Indigestion is a word often passed around to describe unpleasant symptoms gained after eating, but what exactly is it? And why am I getting it?
A group of symptoms that are often considered to be passed off as ‘normal’, due to their consistent reoccurrence after eating, actually define a health disorder that can be reduced or rid of with dietary changes and mindful eating.1
What Is Indigestion?
Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is known as a pain felt in the stomach or under the ribs. Four out of every 10 people in the UK suffer with the condition.2 The condition usually brings on a full and uncomfortable sensation in the stomach, followed by bloating, heartburn, belching and gas, nausea, vomiting, and a burning sensation in the upper stomach.3 These symptoms can affect an individual’s quality of life and every day performance, and therefore, should not be left untreated.
Indigestion is caused by stomach acid meeting with the fragile lining of the digestive system known as the mucosa.4 This tends to cause irritation which leads to many of the symptoms listed above.1 Certain dietary choices tend to cause the gastric acid secretion, in addition to the speed at which you eat, or swallowing excess air while eating.5
Eating Habits For Indigestion
There are many ways to diminish the extent to which these symptoms are experienced through simple dietary changes and alters in eating habits.
- Eating smaller meals throughout the day will help the digestive system to break down foods, as it will help the digestive system not to become overloaded and have to work as hard at once. When food is not properly digested, it builds up in the stomach, encouraging stomach acid production, which can lead to backsplash of stomach acid and pressure in the lower oesophagus (LES), causing heartburn.6
- Avoid swallowing excess air while eating by eating slower, and smaller bites, and reduce talking during meals. This will lower the level or gas produced, which produces bloating.7
- Emotional stress can influence indigestion, since the body is not focusing on digesting foods, but rather managing stress levels.7
- Fizzy drinks can cause a build up of excess gas, which can influence bloating.7
- Acidic foods tend to increase the amount of stomach acid that the stomach produces, causing irritation to the stomach lining. Sticking to foods with a higher pH will help the body to produce less stomach acid.8 Consuming a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar when indigestion occurs can help to neutralise stomach acid.9
- Avoid spicy foods.7
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption.7
- Avoid smoking.7
- Reduce the intake of pain medications (Ibuprofen, Paracetamol), as they can damage the stomach lining.1
Can Supplements Help?
As avoiding all of these foods on a daily basis may be difficult, taking certain supplements and increasing your consumption of other types of foods may help to decrease the level to which the symptoms can occur.
The ginger root is known for its ability to prevent nausea and vomiting.10
It has the ability to be an antiemetic and aid in digestion due to the presence of its compounds gingerol and shogaol, and how they influence M-receptors (G-protein receptors in the cell membrane).11 It can reduce the symptoms associated with indigestion by aiding digestion, preventing nausea, and decreasing chances of vomiting.11
The turmeric root also has the potential to increase digestion, by encouraging the production of bile juices in the gut, due to its presence of the polyphenol Curcumin.12 Bile’s job is to emulsify lipids and break them down into small particles.13 So by increasing the production of bile juices, the stomach has an easier time digesting and breaking down fats, promoting digestion and reducing indigestion.14
Gut bacteria play a key role in digestion and immune health. The gut bacteria present in your body help to break down food; without a sufficient supply of these in your digestive system, it can be difficult for the body to properly digest food, causing indigestion to arise. Taking a tablet of acidophilus daily can promote healthy digestion and decrease the symptoms associated with indigestion.15
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