Contributed by: Rachna Arya

Introduction

Do you find yourself popping antacids each time you feel sensations of heartburn, nausea or stomach pain? For many people, this is such a quick-relief response for counteracting the acidity inside the stomach. 

Most people often regard indigestion as a condition that goes away on its own with time. However, doctors say that if the symptoms come regularly, you should think twice about it. If the symptoms are severe or persistent, it could be a cause for concern, as everyday indigestion could be hiding something more chronic or serious. If you are feeling discomfort on a daily basis, you should not ignore it. 

What is Indigestion?

Indigestion — also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach — is not a disease. It commonly refers to collective symptoms of discomfort in the upper digestive system. It may be due to various causes, ranging from dietary and lifestyle habits to the side effects of medications and an underlying medical underlying condition. At times, indigestion can be annoying and occasionally painful enough to make it hard to sleep or do other activities. 

Symptoms of Indigestion

Some of the most common symptoms associated with indigestion include:

  • acid reflux
  • acidic taste in the mouth
  • belching
  • uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest or throat
  • bloating or a feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food
  • early satiety
  • feeling too full after a meal
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea and regurgitation. 

Indigestion is an exceedingly frequent occurrence and can affect people of all ages and sexes. In most cases, it is a temporary problem caused by dietary patterns, lifestyle choices, or particular types of medications.

Research suggests, most often indigestion is not related to any disease. It is often caused due to poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Indigestion can happen if a person consumes excessive amounts of problematic meals like fatty or and fried foods, eats out frequently, eats at odd hours, has an irregular sleep schedule, gets little exercise, or is under too much stress. In addition to eating too many snacks throughout the day, drinking coffee or tea before meals is another typical cause of indigestion. 

When should you worry?

There are a few specific conditions that doctors note as red flags that call for immediate medical assistance.

If the patient has had a sudden onset of the below-mentioned symptoms, then it is not advisable to wait for the symptoms to pass.

  • if there is blood in the stools or other symptoms of bleeding
  • if there is a sudden loss of appetite 
  • if there is a significant loss of weight for no apparent reason
  • if there is trouble swallowing food
  • if there is unrelenting upper abdominal pain.

In some cases, persistent indigestion may be caused due to another underlying illness. These conditions include:

  • peptic ulcers or stomach ulcers
  • cancers of the digestive system
  • gall bladder diseases.

Tips to prevent indigestion 

  • Eat meals at  fixed hours of the day
  • Avoid or reduce foods or beverages containing caffeine
  • Manage stress better by practising stress-reducing techniques
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce alcohol consumption as this can irritate the stomach lining
  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating
  • Eating smaller meals a day instead of three large meals
  • Avoid medications that cause indigestion
  • Avoid fried, fatty and spicy foods.

Final thoughts

Everyone experiences slight indigestion once in a while. It is the most common ailment of the bowel and most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about. However, it is important to remember that indigestion which is unresponsive to over-the-counter (OTC) medication and interferes with your quality of life needs to be investigated. 

If you suffer from frequent and chronic bouts of indigestion — especially if it lasts longer than 2 weeks, despite maintaining a regular lifestyle and healthy diet — have your doctor take a look.

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