Indigestion or dyspepsia is one of the most common problems of the bowel (intestines). The stomach produces a strong acid which helps in digesting the food and protects against infection. There is a layer of mucus in your stomach, oesophagus and bowel which acts as a barrier or protection against this acid. Any damage to the mucous layer can cause your stomach acid to irritate the tissues underneath and lead to indigestion or dyspepsia. However, most who are people affected by it ignore the symptoms and do not seek medical attention. Here are some things to know about indigestion.
Symptoms of Indigestion: You have indigestion if the acid formed in your stomach flows back up your oesophagus (this pipe that connects the mouth to your stomach) or when the stomach is irritated or inflamed. Indigestion most commonly occurs after meals, but it can also occur at any time. People with indigestion may have the following symptoms:
- Pain in upper abdomen (above the navel).
- Heart burn (a burning pain caused by the reflux of the stomach acid in the oesophagus).
- Belching also known as burping or eructating (it is caused due to expulsion of swallowed air from the stomach through the mouth).
- Nausea (may or may not be associated with vomiting),
- Abdominal bloating (feeling of abdominal fullness without objective distention).
- Early satiety (feeling of fullness even after having a very small amount of food).
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling sick and tired.
Lifestyle triggers: Several lifestyle factors can trigger symptoms of indigestion. Some of the trigger factors are:
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Stress and anxiety.
- Certain medicines, such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to treat arthritis.
- Foods such as coffee and chocolate, and fried and oily food.
- Being overweight or obese (it increases the pressure on the stomach and causes symptoms of indigestion).
Self-help: Self-help measures which can reduce symptoms of indigestion include:
- Lose excess weight and try to remain at a healthy weight.
- Avoid or reduce the intake of fatty foods, tea, coffee, or any other food that causes you to have symptoms of indigestion.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Sleep in a slightly propped position (keep pillows to keep you propped up. The action of gravity reduces reflux).
- Have dinner well before your bedtime (2-3 hrs before bedtime).
- Avoid heavy meals, eating too much or too quickly.
- Try to reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
Medicines: If self-help measures do not improve your symptoms or your symptoms are very severe, you may need medications. Different types of medications are available for the treatment of indigestion or dyspepsia.
- Antacids: These medicines act by neutralising the acid in your stomach and relieve the symptoms of indigestion. Antacids usually contain aluminium or magnesium hydroxide, magnesium trisilicate and bismuth subsalicylate.
- H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitor: If antacids are not effective or you need to take large quantities of the medicines to relieve/control symptoms of indigestion you may be given H2 blockers (such as famotidine and ranitidine) or a proton pump inhibitor (such as omeprazole or lansoprazole). H2 blockers act by reducing the amount of acid that is produced in your stomach and proton pump inhibitors act by stopping the formation of acid in your stomach. Your doctor will prescribe medication based on the severity of your symptoms. Most people respond well to medications and changes in lifestyle. Rarely patients may need surgery for relieving the symptoms of indigestion.
When to consult a doctor for indigestion: Consult your doctor for symptoms of indigestion if:
- Your symptoms last for more than a few days.
- You have unexplained weight loss.
- You have persistent symptoms of indigestion for the first time and you are more than 55 years of age.
- You have severe pain.
- You have blood in your vomit (even though it may be just a few specks of blood).
Read more articles on Dyslexia