Indigestion or dyspepsia is a broad term that describes a group of symptoms triggered by the abnormal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, mainly the stomach, the initial part of the small intestine, and at times even the stomach pipe or esophagus.
Some of the common symptoms of indigestion are bloating, excessive gas, growling stomach, abdominal pain, burning sensation in the upper abdomen or heartburn, acidic taste, nausea with or without vomiting, diarrhea or constipation and decreased appetite (1).
Indigestion is more than a symptom; there are a number of reasons why you can develop indigestion. Underlying diseases, lifestyle and food habits contribute to indigestion.
It can be caused by stomach acid coming into contact with the mucosal lining of the digestive system. The acid destroys the mucosal lining leading to irritation and inflammation.
If your digestive system lining is hypersensitive to the stomach acid or there is stretching of the small intestine by food, these can also give rise to indigestion.
Indigestion usually occurs after eating spicy or fatty foods or overeating. It can also be triggered or made worse due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, stress or anxiety, obesity, food allergies, ulcers, stomach infection, thyroid disease, smoking, drinking alcohol, pregnancy, certain medications and rarely stomach cancers.
Knowing the underlying cause is an important step to treating this condition. Although indigestion is generally not a serious problem, it can cause a lot of discomfort and affect your quality of life.
You can easily get relief from minor indigestion symptoms using ingredients from your pantry. For instance, sipping a little water at the first sign of indigestion can give you some relief as it helps increase the gastric pH.
There are also many other remedies that can be used to treat indigestion.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for indigestion. Also, consult your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition.
(Out of the 10, we have covered 3 highly effective home remedies in this video.)
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is often used to kick start a slow stomach. Though acidic in nature, it has an alkalizing effect that helps settle indigestion. It also exhibits antimicrobial activity.
In a study published in 1998, the antibacterial activity of vinegar against food-borne pathogens like E. coli was attributed to acetic acid present in the vinegar (2).
Although there is not much scientific evidence to support this remedy, it is found to be effective in cases of indigestion by users.
- Add 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a cup of water.
- Mix in 1 teaspoon of raw honey.
- Drink this solution 2 or 3 times a day for quick relief.
Use always the diluted form of apple cider vinegar as described above as in the concentrated form it can cause esophageal burns. Do not use this frequently as it can erode the enamel of your teeth.
2. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds can be really helpful for indigestion caused by very spicy or fatty food.
The chemical components of fennel seeds include mainly anethol, flavonoids, tannins, coumarins and terpenoids.
- Dry roast, grind, and sieve fennel seeds. Take half a teaspoon of this powder along with water. Follow this remedy twice daily.
- Alternatively, you can drink fennel tea, made by steeping two teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds in a cup of hot water.
- Another option is to simply chew a spoonful of fennel seeds for symptom relief.
Ginger possesses a myriad of health benefits especially for stomach-related problems such as nausea and stomach pain.
A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2011, showed that ginger was an effective therapy for patients with functional dyspepsia. The gastroprotective effects of ginger are due to its free radical scavenging, antioxidant, and inhibition of lipid peroxidation characteristics (4).
It also stimulates digestive juices and the flow of enzymes that help you digest your food. This makes ginger an effective remedy for indigestion, especially when it is caused by overeating.
In fact, as a preventive measure, you can sprinkle a little salt on some fresh ginger slices and chew it thoroughly after eating a heavy meal.
- Mix together 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of table salt and black salt. Consume this mixture with or without water, whatever suits you.
- Another option is to add 2 teaspoons of ginger juice and 1 teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm water and drink it.
- You can also drink homemade ginger tea to get relief from bloating, cramps, gas and stomach aches. To make ginger tea, boil 1 teaspoon of grated ginger in a cup of water, then let it steep for another 5 minutes.
- Adding ginger as a spice in your recipes can also help if you are suffering from indigestion.
4. Baking Soda
Indigestion often happens due to high levels of stomach acids. Baking soda is one of the most simple and effective treatments for this problem because it acts like an antacid. It is also claimed to detoxify the digestive system.
It is important to take not more than ½ teaspoon of baking soda for indigestion. Baking soda is said to react with the stomach acid and release carbon dioxide gas, which thereby provides relief from indigestion through belching (5).
- Stir ½ teaspoon of baking soda into ½ glass of water.
- Drink it immediately to neutralize the acid in your stomach and give you relief from bloating.
5. Carom Seeds
Carom seeds, also known as Bishop’s weed or ajwain, have digestive and carminative properties that help treat indigestion, flatulence and diarrhea.
Ajwain seeds are a rich source of fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Many of the medicinal properties of carom seeds can be attributed to its bioactive constituents like thymol, para-cymene, α- pinene, β-pinene and γ-terpinene.
- Grind together some carom seeds and dried ginger into a fine powder. Add 1 teaspoon of this powder and a little black pepper to a cup of warm water and drink it. Do this once or twice a day.
- Simply eating ½ teaspoon of carom seeds a few times a day can also provide relief from indigestion.
6. Herbal Tea
Drinking herbal tea after eating a heavy meal can greatly reduce indigestion. Peppermint tea and chamomile tea, in particular, help calm your stomach and relieve digestive problems.
Chamomile is one of the abundant sources of dietary antioxidants. It contains several flavonoids , polyphenols and terpenoids. The flavonoids and polyphenols are soluble in hot water and are responsible for the potent antioxidant activity (8). So the best way to enjoy the antioxidant benefits of chamomile is to sip a hot cup of chamomile tea!
Peppermint is widely used in different systems of medicine for its analgesic, anesthetic, antiseptic, astringent, decongestant, inflammatory diseases, expectorant, stomachic and carminative properties. It is also used to treat ulcer and stomach problems.
A comparative study performed in a group of people in 1999 suggested that the combination of peppermint oil and caraway seed oil was found to be as effective in reducing the pain as the conventional drug cisapride (no longer available) used for treatment of non ulcerous dyspepsia (9).
- Dip your favorite brand of chamomile or peppermint tea bag into a hot cup of water and cover it for 5 minutes.
- Drink it while it is still warm.
Cumin has a long history of use as an Ayurvedic remedy for digestive problems including indigestion, nausea, diarrhea and flatulence.
Most of its beneficial effects are due to active ingredients like cumin aldehyde, terpenes, phenols and flavonoids.
It has indigenously been used for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, diuretic properties and in the treatment of indigestion, jaundice, and flatulence (3). It stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes that aid digestion (10).
- Mix 1 teaspoon of roasted cumin seed powder in a glass of water and drink it a few times a day.
- For heaviness in the stomach, add ¼ teaspoon each of roasted cumin seed powder and black pepper to a glass of buttermilk and drink it 2 or 3 times a day for a few days.
Coriander is an effective spice to treat indigestion as it promotes the production of digestive enzymes and helps calm the stomach. Coriander seeds are top on the roll of healing spices with many therapeutic uses.
The essential oil from coriander has an increased phytonutrient content including carvone, geraniol, limonene, borneol, camphor and the major constituent linalool
In addition to being a wonderful appetizer, coriander aids in the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices in the stomach. Its compounds like borneol and linalool help in proper functioning of the liver and cure diarrhea.
Its active constituents like cineole, limonene, borneol, betaphelandrene and alpha-pinene have antibacterial activity, which help treat diarrhea caused by microbes (3).
- Add 1 teaspoon of roasted coriander seed powder to a glass of buttermilk and drink it once or twice a day.
- To reduce acidity in the stomach, extract the juice of fresh coriander leaves and mix 1 teaspoon of this juice in 1 cup of buttermilk. Drink it 2 or 3 times a day.
9. Basil Leaves
Basil is an excellent Ayurvedic remedy for indigestion and acid reflux. It also helps relieve intestinal gas, thanks to its carminative properties.
Basil is rich in flavonoids, terpenes and phytosterols. These contribute to its antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties (11).
- Add 1 teaspoon of basil to a cup of hot water and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups of this tea a day.
- Mix 5 or 6 ground basil leaves, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt and a little black pepper powder in 2 to 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Consume it 2 or 3 times a day.
This readily available spice can be of great help when suffering from indigestion. Cinnamon helps in the digestive process and can provide relief from cramps and bloating.
Cinnamon has powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and antipyretic properties that also help in tissue repair. In the oriental system of herbal medicine it is used to treat many ailments right from common colds, cardiovascular diseases, chronic gastrointestinal disorders to gynecological disorders.
Cinnamon is also found to be useful in treating sore throats, cough, indigestion, abdominal cramps, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea (12).
- Make a cup of cinnamon tea by adding ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a cup of boiling water and let it steep for a few minutes.
- Drink it while it is still warm for best results.
- Eat smaller and more frequent meals.
- Eat slowly.
- Avoid extremely spicy and fatty foods.
- Avoid binge eating.
- Do not lie down immediately after a meal.
- Cut back on your alcohol consumption.
- Stop smoking.
- Manage stress.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Discuss with your doctor about changing the medications that tend to irritate the stomach lining. Try to cut back on pain relievers.
Consult your physician if there are changes in your symptoms, or indigestion symptoms aggravate, or if they are accompanied by unintentional weight loss, bloody stools, difficulty in swallowing, or inability to eat due to poor appetite. Mild indigestion is usually something you need not panic about.
Here is one more remedy for those who have tried all the rest!
Asafetida, also called hing, is a plant resin that is used as flavoring in the Middle East and Asia. It is used to treat breathing problems like bronchitis, whooping cough, hoarse throat and digestive problems including flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome and upset stomach. You can get it in most Indian food stores.
- Add a glass of warm water to a pinch of asafetida.
- Mix it well and drink it 2 or 3 times to get effective results.
- Indigestion (Dyspepsia) | NIDDK. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/indigestion-dyspepsia.
- Entani, E., Asai, M., Tsujihata, S., Tsukamoto, Y. & Ohta, M. Antibacterial action of vinegar against food-borne pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia coli O157:H7. J. Food Prot. 61, 953–9 (1998).
- Rathore, S. S., Saxena, S. N. & Singh, B. Potential health benefits of major seed spices. Int. J. Seed Spices
- Hu, M.-L. et al. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J. Gastroenterol. 17, 105–10 (2011).
- Fordtran, J. S., Morawski, S. G., Santa Ana, C. A. & Rector, F. C. Gas Production After Reaction of Sodium Bicarbonate and Hydrochloric Acid. Gastroenterology 87, 1014–21 (1984).
- Jeyabalan, J., Aqil, F., Soper, L., Schultz, D. J. & Gupta, R. C. Potent Chemopreventive/Antioxidant Activity Detected in Common Spices of the Apiaceae Family. Nutr. Cancer 67, 1201–7 (2015).
- Boskabady, M. H., Alitaneh, S. & Alavinezhad, A. Carum copticum L.: a herbal medicine with various pharmacological effects. Biomed Res. Int. 2014, 569087 (2014).
- Bhaskaran, N., Srivastava, J. K., Shukla, S. & Gupta, S. Chamomile Confers Protection against Hydrogen Peroxide-Induced Toxicity through Activation of Nrf2-Mediated Defense Response. Phytother. Res. 27, 118 (2013).
- Madisch, A., Heydenreich, C.-J., Wieland, V., Hufnagel, R. & Hotz, J. Treatment of Functional Dyspepsia with a Fixed Peppermint Oil and Caraway Oil Combination Preparation as Compared to Cisapride. Arzneimittelforschung 49, 925–932 (2011).
- Platel, K. & Srinivasan, K. Influence of dietary spices and their active principles on pancreatic digestive enzymes in albino rats. Nahrung/Food 44, 42–46 (2000).
- Esiyok, D., Ötles, S. & Akcicek, E. COMMENTARY Herbs as a Food Source in Turkey. J. Cancer Prev. Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev 5, 334–339 (2004).
- Vinitha, M. & Ballal, M. In vitro Anticandidal Activity of Cinnamomum verum.