You may be enjoying that juicy cheeseburger with a side of golden french fries. You may instantly feel satisfied but after you finish or sometimes during your meal you may feel unpleasantly full with a burning sensation. This is a sign of indigestion. The best way to manage your indigestion is to first know the signs.
What is indigestion?
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a condition that is characterized by a burning sensation at the upper part of the abdomen and lower part of the breastbone. You may experience this feeling occasionally or frequently. Sometimes the pain is accompanied by burning feeling behind the breastbone. Indigestion is often a sign of other problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, or gallbladder disease. It should not be confused with heartburn. Heartburn usually causes nausea and bloating.
Severe indigestion can lead to permanent problems with your digestive system such as scarring the esophagus or the passage to your stomach. Indigestion can affect anyone at any age. You are more at risk if:
- You drink a lot of alcohol.
- Use aspirin and other pain relievers that can irritate the stomach.
- Conditions that create an abnormality in your digestive tract, such as an ulcer.
- You have anxiety or depression.
What are the symptoms of indigestion?
The symptoms of indigestion may occur during or after eating and drinking. Stress may also contribute to worsening symptoms of indigestion. If you have indigestion, you may have symptoms such as:
- Feeling uncomfortably full or heavy;
- Bringing food or fluid back up from your stomach into the gullet (esophagus);
- Bloating (less common);
- Nausea and vomiting (less common).
There are simple remedies and medications that can help with indigestion. However, indigestion can point to other serious diseases. You should see your doctor if:
- You are 55 years old or over.
- You have lost a lot of weight without meaning to.
- You find it difficult to swallow.
- You vomit often.
- You have iron deficiency anaemia.
- You can feel a bump or lump in your stomach.
- You vomit blood or find blood in your stool.
What are the causes of indigestions?
Normally, your stomach produces acid to digest the food you eat. However, sometimes the acid can damage the intestine wall, causing pain and irritation. Indigestion can also be triggered or made worse by other factors.
The most common cause of indigestion is eating too much, too fast, consuming a lot of high-fat foods, or eating during stressful situations. Drinking too much alcohol and smoking can also cause indigestion. Stress and fatigue are reported to make indigestion worse.
If you are very overweight, you are more likely to experience indigestion because of increased pressure inside your stomach (abdomen).
Diseases that interfere with refluxed stomach acid clearing from your oesophagus, or cause the oesophagal sphincter fails to prevent stomach acid from moving back up into your oesophagus. Some conditions that cause indigestion are:
- Stomach cancer (rare);
- Gastroparesis (a condition where the stomach doesn’t empty properly; this often occurs in people with diabetes);
- Stomach infections;
- Irritable bowel syndrome;
- Chronic pancreatitis;
- Thyroid disease;
Some medications can cause indigestion, such as nitrates, a medicine to widen your blood vessel, may relax your oesophagus, allowing acid to leak back up.
If you have stomach problems, you should not take NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, because it can affect your digestive tract and cause indigestion. Children under 16 years of age should not take aspirin. Some other medications that you shouldn’t take to avoid indigestion are:
- Aspirin and other painkillers, such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Naprosyn);
- Estrogens and oral contraceptives;
- Steroid medications;
- Certain antibiotics;
- Thyroid medicines.
What are the treatments of indigestion?
Often, indigestion can go away without medication within hours. However, if the symptoms get worse, you should see your doctor. Avoid triggers of indigestion, such as food or certain activities, to treat indigestion:
- Try not to chew with your mouth open, talk while chewing, or eat too fast. This causes you to swallow too much air, which can aggravate indigestion.
- Drink fluids after rather than during meals.
- Avoid late-night eating.
- Avoid spicy foods.
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages.
If indigestion is not relieved after making these changes, your doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate your symptoms. Because indigestion is a symptom rather than a disease, treatment usually depends upon the underlying condition causing the indigestion.
What are some tips to manage indigestion?
If you have indigestion from another disease, you may want to learn about that disease and how to manage it. By doing so, you actually reduce the risk of indigestion.
Indigestion often gets better by making positive life changes. Here are some tips for controlling indigestion:
Keep a healthy weight
Obesity makes it easier for stomach acid to be pushed up into your oesophagus. Keeping a healthy weight by regular exercise and having a healthy diet can reduce indigestion.
You can reduce the amount of fatty food, spicy food or anything that contains caffeine such as coffee, tea or coke to prevent indigestion.
Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
Chemicals in cigarette and alcohol can make your oesophagus splinter relaxed, allowing acid reflux.
Have a good bedtime routine
Avoid eating 3-4 hours before going to bed. While you are lying down, the oesophagus is much more relaxed. Eating food before bedtime will make our stomach produce acid, increasing the risk of acid reflux.
Putting a couple of pillows to prop your head or shoulder up can prevent stomach acid moving up your digestive tract while you are asleep.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.