Indigestion: A Tough Problem to Handle

What is Indigestion?

Indigestion is usually a disorder of digestion that causes a sense of discomfort in the upper abdomen. Indigestion is often a sign of an underlying problem such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), ulcers, or gallbladder disease, rather than a condition of its own. In short, Indigestion is a sort of discomfort felt after having meals. It can be accompanied by a sensation of burning and pain in the upper stomach. Indigestion is often referred to as Dyspepsia.

What is Functional Dyspepsia?

Indigestion and Functional Dyspepsia are not exactly similar conditions but when the Doctor is unable to diagnose the exact cause of the onset of chronic Indigestion then it is commonly referred to as Functional Dyspepsia. In simpler terms, Functional Dyspepsia is the defect of normal peristaltic movement. This disturbance in the upper GIT movement can hinder the normal digestion process.

How common is Indigestion?

The world is constantly dealing with the problems of Indigestion. Each year almost 6 million cases of chronic Indigestion are reported. Rapid urbanisation and sedentary lifestyles are the major causes of the onset of Indigestion.

Is Indigestion same as Heartburn?

To be precise, Indigestion is the cause and Heartburn is the symptom. Heartburn is an unusual complication of Indigestion. It occurs only when the acids of the stomach flow back into the oesophagus and causes a burning sensation. In some cases, Indigestion and Heartburn can be completely different from each other. Heartburn can be a distinct symptom. While Heartburn is related to gastric acid, Indigestion is related to problems with digestion. It has nothing to do with stomach acid secretion.

Is there a link between Indigestion and GERD?

There is a link between GERD and Indigestion. GERD is an occasional symptom of Indigestion. These two terms are not interchangeable and GERD can be more serious and long-lasting than Indigestion. Indigestion is usually caused by overeating. The uneasiness starts when the stomach produces too much acid. On the other hand, GERD results from the backflow of the stomach acid into the food pipe or oesophagus due to problems in the closing of the sphincter.

What causes Indigestion?

Indigestion has no single cause and can result in a manifestation of a group of problems. The major causes behind the discomfort associated with Indigestion are:

Overeating habits
Eating too quickly
Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption
Use of certain medicines including Antibiotics, Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs and Iron supplements
Stress and Anxiety
Certain diseases including Gastritis, H. Pylori infection, Peptic ulcers, Celiac disease, Gallstones, Pancreatitis, Stomach cancer, Intestinal blockage and Intestinal ischemia
What are the different signs and symptoms of Indigestion?

The common symptoms of Indigestion are:

Abdominal pain
Burning sensation in the stomach or upper abdomen
Heartburn or acid indigestion (acid reflux)
Bloating (feeling full)
Acidic taste in the mouth
Gurgling, rumbling or growling stomach
Constipation or diarrhoea
Decreased appetite
The common signs of Indigestion are:

Belching, Burping or Flatulence
When do you need to take Indigestion seriously?

In most of the cases, we don’t consider Indigestion seriously and rely on lifestyle modifications to offer relief. However, we must pay immediate attention to it and seek medical help in the following cases:

If suffering from recurring episodes of Indigestion
Indigestion is causing unusual weight loss
If suffering from swallowing difficulties
Vomiting and indigestion often come together and blood comes out during vomiting
If suffering from both Indigestion and Anaemia
Fatigue followed by Indigestion
Breathing trouble along with Indigestion
These symptoms are often considered to be dangerous and can be an indication of serious underlying causes of Indigestion including Stomach Ulcer and Cancer.

What are the various complications of Indigestion?

Indigestion itself has no serious complications. It affects and hampers the quality of your life. Indigestion can make you feel nauseated and can refrain you from going to school or work. Indigestion can also snatch away your appetite and make you feel uncomfortable. However, if Indigestion is associated with other serious underlying causes such as Pancreatic Cancer then the complications can be fatal.

What are the risk factors for Indigestion?

There are various risk factors that can cause frequent episodes of Indigestion. They are:

Alcohol abuse
Unhealthy diet
Medical conditions like Gastritis, Stomach and Duodenal Ulcer
How is Indigestion diagnosed?

In most of the cases, Indigestion is simply diagnosed by performing physical examinations and reviewing the medical history of the patient. However, if the Doctor finds some unusual signs and symptoms of Indigestion then the following diagnostic tests are performed:

Simple laboratory tests to find out the underlying cause
Blood, Stool and Breath tests to check for H. Pylori infection
Endoscopy to check for any abnormalities in the upper GIT
Imaging studies including X-ray and CT scan to look for any intestinal obstructions
What are the different treatment strategies for Indigestion?

In maximum cases, Indigestion is prevented by simple lifestyle modifications and they offer immediate relief. However, if Indigestion is persistent then the following medicines are used for its treatment:

Proton pump inhibitors and H-2-receptor antagonists are used to reduce stomach acid production
Prokinetics are used to felicitate quick stomach emptying
Antibiotics are used to treat H. Pylori infection
How can Indigestion be prevented?

Indigestion can be treated and managed with proper lifestyle changes. The following tips can be helpful in combating the discomforts of 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. Eat small meals and chew your food well.
Have a good control over your weight as excess weight can trigger Indigestion.
Indulge in regular physical exercises as exercise promotes and facilitates digestion.
Drink fluids after the meals
Avoid late-night eating
Try to relax after meals
Avoid spicy foods
Stop smoking
Avoid alcoholic beverages
Control your stress level to gain control over your Indigestion
Is Indigestion a warning symptom of Pancreatic Cancer?

Well, not always, but sometimes a sudden onset of Indigestion during the later years of life can be a warning symptom of Pancreatic Cancer. The improper functioning of the stomach during Indigestion can be a result of Pancreatic Cancer. Never neglect the sudden onset of Indigestion and seek immediate medical help.

Can stress cause Indigestion?

Yes. The connection between the brain and the stomach plays a pivotal role in the digestive process. Stress can hinder this connection and lead to the production of excess stomach acid. The nerves that control the stomach acid production shows overactivity during stress. This event triggers the onset of Indigestion. Stress can cause overeating. We tend to eat more quickly if we are stressed. These events can also trigger the overproduction of stomach acid and can result in Indigestion.

Is Indigestion common in pregnancy?

The hormonal imbalances during pregnancy often cause muscle relaxation. Relaxation of digestive muscles hinder the normal digestion process and causes Indigestion. This is the reason for the frequent onset of Indigestion during Pregnancy. However, Indigestion is not serious and it doesn’t harm the unborn baby. The following tips can help to avoid Indigestion-related discomforts during pregnancy:

Don’t lie down immediately after eating. Wait for at least half an hour.
Avoid taking large meals. Indulge in frequent small meals.
Don’t eat rich and spicy foods.
Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
Try to tilt up your bed to avoid Indigestion.
What are the home remedies for Indigestion?

Some of the well-known home remedies for indigestion are given below:

Oatmeal (Helps to absorb stomach acid)
Ginger tea (Provides immediate relief by carminative action)
Cranberry juice (Inhibits H. Pylori growth)
Artichoke leaf extract (Stimulates bile production and improves digestion)
Apple cider vinegar (Neutralises excess stomach acid)
Fennel seeds (Controls nausea, vomiting and flatulence)


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