smoking is the leading cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), an influx of stomach acid into the esophagus. Usually, the esophagus is protected from the stomach acid through a valve known as the esophageal sphincter. But nicotine weakens the esophageal sphincter triggering the surge of acid into the esophagus and damaging it. In this way, smoking can cause heartburn and digestive issues.
Another major cause of indigestion is eating quickly. When you have eaten enough, your gut signals your brain to tell you to stop eating. But if you are a quick eater, you can miss these signals, thus consuming more than enough. Hence overeating can lead to indigestion as well as heartburn. Moreover, quick eating is also linked with gassiness and bloating because it can increase air inflow.
Particular medication can also lead to indigestion. For example, antibiotics like clindamycin and tetracycline can irritate the esophagus and stimulate acid reflux. Some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen can also cause indigestion.
Health Problems and Indigestion
Apart from lifestyle, certain diseases and health issues also cause indigestion. People suffering from these specific conditions are more prone to indigestion. Some of the most common diseases associated with indigestion are mentioned below:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Stomach Ulcer
- Stomach Cancer
- Gallbladder Inflammation
- Helicobacter pylori Infection
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Hypochlorhydria (Low level of Hydrochloric Acid)
- Hiatus Hernia
- Food Sensitivity
- Food Intolerance
How to Make It Go Away?
Sometimes this ailment becomes challenging to avoid because there is no single reason behind it. Several reasons are associated with indigestion. Therefore, to make digestion go away, you must understand the underlying causes of your digestive problem. Only then will you be able to keep indigestion away. Some precautions that you can take are:
- Changing Lifestyle
- Avoiding sedentary habits
- Avoiding overeating
- Cutting down on alcohol
- Adopting meditation therapy to reduce stress
- Quitting smoking
- Eating slowly
- Consulting doctor if the medicine that you are taking is the cause of indigestion
Foods To Avoid For Less Indigestion
As discussed earlier, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is the most common and repetitive cause of indigestion. It is the condition when excessive acid comes in contact with the sensitive lining of the digestive system. Sometimes this acid can also seep into the esophagus, damaging the delicate tissues of the internal lining of the esophagus.
This condition is commonly known as acid reflux. Certain foods can increase acid production in the stomach. By avoiding these foods, you can reduce the chance of indigestion. You should avoid following foods during indigestion.
Fats are difficult to digest and stay longer inside the stomach. This stimulates your stomach to produce more hydrochloric acid. Moreover, high-fat meals also weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), releasing excessive acid into the esophagus, and triggering gastroesophageal reflux disease.
These are the fatty foods to avoid:
- Fried Foods
- Junk Foods
- Sauces and dips
- Potato Chips
- Carbonated Drinks
Although spicy food is not associated with ulcers, it can stimulate acid reflux in some people. People already suffering from functional dyspepsia can experience upper gastrointestinal symptoms due to consuming spicy food.
Food rich in carbohydrates causes acid reflux. Studies have shown the link between carbohydrate-rich food and the production of more stomach acid. Carbohydrate diets also produce gas and bloating. Moreover, some people are also sensitive to lactose found in dairy products. After consuming these products, they cannot digest lactose hence experiencing gassiness and bloating.
Some standard drinks like carbonated drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol, and even citrus juices can also enhance symptoms related to GERD and Indigestion. Caffeine present in coffee is linked with increased acidity. On the other hand, carbon dioxide is an essential part of soft drinks. When not burped out completely, this carbon dioxide remains inside the body, stimulating bloat.
Foods You Should Eat To Help Indigestion
Certain foods have proven to be the best remedies for indigestion. These foods effectively prevent or cure gas, acid reflux, or abdominal pain. Some foods that can help you are:
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory and alkaline nature makes it the first choice to relieve acid reflux and abdominal pain. Antioxidants present in ginger are known for easing nausea and indigestion.
Food rich in fibers effectively cures digestive problems, including Indigestion and acid reflux. These foods satisfy your hunger and make you feel full, preventing overeating. Moreover, some essential fibers like prebiotics promote the growth of probiotics in your body. These probiotics are suitable for the digestive system.
Foods like lettuce, cucumber, watermelon, pineapple, oranges, and celery are high in water. These foods help you with acid reflux and indigestion. Water present in these foods weakens and dilutes stomach acid.
Some of the other foods to prevent or cure indigestion are:
- Herbal Tea
- Green Vegetables
- Apple cider vinegar
Indigestion is a collection of multiple symptoms, from abdominal pain to acid reflux. There are numerous causes that arise from either lifestyle or some diseases. It is necessary to understand the underlying causes to avoid it.
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