Indigestion, dyspepsia and GERD Diet
Indigestion is a common term which covers a variety of symptoms brought on by eating, which include: heartburn, abdominal pain or discomfort (usually in the upper abdomen - epigastrium), nausea, belching, bloating and flatulence. The medical term for indigestion is dyspepsia. Discomfort in the upper abdomen (epigastrium) is often caused by eating too much food, too quickly or by eating very rich, spicy, or fatty foods.
Indigestion is very common affecting most of the population at some time. Persistent or recurrent indigestion may be due to a variety of medical conditions which include: gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), peptic ulcer (in the stomach or duodenum), gallstones, esophagitis (inflammation of the lower esophagus), or, rarely stomach cancer.
Antacid medication or drugs will help to relieve the symptoms of indigestion rapidly. It is important not to over rely on antacids, or take them to too long, because they may mask an underlying medical condition that requires medical attention or investigation. They should not be taken for longer than two weeks without medical advice.
Almost everyone experiences indigestion from time to time. One cause is excessive acid in the stomach which leads to discomfort and if this acid refluxes up into the esophagus, the result is heartburn and discomfort in the chest. Indigestion is common during pregnancy, because the growing uterus presses on the intestines and digestive tract as the baby grows. This increases the pressure on the stomach and makes oesophageal acid reflux more common. Being overweight also increases the tendency to indigestion and heartburn because the excess abdominal fat leads to pressure on the digestive tract.
Eating a healthy, fibre rich diet, relaxing before and during meals, and regular exercise can all help to prevent indigestion. It is also important to eat slowly, chew food slowly and allow thermally hot foods and drinks (such as hot coffee or tea) to cool down before consumption.
One traditional herbal remedy for indigestion is mint tea and many people claim that it works. Try a mint tea bag or 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water, and sip slowly after meals. Be careful not to confuse the mild mint with peppermint which can actually worsen indigestion. As mentioned above, antacid drugs such as Gaviscon, milk of magnesia and Maalox will provide rapid relief of indigestion.
Foods to avoid
Foods which may cause indigestion include acidic foods which include pickles and vinegar, fried foods, fatty foods, hot spicy foods (especially those which contain chilli), meat extracts, curries and raw foods such as onions, peppers, radishes and cucumbers.
Other common culprits are unripe fruits, because they are high in pectin and difficult to digestive, and cheese eaten shortly before bedtime because its high fat content slows down digestion. Try to cut down on alcohol, strong coffee and fizzy drinks: alcohol directly irritate the stomach lining and increases stomach acidity. Other common triggers of indigestion are stress, hurried meals, not chewing food sufficiently, swallowing air and long intervals without food. Nicotine can actually increase the amount of acid secreted by the stomach lining. Although eating a healthy diet will not necessarily cure indigestion, avoiding the most common triggers of indigestion may prevent attacks from occurring. In some cases however indigestion is a symptom of other digestive problems. People with severe, recurrent, or persistent indigestion, or those over 40 who suddenly begin to develop bouts of indigestion, should consult their doctor to exclude the possibility of serious underlying disease.
A few simple changes in your lifestyle may be all that is required to prevent indigestion. For example avoid irregular and hurried meals and do not eat within 2 to 3 hours of going to bed. Stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Try yoga or some other form of stress reducing exercise. Certain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, progesterone, steroids, theophylline, fluoxetine and other SSRI antidepressants may cause dyspepsia and indigestion. If you suspect that a drug you are taking is causing indigestion then always consult your doctor before you stop taking it.