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Indigestion: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Home Remedies

Last Updated: Jun 29, 2021

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What is Indigestion?

Indigestion is basically a problem related to eating and it manifests itself as an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, pain or a burning sensation in the upper abdomen. Acidity, cramps, bloating and gas are the add on.

Usually, it is very common, but individuals may have different symptoms. Indigestion is usually caused by unhealthy choices like junk food, lack of or no exercise, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, etc.

If the cause of indigestion is not because of these common issues then it might be because of some underlying conditions like stomach infections, ulcers, IBS, thyroid disorders, and pancreatitis. Indigestion could be:

  • Occasional: Occurs once in a while
  • Chronic: Occurs regularly for weeks to months
  • Functional: Indigestion without symptoms

If indigestion is left untreated, it can seriously hamper daily life.

Why do I have Indigestion?

The reason for your indigestion could be:

  • Drinking an excess of alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeine
  • Eating large meals at once, chewing slowly, spicy and greasy food
  • Stress, anxiety, depression
  • Smoking
  • Taking medications that cause indigestion like some antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

How common is Indigestion?

Indigestion is so common that at least 1 in 4 people suffers from indigestion in the United States only. And out of those 4 that get medical attention, 3 of them get diagnosed with functional indigestion.

What are the symptoms of Indigestion?

Symptoms of indigestion are:

  • Fullness during and after a meal
  • Mild to severe stomach ache
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Burning sensation in the abdomen
  • Heartburn
  • Gastritis
  • Acidity

Severe symptoms of indigestion that should not be ignored are:

Indigestion is often a symptom of any other serious problem that a person can be suffering from like:

What causes Indigestion?

Indigestion occurs when the acid in the stomach comes in contact with the sensitive protective lining of the digestive system. This lining of the digestive tract gets inflamed and irritated due to the presence of acid. However, very few people suffer from digestive system inflammation.

Indigestion and its accompanying symptoms are usually caused by irritation in the sensitive region of the digestive system. It is generally because of eating a certain food that is hard to digest, alcohol, smoking, the food properly before ingesting it, stress, pregnancy.

Can you have indigestion for days?

Indigestion, commonly referred to as abnormal digestion, is a chronic condition that continues to affect our gastrointestinal tract for a longer period of time. It is characterized by periodicity i.e fluctuations in the symptoms which show an increased frequency and severity during a particular duration, followed by a decrease in the same for another duration.

Who is at risk for indigestion?

Anyone with following issues are at risk for indigestion:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Taking drugs that upset the digestive system
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Abnormalities in the digestive system
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How is indigestion diagnosed?

If the indigestion is mild and infrequent, it does not need a medical analysis and can be cured at home. However, if it is recurring, sever, and comes with major symptoms then the diagnosis of indigestion would proceed in the following way:

  • Analysis of medical history, symptoms, and eating habits
  • A physical exam
  • An X-ray of the stomach
  • Diagnosis may also include blood tests, stool tests to understand the underlying cause of indigestion.
  • Endoscopy, this will help in the diagnosis of
  • Ulcers
  • Cancer
  • Reflux esophagitis
  • Inflammatory disorders

How long does indigestion (dyspepsia) last?

Indigestion may last for a day to weeks and months. It depends on the cause, type (occasional, chronic, and functional), and severity of the condign. Indigestion can be treated with some natural home remedies. However, if it’s chronic it is better to get tested.

What is the treatment for indigestion?

Treatment of indigestion differs, it depends on the severity of the condition. Indigestion generally goes away on its own or can be treated with home remedies, or over-the-counter medications. Regardless of the treatment, its cure will ultimately depend on what is causing indigestion.

  • A person suffering from indigestion due to Helicobacter pylori might be prescribed a combination of antibiotic and acid-blockers.
  • If a person suffering from indigestion due to depression may be prescribed anti-depressants.
  • A person suffering from stomach indigestion due to excessive stomach acid may be prescribed antacids. They provide immediate relief from indigestion by neutralizing the acid in the stomach.
  • Other medications include:
  • A person suffering from stomach indigestion due to GERD, gastritis or esophagitis, powerful acid-blockers like:

Anybody suffering from indigestion should avoid exercising with a full stomach, should not lie down immediately after eating and wait for at least 3 hours after the last meal of the day and then go to bed.

Does water help indigestion?

Consuming water frequently aids in digestion and thus helps in indigestion. The pH level of water is neutral and can raise the pH level of the gastric juice in the stomach thereby lowering the acidity of the stomach. Additionally, water can clear out the oesophagus providing a relief from the symptoms of indigestion.

Does milk help indigestion?

Home remedies have always been proven as a boon as far as gastrointestinal abnormalities are concerned. Milk is one of them which is linked to the well-being of the gut in case of indigestion. As fat is an aggravating factor for acid-reflux, the fat-free milk i.e skimmed milk should always be preferred that actually acts a buffering agent and neutralises the acidity of the stomach.

What are the precautions to be taken to avoid indigestion?

There are some precautions that can be taken for indigestion like:

  • Eating smaller meals throughout the day
  • Chewing slowly and properly
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid late-night eating
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Reduce the consumption of carbonated drinks

How should I sleep with indigestion?

Though prescription drugs or over the counter medicines can alleviate the symptoms of indigestion, prevention of indigestion is the cornerstone of treatment. Sleeping on the left side, sleeping with the upper body elevated, wearing loose-fitting clothes during sleep and avoiding late night meals should be followed to avoid indigestion.

Are there any side effects?

A. Some of the problems associated with the consumption of proton pump inhibitors include:

B. H2 receptor blockers generally provide mild side-effects that generally go away within a few days. However it may cause constipation.

C. Antacids may cause milk-alkali syndrome and dose-dependent rebound hyperacidity. If a person consumes antacids containing aluminium hydroxide he/she can suffer from:

  • Constipation
  • Osteomalacia
  • Hypophosphatemia
  • Aluminium-intoxication

D. Consuption of sodium alginate may cause nausea,bloating and diarrhea.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Indigestion due to lifestyle disorders require a person to change his/her habits and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Such a person may use antacids to reduce the symptoms of indigestion. But to avoid experiencing it again he/she will have to improve their eating habits and also cut down on smoking and consumption of liquor.

If a person suffers from persistent indigestion, he/she should avoid acidic foods, reduce intake of caffeine, use relaxation techniques and biofeedback mechanisms to reduce stress and should also avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes that can put pressure on the stomach.

How long does it take to recover?

How long a person will take to recover from indigestion will depend on the cause of this ailment. Life-style related indigestion may go away when the person improves his/her lifestyle. Indigestion due to such causes may cause a person to suffer for about 2 hours after he/ahe has excreted.

Similarly, a person suffering from indigestion due to some medication can be cured of the condition if he/she changes or altogether stops having that medicine. Symptoms of indigestion may last for up to 4 hours if a person is pregnant or if the person is suffering from diseases like Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease and peptic ulcer.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Antacids are available in both tablet and liquid form. It can be purchased within Rs 100 in our country. Proton-pump inhibitors are available within a price range of Rs 500 – Rs 2000. Anti-depressants can be purchased within a price range of Rs 25- Rs 1650. Ranitidine, which is a type of H2-receptor antagonist is available for a price of Rs 250.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The results are not permanent as a person can again suffer from indigestion if he/she again reverts back to a bad lifestyle. If the indigestion is due to some other disease like stomach ulcer or GERD, the person needs to ensure that he/she does not suffer from such disease so as to avoid suffering from indigestion. A woman who gets pregnant or a person suffering stress can again experience indigestion.

How can I prevent indigestion?

Indigestion can be prevented by routinely exercising, reducing weight, reducing alcohol consumption, quit smoking, limiting spicy and greasy food, eating smaller meals throughout the day, chewing slowly, and walking after a meal. These are just simple lifestyle changes that can positively affect not only indigestion but other medical conditions too.

What are the home remedies to treat indigestion?

Some home remedies that are a great help in the treatment of indigestion are:

  • Fennel seeds contain components called anethole, estragole, and fenchone that relax the digestive muscles. The anti-inflammatory properties of fennel seeds help soothe the swelling in the stomach.
  • Ginger helps mitigate indigestion. It naturally stimulates the body’s digestive enzyme to action. Ginger speeds up the digestive system, which would empty your stomach faster. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties will relieve the inflammation.
  • Lemon is a natural diuretic that rinses out the body’s contaminants. Lemon has soluble fibers that help with indigestion, gas, bloating, and constipation. Drinking a glass of warm water with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice will help with indigestion and make the digestive system strong.
  • Apple cedar vinegar helps in digestion by increasing the stomach acid level due to its acidic nature.
  • Walking fastens digestion which is helpful after a meal and with bloating. Walking would release the trapped gas and tone down the bloating. Also, It alleviates the digestive system functioning by improving the flow of blood and circulation to the digestive system.
  • Peppermint has been in use in digestive issues for quite some time. Its antispasmodic properties help soothe intestinal and abdominal pain and reduce inflammation. Peppermint activates anti-pain receptors in the colon. These receptors are linked to the pain caused by eating spicy food. Peppermint capsules are available in the market that helps in the treatment of digestive discomforts.
  • Baking soda has sodium bicarbonate that help a person to deal with heartburn and indigestion.
  • These are natural foods that help to reduce acidity and also cure indigestion: carom seeds, coriander seeds and Indian gooseberry
Summary: Poor digestion is a very common issue these days. It usually resolves its own or with some simple remedies in a day or two.

References

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Written ByDr. Atindra Nath Bagchi Diploma in CardiologyGeneral Physician
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