Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is noticeable by the feeling of abdominal discomfort after a meal. Common symptoms include pain or a burning sensation in the upper abdomen.
Although eating food we like is one of life’s greatest pleasures, every now and again it can get out of control from overeating or devouring too much of what might not necessarily agree with our stomachs. While indigestion can be caused by other underlying conditions, often our poor eating habits and overindulgence can play a role.
Restraining yourself in any way might be the last thing on your mind, especially during speacial ocasions when you’ve finally decided to let your hair down and have a treat or during festive seasons, so here are some useful tips on avoiding indigestion without going cold turkey on all your favourite foods.
Your gran said it and she was right. We need to thoroughly chew the food we eat. Believe it or not, chewing is one of the most important parts of the digestion process; not only does it help break down food, it also sends signals to your salivary glands, stomach and small intestine to start releasing digestive enzymes. Digestion starts in your mouth. The saliva has enzymes in it that start breaking down the food so your body can use it better. Not chewing thoroughly makes the rest of your digestive system work harder, which can cause digestive problems.
The word ‘Probiotic’ means ‘for life’. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your gut and can improve your gut health when kept happy. Adding live yoghurt containing a high dose of lactobacilli and bifido-bacteria to your daily diet is a natural way of increasing probiotics. Studies suggest probiotics help to support the normal function of the immune system and may reduce bloating. If you don’t like yoghurt, there are dietary supplements that can help. Just make sure they are enteric-coated (which will help the bacteria pass through your stomach and arrive where they are needed).
Prebiotics are different to probiotics. They are specific, non-digestible carbohydrates which act as food for your good bacteria. You can eat foods rich in natural prebiotics, including bananas, leeks, onions, artichokes and garlic.
If stress is a trigger, there are many ways you can learn to control your reaction to stress and to relax such as yoga and bio-feedback techniques. They may take some practice, but it is worth the effort. When it comes to planning your meals, really look forward to the meal you’re about to eat. Take time for it and don’t rush so you can fully savour your food. When you can, take a walk after main meals – this helps to beat bloating and ease indigestion and can even help stabilise blood sugar levels.
Eat regularly, little and often. Breaking down your daily food intake into five smaller meals makes lighter work for your digestive system. If you eat more frequently, you will be less hungry when you do eat and less likely to overeat. Overeating can stretch your stomach which can be painful. Instead of eating two or three huge meals, add mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks to your meal plan.
Alcohol can make your body produce more stomach acid. With more acid, you are at a higher risk of the acid irritating the tissues of your digestive tract. You may notice that after a big drinking session, that your stomach is a little more sensitive and tender than usual. That is because alcohol can impact the stomach acid production. The relaxed oesophagus muscles and sphincters can allow acid to travel from the stomach up to the oesophagus, causing pain and severe bouts of indigestion.