- Indigestion

What is indigestion?

Indigestion can be the sign of an underlying medical problem or a side effect of a big meal or eating too fast. Most people have indigestion at some point, typically after overindulging. In this circumstance indigestion is uncomfortable but harmless and can be treated easily.

However, indigestion can also be a symptom of medical issues such as ulcers, gall bladder disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If your indigestion is frequent make sure to visit your GP.

What does indigestion feel like?

Indigestion can rear its head in many forms, but the primary issue is heartburn. You may also experience bloating, nausea, burping and passing wind as well as regurgitating particles of food or a bad taste in your mouth as acid reflux is a symptom of indigestion too. It is worth remembering that heartburn and acid reflux are medical ailments in their own right and may indicate another problem.

What causes indigestion?

There are three categories of causes when it comes to indigestion. These can be lifestyle, medication or illness related.

Lifestyle causes:
• Smoking
• Stress and anxiety
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Eating too much or too fast
• Eating high-fat foods
• Pregnancy

Medication related causes:
• Thyroid medicines
• Some types of antibiotics
• Steroid medications
• Oral contraceptives
• Oestrogen
• Certain types of painkillers and NSAIDs

Illness related:
• Ulcers
• Stomach cancer
• Thyroid disease
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• Stomach infections
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Pancreatitis
• Gastroparesis

How long does indigestion last?

Rarely is indigestion something to be feared – it is extremely common and caused by minor indiscretions such as eating too much or eating too quickly.

Most people with indigestion will experience it intermittently and then it will lie dormant for a period of time. However, if the pain is too uncomfortable or you have recurring bouts of indigestion it is time to visit your doctor to eliminate any serious issues.

How is indigestion diagnosed?

Indigestion, due to various other connected ailments and diseases, can be a difficult issue to visit your doctor with. It will be helpful to your GP to keep details of the problems and discomfort you are having, along with any other symptoms.

Your doctor will likely work backwards, eliminating any serious underlying conditions. You may end up having blood tests and x-rays to rule out any nasties. Your doctor may recommend an upper endoscopy (tiny camera down the throat) so they can clearly see the inside of your stomach.

How to get rid of indigestion?

The burning pain of indigestion can be uncomfortable. Doctors and pharmacists can recommend medicines called antacids to help alleviate the discomfort of indigestion. They last 3 hours on a full stomach so it is best to take them after eating.

What are antacids?

Antacids can be used to treat a number of different issues, from indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux to gastritis and stomach ulcers. You do not need a prescription to get hold of antacids and there are a number of different brands available with products in both liquid and chewable tablet form. Pregnant women should consult their GP before taking antacids as some are not suitable.

Aluminium, magnesium, calcium and sodium are common ingredients found in antacids. If you require a product to add a protective layer to your stomach opt for an antacid also containing alginate.

How do antacids work?

Antacids work by reducing excess stomach acid to relieve not only indigestion but heartburn, acid reflux and stomach upsets too.

Preventing indigestion
Whilst medication can be used to treat and soothe indigestion, it is better to prevent it, particularly if you suffer regularly. Keep an eye on foods which you think can trigger your indigestion and eliminate them from your diet. Other options include:

• Eating slowly
• Eating small meals frequently
• Avoiding acidic foods
• Avoiding spicy foods
• Managing your stress levels
• Quitting smoking
• Reducing alcohol consumption
• Cutting back on caffeinated drinks
• Avoiding tight clothing
• Not eating before bed
• Sleeping with your head elevated