Indigestion or dyspepsia is a broad term that describes a group of symptoms triggered by the abnormal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.
This happens when the acids in the stomach break down the protective lining of the digestive system, called the mucosa, leading to irritation and inflammation in the upper abdomen (such as the stomach), the initial part of the small intestine, and (in some cases) the food pipe or esophagus.
Although indigestion is closely related to eating habits, it can be caused by other factors as well.
What Causes Indigestion?
Knowing the underlying cause is an important step towards treating this condition. Here are a few common causes that may give rise to indigestion:
- Spicy foods
- Underlying diseases such as ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid dysfunction, chronic pancreatitis, and stomach cancer (rare)
- Anxiety or depression
- Smoking or alcohol consumption
- Certain drugs such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), thyroid medicines, steroids, and sometimes oral contraceptive pills
- Lifestyle factors
- A digestive system lining that is hypersensitive to the stomach acid
Signs and Symptoms of Indigestion
Indigestion is accompanied by various symptoms that may cause considerable uneasiness. Common symptoms associated with indigestion include:
- Excessive gas
- Growling stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Burning sensation in the upper abdomen or heartburn
- Acidic taste
- Nausea (with or without vomiting)
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Decreased appetite
Complications Regarding Indigestion
Generally, indigestion does not have any serious complications. However, it can cause a lot of discomforts. Indigestion can affect your dietary intake, hamper your productivity, and affect the quality of your life.
Underlying conditions that tend to cause indigestion tend to get complicated over time.
Here are a few tips to help you keep digestive issues at bay:
- Eat smaller and more frequent meals.
- Eat slowly.
- Avoid extremely spicy and fatty foods.
- Avoid binge eating.
- Do not lie down right after having your 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 may end up irritating the stomach lining.
- If possible, cut back on pain relievers.
When to See a Doctor
Mild indigestion is something you need not worry about. It’s a pretty common situation and can be dealt with easily. However, a prolonged case of indigestion lasting more than 2 weeks calls for a medical review.
Check for the following symptoms that can be indicative of a serious condition:
- Black-colored tarry stools
- Vomit containing blood
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased frequency of vomiting
- Constant pain in the abdomen
- Unintentional weight loss
- Rapid breath
- Skin and eyes turning yellow in color
- Pain in the jaw, neck, chest, and arm
Your doctor will inquire about your symptoms and medical history. He will also conduct a physical examination and prescribe some tests in case of unexplained indigestion in some people with;
- A family history of cancer
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bleeding from the digestive tract openings
- Increased frequency of vomiting
- Unintentional weight loss
The tests may include:
- Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and imaging tests (x-ray and CT scan) to check for abnormalities or an obstruction in the upper digestive tract
- Blood tests to check for metabolic disorders
- Stool tests to check for the presence of pylori
Depending upon the diagnosis, your primary care doctor (general or family practitioner) will refer you to a gastroenterologist.
Treatment for Indigestion
Mild indigestion can be treated with over-the-counter medicines and prescription antacids.
- Antacids, such as ranitidine and famotidine, and proton-pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole, to relieve the symptoms of indigestion by neutralizing the stomach acids.
- In case your indigestion is a result of a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
- If you are on a medication that is causing your indigestion, your doctor might prescribe a change in your medicines.
Simple Ways to Get Rid of Indigestion
Here are a number of easy-to-follow home remedies for mild indigestion.
1. Drink Adequate Amounts of Water
Keep yourself hydrated. Staying hydrated ensures healthy digestion as the body has ample amounts of water that aid in digestion and help absorb nutrients from food. Water also helps wash down the acid that can cause indigestion.
Indigestion can be accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting and can render you dehydrated. Staying dehydrated can debilitate your body’s digestive system and make you vulnerable to indigestion.
- Drinking approximately 8 or more cups a day can cater to your body’s water needs.
2. Gulp Down a Solution of Baking Soda
Indigestion is often a result of high levels of stomach acids. Baking soda is one of the best treatments for this problem because it acts as an antacid and provides instant relief. It is also believed to be useful in detoxifying the digestive system.
Baking soda should be consumed in moderate amounts (about ½ teaspoon) when being used as a remedy for indigestion. Baking soda is said to react with the stomach acid and release carbon dioxide gas, offering relief from indigestion through belching.
- Stir a ½ teaspoon of baking soda into a ½ glass of water.
- Drink this solution immediately to neutralize the acid in your stomach.
3. Include Probiotics in Your Diet
Probiotics contain a host of beneficial bacteria that can help replenish the intestinal microflora and contribute to a healthy gut.
Consuming probiotics in a required amount can help relieve your indigestion woes and can aid in better digestion by targeting the gut.
A 2017 study published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology found the consumption of probiotics as an effective method to normalize the gut microbiota and treat functional dyspepsia.
- Consume probiotic sources such as kefir and yogurt.
4. A Spoonful of Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds can be helpful in treating indigestion caused by spicy or fatty foods. The chemical components of fennel seeds mainly include anethol, flavonoids, tannins, coumarins, and terpenoids.
The essential oils and other compounds present in fennel seeds help relieve nausea and control flatulence. This ingredient also boasts analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
- Dry roast, grind, and sieve fennel seeds. Take a ½ a teaspoon of fennel seed powder along with water. Follow this remedy twice daily.
- Drinking fennel tea, prepared by steeping 2 teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds in 1 cup of hot water, is another way to use this ingredient to cure indigestion.
- Another option is to simply chew a spoonful of fennel seeds to get relief from the symptoms of indigestion.
5. Consuming Ginger Concoctions may Help
It also stimulates digestive juices and the flow of enzymes that help you digest food. This is why ginger is a useful remedy for indigestion, especially when it is caused by overeating.
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 lipid peroxidation inhibition characteristics.
Ginger can also be used as a preventive measure to keep away stomach issues after a heavy meal. Simply sprinkle a little salt on a few fresh ginger slices and chew them thoroughly after your meal.
Here are other ways to use ginger for indigestion:
- 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.
- Alternatively, you may add 2 teaspoons of ginger juice and 1 teaspoon of honey to 1 cup of warm water and drink the mixture in order to get rid of indigestion.
- You may also drink homemade ginger tea to get relief from bloating, cramps, gas, and stomach aches. To prepare ginger tea, boil 1 teaspoon of grated ginger in 1 cup of water and let it steep for 5 minutes before straining it out in a cup.
- Adding ginger as a spice in your recipes can also help cure and prevent indigestion.
6. Absorb the Freshness of Peppermint Tea
Peppermint is widely used in different systems of medicine for its analgesic, anesthetic, antiseptic, astringent, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, stomachic, and carminative properties. Well known for its wonderful effects, peppermint can also help soothe your stomach problems including nausea and indigestion.
A comparative study performed in a group of people suggested that the combination of peppermint oil and caraway seed oil was found to be as effective in reducing pain as the conventional drug cisapride (no longer available) used for the treatment of non-ulcerous dyspepsia.
- You can drink a cup of peppermint tea after meals to ease indigestion. Alternatively, you can keep a few pieces of peppermint candy in your pocket and chew it after meals.
7. Chew Carom Seeds
Carom seeds, also known as bishop’s weed, have been used as an age-old remedy to treat indigestion. Their digestive and carminative qualities can help treat indigestion, diarrhea, and flatulence.
Carom seeds are a rich source of fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Many of the medicinal properties of carom seeds can be attributed to their bioactive constituents, including thymol, para-cymene, α-pinene, β-pinene, and γ-terpinene.
In addition to the therapeutic uses, carom seeds also possess antibacterial and antiseptic properties. They can also be effective in reducing pimples and acne, treating cholera, and preventing kidney disorders.
- Grind some carom seeds and dried ginger to make a fine powder. Add 1 teaspoon of this powder and a little black pepper to 1 cup of warm water, and drink the mixture. Follow this remedy once or twice a day.
- Consuming a ½ teaspoon of carom seeds a few times a day may also provide relief from indigestion.
8. Use Licorice root
Licorice root can help manage gastroenterological disorders.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the root extract of G. glabra significantly decreased the symptoms of functional dyspepsia as compared with the placebo group.
- Chew deglycyrrhizinated licorice tablets for relief. Alternatively, you can add licorice root to boiling water and drink the mixture.
Note: Excess consumption of licorice can cause an imbalance in the levels of sodium and potassium and can spike the blood pressure levels. Always consult your doctor before taking licorice supplements.
Ensure that your consumption of dried Licorice root does not exceed 2.5 grams per day. Maintain a time gap of at least 30 minutes before or after meals when consuming for indigestion.
9. Drink Chamomile Tea
Drinking chamomile tea after eating a heavy meal can greatly reduce the chances of ending up with indigestion.
Chamomile is a good source 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. This is why the best way to enjoy the antioxidant benefits of chamomile is to sip a hot cup of chamomile tea!
- Dip your favorite brand of chamomile or peppermint tea bag in a cup of hot water and cover it for 5 minutes.
- Drink the tea while it is still warm.
10. Sip Cumin Water
Cumin is an age-old Ayurvedic remedy for digestive problems such as indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and flatulence.
Most of its benefits stem from its active ingredients, including cuminaldehyde, terpenes, phenols, and flavonoids.
It has indigenously been used for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, and diuretic properties, and it helps in treating indigestion, jaundice, and flatulence. Cumin stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes that aid digestion.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of roasted cumin seed powder in 1 glass of water. Drink this solution a few times a day.
- For heaviness in the stomach, add ¼ teaspoon of roasted cumin seed powder and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to 1 glass of buttermilk. Drink this mixture two to three times a day. Continue using this remedy for a few days.
11. Use Coriander Powder
This spice effectively treats indigestion as it promotes the production of digestive enzymes and helps in soothing the stomach. Owing to its various therapeutic uses, coriander seeds are considered to be among the most beneficial and “healing” spices.
The essential oil obtained from coriander has high phytonutrient content, including carvone, geraniol, limonene, borneol, and camphor, along with the major constituent, linalool.
Other than being a wonderful appetizer, coriander aids in the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices in the stomach. Its compounds, such as borneol and linalool, help in the proper functioning of the liver and curing diarrhea.
- Add 1 teaspoon of roasted coriander seed powder to 1 glass of buttermilk. Drink this mixture 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 the mixture two to three times a day.
12. Drink Basil Leaf Tea
Basil packs a punch of flavonoids, terpenes, and phytosterols. These contribute to its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Add 1 teaspoon of basil to 1 cup of hot water and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups of this tea daily.
- Mix 5-6 basil leaves (ground), ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, and a little black pepper powder in 2-3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Consume the mixture two to three times a day.
13. Sip on a Cup of Cinnamon Tea
Cinnamon has been used in the oriental system of herbal medicine to treat several ailments including common colds, cardiovascular diseases, chronic gastrointestinal disorders, and gynecological disorders. Cinnamon has powerful antioxidant, antibacterial, and antipyretic properties that also help in tissue repair.
Cinnamon can be of great help for people suffering from indigestion. Cinnamon helps the digestive process and may provide relief from cramps and bloating.
- Make a cup of cinnamon tea by adding ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder to 1 cup of boiling water. Let it steep for a few minutes.
- Drink the tea while it is still warm for best results.
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.
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.
- Sipping some water at the first sign of indigestion offers relief as it helps increase the gastric pH.
- Asafoetida is popularly used for curing digestive problems including flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, and upset stomach. Simply mix a pinch of asafoetida in 1 glass of water. Drink the solution two or three times.
Dyspepsia or indigestion is a common health problem that can affect people of any age group. The discomfort that accompanies indigestion is manifested in the form of nausea, bloating, and dehydration.
Although not a serious situation, indigestion can take a toll on your health and can leave you exhausted. A mild case of indigestion can be cured by some over-the-counter medications, lifestyle changes, and even natural ingredients lying in your kitchen cabinet.
It is imperative to be consistent in your efforts and keep a check on factors that can trigger indigestion in your system.
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