Indigestion is a sensation of pain, burning feeling, or discomfort in the upper abdomen. It is also called dyspepsia or upset stomach. It is not a disease but rather a cluster of symptoms hinting towards unhealthy lifestyle or an underlying disease. It is chronic and symptoms are often recurrent and fluctuate in intensity. If the cause or etiology for the indigestion is not known, it is referred to as Functional dyspepsia.
Indigestion is one of the most embarrassing problems faced by people. Anyone can get indigestion at some point of life. People of all ages and both the sexes are affected by indigestion. In India, it is observed that indigestion affects 30.4% of the population.
Symptoms of Indigestion –
When you have indigestion, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Most common symptoms: pain, a burning feeling, or discomfort in your upper abdomen
- Early satiety: even before you complete your meal, you already feel full and may not be able to eat further and finish your meal.
- Postprandial fullness: After your meal the fullness lasts for longer than it should.
- Bloating: you feel an uncomfortable sensation of tightness due to gas buildup.
- Burping: After a heavy meal, due to heavy gas buildup burping is experienced
- Burping up food or liquid: this is called regurgitation or reflux where the gastric contents reflexes back into the mouth in small quantities due to improper function of the gastric sphincters.
- Loud growling or gurgling in your stomach: Stomach growling occurs as food, liquid, and gas go through the stomach and small intestine and sounds are heard due to indigestion.
- Nausea: sensation of vomit is felt due to stomach discomfort.
- Gas: Gas is released from the body in the form of farts which is a typical sign of indigestion.
List of Critical Symptoms of Indigestion:
If you have indigestion and any of the following symptoms, you may have a more serious condition and should see a doctor right away:
- Black and tarry stools
- Bloody vomit
- Difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
- Frequent vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain radiating to your jaw, neck, or arm
- Severe and constant pain in your abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Yellowing of your eyes or skin
You should also see a doctor if your indigestion lasts longer than 2 weeks.
What causes indigestion?
A lot of factors can trigger indigestion. It can be triggered due to lifestyle, certain medications, digestive tract diseases, etc. List of cause are as follows: -
Due to Lifestyle:
- Drinking related
- Too many alcoholic beverages
- Too much coffee or too many drinks containing caffeine
- Too many carbonated, or fizzy, drinks
- eating related
- Too fast or too much during a meal
- Spicy, fatty, or greasy foods like fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. dark chicken meat and poultry skin. high fat dairy foods (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream) tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter).
- Foods that contain a lot of acid, such as tomatoes, tomato products, and oranges
- Lack of sleep
- Stress or anxiety
Due to certain medications:
Certain medicines like antibiotics, steroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Due to digestive tract diseases:
Acid reflux (GER and GERD): GERD, is a gastric disorder that affects the muscle between your esophagus and your stomach that eventually leads to indigestion.
Anxiety or depression: Stress can also cause the release of substances called "prostaglandins". These substances generally protect the stomach from the effects of acid so when they are diminished, it could lead to increased discomfort and heartburn symptoms.
Gallbladder inflammation: Chronic gallbladder disease involves gallstones along with mild inflammation. In such cases, the gallbladder may become scarred and stiff. This may lead to gas, nausea and abdominal discomfort after meals.
Gastritis: Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining that causes irritation to the mucosa, thus, leading to indigestion.
Gastroparesis: it is a condition in which the stomach doesn't empty properly; this often occurs in people with diabetes.
H.pylori attacks the mucus lining and leaves part of the stomach exposed to acid. Together, the bacteria and the acid can irritate the stomach, causing indigestion and heartburn.
Irritable bowel syndrome: IBS causes stomach pain along with changes in bowel habits, either diarrhea or constipation, indigestion and heartburn
Lactose intolerance: People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. As a result, they have diarrhea, gas and bloating after eating or drinking dairy products.
Peptic ulcer disease: ulcers sometimes cause scarring and swelling of the tissues that lead into the small intestine, which may prevent the food from easily passing out of the stomach. This blockage may cause bloating, nausea, or vomiting after eating.
Stomach cancer: stomach cancer can rarely cause this problem; however, cancers may disturb the normal physiology of digestion.
Some possible factors that may play a role in functional dyspepsia:
- Lifestyle and diet influences
- Inflammation of the stomach or the duodenum.
- Being overly sensitive to stomach acids
- Excessive secretion of acids
- Infection by microorganisms such as H. pylori, Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Campylobacter, giardia, or norovirus.
- Medication side effects
- Genetic—a specific genotype passed from parent to child
Indigestion explained from root in an Ayurvedic way:
Your overall wellbeing is pivoted on your gut. According to Ayurveda, "you are not what you eat but what you digest." Simply put, a stronger digestive system means a healthy you.
Agni, the most important element for digestion:
Our digestive ability depends on Agni also called digestive or metabolic fire in our body. This Agni breaks down and digests the food that we ingest and the emotions and the expressions we take in through our sensory portals. Thus, assimilating what is needed for the body to produce Ojas and eliminating the unwanted.
Ama, the toxic element:
If there is undigested food accumulating in the body due to inadequate Agni, it gets stored in the body and this toxic residue is called ama. The underlying root cause to indigestion is this Agni. Unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle or unresolved emotions weakens Agni, hampering the digestion and disrupting the functions of the body.
The ama when gets mixed with excess mucus in the body shows symptoms of indigestion like; heaviness, swelling, swollen eyes, excess salivation, or burps. If ama gets mixed with the heat element in the body, it manifests symptoms like burning, thirst or dizziness. If it gets mixed with the wind element in the body, it manifests symptoms like pain or tightness in the body.
Causes for indigestion:
The psychosomatic effects of the negative thoughts along with the food we eat manifests in our body as indigestion.
15 simple and effective natural ways to maintain healthy digestive ability:
- Eat only when hungry
- Consume at regular intervals
- Avoid eating at wrong times
- Provide a gap of three hours between meals
- Meditate regularly
- Eat your largest meal at lunch
- Exercise regularly and engage your body in workouts.
- Stress management for letting out emotional turbulence
- Eat only after the complete digestion of the previous meal
- Avoid drinking too much water immediately after a meal.
- Practice mindful eating
- Eat properly in a pleasant ambience
- Avoid tea or coffee before going to bed
- Avoid junk and high-fat foods
- Include fibre rich food in diet
12 easy home remedies for indigestion:
Peppermint tea :
Peppermint is known for its antispasmodic reactions in the body which helps to treat indigestion and shows best results when taken after meals. Peppermint tea shouldn't be preferred for individuals with GERD and ulcers as increased doses leads to worsening of symptoms.
Chamomile has the ability to reduce anxiety and induce sleep. Eases indigestion by reducing acid section in the gastrointestinal tract. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Chamomile increases the risk of bleeding when taken along with blood thinners owing to its anticoagulant properties.
Apple cider vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar can improve digestion by increasing the production of stomach acid. Add one to two teaspoons of raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and drink for fast relief. It can be taken 30 minutes before to prevent the occurrence of indigestion.
Though it is considered safe, it comes with a label of caution when taken undiluted because of its ability to cause several side effects like tooth erosion, heartburn and decrease blood glucose levels.
Drinking water with baking soda
Baking soda can help treat heartburn by quickly neutralizing the excess stomach acid. Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cold water and drink the mixture slowly.
Sodium bicarbonate is generally safe and nontoxic. But drinking frequently and in large amounts can cause constipation, diarrhea, irritability, vomiting, and muscle spasms. A gap of least two hours is recommended between two intakes.
It is known for two important effects:
- Increase Digestive enzyme which prevents indigestion
- Increase gastric mucous secretion that acts as a barrier and prevents destruction of epithelium from acids.
A probiotic agent which brings good bacteria in the gut to make it healthy and also softens stools. These probiotics attach to intestinal epithelium and utilize the nutrients and minerals present in the food.
Though lemon is acidic in nature, it shows an alkalizing effect when a few drops of the extract are dissolved in lukewarm water which helps ease digestion. However, care should be taken while using honey along with this. It is advised to mix honey, after the water comes to the normal temperature. Rinse your teeth with plain water to prevent wearing off the enamel.
It impedes acidity and cools down the digestive system. Lactic acid bacteria provides nutrients absorption and is responsible for improving digestion.
It is one of the most powerful indigestion relieving spices that works as a stomach coolant by decreasing carbon dioxide gas, relieving metabolite heat, and increasing the pH.
Causes easy voiding of food from the stomach. It works by depleting the bloat feel and lessen intestinal cramps, thus enhancing digestion. It exhibits an anticholinergic and anti-serotonergic effect on the digestive tract.
Worsening of acid reflux due to caffeine varies in individuals as its mechanism is unclear. In case of burning, replace coffee with fruit and herbal teas, and decaffeinated coffees.
chewing a few curry leaves on an empty stomach can aid digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes.
In traditional Ayurvedic practices, rock salt is used as a home remedy for various digestive ailments, including stomach worms, heartburn, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, and vomiting.
It contains natural hydrogen peroxide and thus possesses antibacterial properties. It is used to treat wounds and cuts.
Rich in antioxidants and a free radical scavenger. It may be used in reflux to coat the mucous membrane of the esophagus because of its anti-inflammatory properties. As a potent prebiotic, it nourishes the gut flora.
It is used to treat diarrhoea and as a part of oral rehydration therapy.
Avoid citrus containing foods:
When taken in increased amounts, they cause irritation to the esophageal lining and worsen the patient's condition on a temporary basis. Vitamin C has the potency to damage the enamel of the teeth if taken in larger amounts and on a regular basis.
The best Ayurvedic medicines for indigestion:
Embrace the goodness of Ayurveda from the house of zandu and keep all your digestive woes miles away!
Zandu Pachan Vati: Zandu Digestive Stimulant ( Pachan Vati) for a healthy and happy Gut.
An effective and pure Ayurvedic formula for enhancing digestion and to put your digestive health on track no matter what you eat or your lifestyle is. It is blended carefully with pure herbs, spices and other Ayurvedic ingredients to treat the root cause effectively and relieve from symptoms.
- It restores appetite and reduces dysgeusia
- Eases bowel movement
- Alleviates digestion discomforts, including flatulence, bloating and abdominal heaviness
- Digestion enhancer
It consists of
Chitrak- It is known for its antiseptic and antiparasitic properties. Improves digestion by digesting toxic ama.
Trikatu- A three-pepper blend, known for its digestion and appetite stimulant properties. Regenerates liver cells.
Cinca Bhasma- has laxative properties
A powerful combination of 35 potent Ayurvedic herbs. It works on the roots and improves the functioning of seven digestive centers: salivary glands, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, and large intestine.Benefits:
- Build digestive immunity
- Boosts appetite
- A digestive tonic for complete digestive care and restores your weak digestion.
- Provides relief from recurring digestive problems
- It cures a range of digestive-related symptoms like indigestion, gas, acidity, flatulence and constipation.
It consists of
Draksha- helps prevent acidity
Ajwain- relieves from gas
Lavang- increases appetite. Soothes the gut and protects the liver.
Triphala- prevents constipation. Boosts immunity
Grit kumari- helps to improve digestion
Ashwagandha Satvari: relieves stress and act as antacid, increases haemoglobin levels
Guduchi: immunomodulator, mild antacid and relieves stress.
Zandu Natural Digestion Enhancer ( Draksha Pachan Churna):
An Ayurvedic blend of draksha along with other Ayurvedic ingredients stimulates digestive functions and enhances liver health. The citric acid in grapes along with other ingredients improves metabolism, digestion and enhances liver functioning in a natural way.
- Reduces symptoms of indigestion including bloating and flatulence.
- Eases bowel movement
- Improves appetite.
- Digestion enhancer
- Promotes liver health
It consists of
Draksha- helps prevent acidity
Sali- nutritive food and medicine
Kumuda- anti-inflammatory and astringent properties
Yasti- keeps diseases away
Frequently asked questions around Indigestion:
What does indigestion feel like?
You feel a mild to severe pain and/or burning in the area between the bottom of your breastbone and your navel (belly button)
How do I relieve indigestion?
Drinking water is one of the easiest ways to relieve indigestion. The body needs water to digest and absorb nutrients from foods and beverages efficiently. Being dehydrated makes digestion more difficult and less effective, which increases the likelihood of an upset stomach.
Women should have around 2.7 liters of water a day and men should have about 3.7 liters of water a day.
How long does indigestion last for?
Mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about. It should subside in hours or days. However, consult your doctor if discomfort persists for more than two weeks.
What foods cause indigestion?
The following listed foods can trigger indigestion:
- High-Fat Foods. High-fat foods like fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Dark chicken meat and poultry skin. high fat dairy foods (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream) tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter)
- Citrus Juices: Drinking citrus juices may trigger heartburn symptoms
- Spicy Foods
What is the most common cause of indigestion?
Overeating or eating too quickly. Fatty, greasy or spicy foods. Too much caffeine, alcohol, chocolate or carbonated beverages are the most common causes of indigestion.
Why does fried foods give indigestion?
Fried, greasy, and fatty foods can all cause heartburn and lead to reflux because they prevent the lower esophageal sphincter from fully tightening; this creates an opening for stomach acids to flow upward. Greasy, heavier foods are also harder to digest; so the stomach empties more slowly, which can trigger heartburn.
What causes acid indigestion?
Certain food and drink – such as coffee, tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods. reflux back due to improper function of the esophageal sphincter.
Indigestion trend in India?
It is estimated that around 7-10 percent of the people suffer from acid reflux on a daily basis, about 22 percent experience it once in a month and about 50 percent suffer at least once in a year. Improper lifestyle, obesity and H.pylori (bacteria) infections are the main causes for the increase in numbers. Increasing consumption of alcohol is also an important reason behind hike in Acid Reflux cases.
As per the recent statistics, " the prevalence of GERD in India ranges from 7.6% to 30%, being < 10% in most population studies, and higher in cohort studies. The dietary factors associated with GERD include use of spices and non-vegetarian food. Helicobacter pylori is thought to have a negative relation with GERD; H. pylori negative patients have higher grade of symptoms of GERD and esophagitis."