Characterized by that bloated, gassy, and deeply uncomfortable feeling that often hits after a big meal, indigestion doesn’t discriminate and can strike your stomach for a number of reasons. No one on earth is immune to indigestion. As long as you are human, you definitely will face indigestion at one point or another. I see indigestion as a very common umbrella term for an upset tummy, and the underlying reasons for it can be a number of conditions — starting with conditions such as peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, or behavioral triggers like acute alcohol drinking or eating too much too fast. Experts have given clues about what might be behind the stomach discomfort, how to treat it, and when it’s actually time to seek some medical attention.
Symptoms of indigestion
Common symptoms of indigestion include the following:
- Uncomfortable fullness
- Pain in your upper (and sometimes lower) abdomen
- A burning sensation in the chest (heartburn)
Symptoms of indigestion are not a one size fits all, they vary from person to person. For example, hen you and your loved one go out for a luxurious dinner, you might go home gassy, while your partner might be battling heartburn.
What’s behind these painful physical feelings?
One of the most common culprits of indigestion is usually the type of food you eat, how you eat it and how often you eat it. Fatty or greasy foods; coffee and carbonated beverages; spicy or acidic foods, such as tomato sauces or salsas; alcohol, particularly red wine; and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] can be huge culprits, so if you notice over time that your body tends to naturally react negatively to such types of foods, then it might be a good idea to try to cut them out of your diet completely.
So how can you prevent indigestion before it strikes?
One of the simplest ways to handle indigestion is the same solution to just about any problem: Try to prevent it from happening in the first place. A few little life adjustments here and there can go a long way, especially the following expert-recommended fixes.
Pay attention when foods provoke your body: The first thing is to know what triggers indigestion in your body and then try to avoid them, to begin with. In other words, if you know that gulping down a large cheeseburger makes you feel physical pain, maybe you should go for something a little lighter: The first line of defense is not to worry about the remedy but figure out how to avoid it altogether.
How can I relieve indigestion once it hits?
Fortunately, there are a few easy things you can do to ease symptoms of indigestion
Brew a cup of peppermint or ginger tea:
What peppermint does is that it helps to break up the gas bubbles and relaxes the small intestine. Meanwhile Ginger can help to reduce bloating, pain, and nausea. Although there haven’t been many studies done on this yet, it is believed that turmeric can also act as a potential stomach soother.
Moving your body can help:
After a meal, it is important to avoid the allure of the nap and refrain from lying down, because I have experienced firsthand that this can cause or worsen indigestion. Instead of hitting the sack, remain upright and consider some gentle movement: You might even take a walk, but be careful because a run, however, might make you feel much worse.
Medications can also ease the symptoms of indigestion. Aside from the regular antacids such Pepto-Bismol and Tums, there are two main types of medicine that doctors use to settle the stomach: histamine (H2) blockers and proton pump inhibitors, which decrease the amount of acid in your stomach, These aren’t a long-term fix, however, and it is very important to not take them for extended periods of time without consulting with your physician first.
Start Logging What You Eat and Drink
A food journal can help you keep track of what items or behaviors seem to give your body the most grief. If you notice that something going on with your digestion and how you are feeling, then it is best to start by writing down what you’re eating and how you’re feeling because of it. Be as detailed as possible about how you feel after every meal because nothing that you jot down is too silly. After a week or so, start looking for patterns. It might become obvious to you after a while. For example, you may notice that after you have had too many glasses of wine or spent the whole meal talking with friends, you felt your stomach begin to rumble uncontrollably. Alcohol, in particular, can cause the lining of the stomach to become inflamed, therefore compounding the situation of indigestion even more.
Eat slowly and chew your food carefully
Slow and steady wins the race or, at the very least, helps to significantly lower the air you take in while eating, and this can go a step further in reducing bloating. If you notice that you’re susceptible to indigestion, then it many be better for you to start by eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day and not focusing on a few big ones since those types of meals are usually much harder to digest in the first place.
Take care of your body and mind
Although proper research on the mind-gut connection is still emerging, it is true that when we get anxious about something, we also get stomach aches. I have personally experienced this a few times myself in moments where I felt like I was in a difficult situation. If indigestion is caused by a case of functional dyspepsia, then anxiety treatments like yoga, mindfulness, and even exercise have been shown to help reduce those symptoms and feelings.
When Should You See a Doctor About Your symptoms?
Let’s say you’re avoiding trigger foods and eating more slowly, but you still find yourself relying on over-the-counter indigestion remedies to help sooth the uncomfortable feelings that you are experiencing in your stomach. If your indigestion becomes a chronic issue no matter what you do — if, for example, it has continued and gone on for two weeks or you notice it happening after every meal — that is when you need to take a closer look at what the real problem may be. It could be anything from an ulcer to an infection. You want to rule out that it’s the way that you’re eating and not something more serious going on. If everything is fine, that’s when you can talk to a registered dietitian to figure out the dietary components.In order to get to the bottom of things, your doctor might do a routine endoscopy (this is a non-surgical procedure used to peek inside the body) or run a blood test to find out what exactly is going on. Other warning signs that something could be seriously wrong include severe pain, unintentional weight loss, vomiting or bloody or black stool. Any family history of chronic digestive conditions or digestive cancers should also be brought up to your physician.
The bottom line
If you have an idea that you’re experiencing something more serious than a simple case of too many garlic French fries, it’s never a bad idea to chat with a doctor.