How to get rid of indigestion - Symptoms and Treatment
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A part from the occasional rumble or belch, we do not usually notice the functioning of our digestive systems. For most of us, the term ‘indigestion’ covers a wide variety of digestive complaints, but most commonly it means pain after eating food, often accompanied by a bloated, sick feeling.
TYPES OF INDIGESTION
Mild indigestion occurring after a heavy meal, particularly if rich or spicy food has been eaten, is extremely common. It is a complaint that mainly affects adults. (Children rarely suffer from indigestion – they tend to be sick and solve the problem instantly)
Chronic indigestion is more persistent and severe and is often a symptom of a medical condition which can usually be treated. In some people, the pattern of indigestion is indicative of a specific medical complaint, such as a peptic ulcer, a hiatus hernia or migraine.
Indigestion is either a symptom of illness or much more commonly, the result from the way food is eaten. Depending on the individual, certain food can cause indigestion. Notable culprits: spicy, garlicky curries, pickles, rich food loaded with cream or butter. Unripe fruit, undercooked meat and excesses of tea, alcohol or tobacco can also cause types of indigestion. It is not that these substances cannot be digested; it is only that the stomach takes longer to deal with them and is slow to pass them on into the remainder of the gut. The stomach contents and stomach acid lie in the stomach without being passed into the duodenum. Acid is poured out which causes heartburn and belching.
For some people, indigestion is brought on simply by hurried eating and failing to chew food properly. Or the cause may be poor dental hygiene, because bad or septic teeth, leaking pus or blood around the gum margins, will taint food and produce chronic indigestion.
There may also be psychological reasons behind bouts of indigestion. The nerve supply to the stomach is through the vagus nerve which controls acid production and the rate at which food leaves the stomach. Both anxiety and depression affect this part of the nervous system. Excess acid and slow emptying both cause indigestion and can lead to the formation of ulcers.
The degree of indigestion produces an individual combination of symptoms, from pain and flatulence to severe discomfort and regurgitation of acid food. Symptoms vary depending on the cause. There is usually pain which is either colicky or constant and situated in the pit of the stomach or upper chest. Or there may be nausea, accompanied by a full and heavy sensation in the stomach; if the sufferer can be sick, i.e. throw up, the indigestion is relieved immediately.
Acid regurgitation from indigestion is also common. Acid comes up into the mouth to produce hoarseness of the voice and a pain in the chest, better known as heartburn. Sometimes a person with indigestion will experience a symptom known as water brash – where saliva flows like water – accompanied by excess belching, flatulence or hiccups. In chronic indigestion, the tongue is dry and is coated with a brown fur-like substance and the breath is stale.
Isolated bouts of indigestion following heavy meals or drinking sprees are not dangerous. However, where the indigestion is chronic or when the pain does not pass or becomes extremely severe, it is important to see a doctor, as some serious conditions have pains and symptoms which often mimic indigestion. Inflammation of the gall-bladder, for instance, produces wind, sickness and central abdominal pain. Some rare cases of appendicitis can produce the same symptoms. A heart attack or clot on the lung may also appear, at first, to be an acute bout of indigestion, but the pain remains fixed or worsens and is not relieved by taking an antacid. And where chronic indigestion is caused by a peptic ulcer, which is left undetected, the ulcer may perforate or bleed. Persistent indigestion may also be the first indication of stomach cancer. Failure to diagnose any of these conditions is dangerous and could even be fatal.
TREATMENT AND OUTLOOK
In the case of chronic indigestion where a medical condition, such as a hiatus hernia, cancer or an ulcer, is suspected, the sufferer will usually have a medical investigation, such as an X-ray or an endoscopy, to establish the cause. If the cause is a hurried way of life, stress or poor diet, this must be corrected or in the case of isolated bouts of indigestion, treated with antacids.
The outlook for people with a medical cause for their indigestion varies from case to case. Many people suffering from a hiatus hernia may have to control the condition y taking regular antacids and avoiding certain foods. People with ulcers can normally be cured by medical or surgical means, although if stress was the original cause of the ulcer, another may form if the way of life is not altered. For the great majority of indigestion sufferers, an occasional antacid allows them to eat freely as it relieves the indigestion quickly and effectively. Others with more severe symptoms need to modify their lives, in particular their eating habits.
TIPS TO TREATMENT
* Take a dose of antacid. Magnesium salts are slightly slow in action but do not affect the systemic acid-base balance, although they may cause diarrhea in some.
Sodium bicarb may work in those types of indigestion where gas becomes trapped in the stomach, producing pressure and pain. The soda bicarb causes more gas to be formed which is enough to break the wind and release the trapped gas, making you more comfortable. Its antacid effect neutralizes stomach acid and also aids digestion. However, the risks are that it may cause fluid overload. Avoid if you over 60, have heart disease, hypertension or renal failure.
* Take sips of water and sit in the cool air. Sit up rather than lie down and it may help to walk around.
* If the indigestion persists or is more severe than usual, you should get medical advice.
* If you have never had indigestion before, be sure to tell your doctor to aid him in his diagnosis.
TAKE THESE STEPS TO WARD OFF AN ATTACK
* Eat regularly and slowly, chewing food adequately so that it is swallowed easily.
* Do not eat when wet or cold, as the digestive mechanism of your body will be slowed down.
* Avoid heavy drinking or smoking.
* Take plenty of exercise.
* Eat plenty of fiber to avoid constipation.
* Visit your dentist for regular check-ups.
* If anxious or depressed, seek help from your doctor.