Published January 12, 2012
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a term used to describe symptoms including a feeling of fullness, discomfort or a burning sensation in the abdomen after meals. It is most common in adults and can occur occasionally or every day. Often these symptoms can be managed and suppressed with the appropriate medication or dietary changes. Frequent indigestion can often be the sign of a more serious underlying condition, so it’s best to consult your doctor if the problem persists.
Causes of indigestion can vary greatly, from lifestyle and eating habits, to other digestive conditions. Common causes include overeating or eating too much of the wrong foods, like chocolate, alcohol and overly spicy or fatty foods. Lifestyle choices like smoking, stress and fatigue have also been known to contribute to indigestion. Your indigestion may also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition affecting the digestive tract. Peptic ulcers, a gallstone, irritable bowel syndrome and, in rare cases, even stomach cancer can cause indigestion. In cases where no cause can be found, even after a thorough evaluation, it’s likely that you may be suffering from functional dyspepsia, which occurs as a result of the stomach’s inability to properly accept, digest and then pass food to the small intestine.
If an underlying medical condition is not the cause, preventing indigestion can often be as simple as making a few basic dietary and lifestyle changes. Eating plenty of fiber each day will help improve your digestive system and keep indigestion at bay. You may also be wise to avoid foods that tend to cause excess gas, like cabbage, baked beans, broccoli and carbonated beverages. Lower stress and exercising regularly will also help to reduce indigestion and improve your overall health.
Indigestion is commonly associated with pain or discomfort in the upper-abdominal region, but it can also cause a whole range of other symptoms. Sufferers of indigestion often experience an uncomfortable bloated feeling, which can result in a loss of appetite during meals. This bloating can also leave you feeling fuller for longer than you normally should. Less common symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting and a painful burning sensation between the breastbone and your navel.
While mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about, individuals experiencing more intense symptoms should consult a doctor about the most effective treatment for you. Antacids can provide immediate relief from mild to moderate symptoms, though they will not address any underlying problems if they exist. If acid reflux is the culprit, alginates may help tackling the indigestion it causes. Alginates act as a protective barrier and prevent stomach acid from irritating the esophagus. Stronger medication like proton pump inhibitors and H2-receptor antagonists can help treat more persistent indigestion. Apart from medication, there are a number of home remedies that may help curb your indigestion. Fennel seeds, mint and ginger are all well-known remedies for dyspepsia. In some cases, indigestion may be caused by a growing deficiency of digestive enzymes in the stomach, which can be counteracted by taking digestive enzyme supplements.