After enjoying a wonderful meal there is nothing worse than sitting back and finding minutes or even hours later, that you are suffering the discomfort of indigestion.
Acid reflux or heartburn, nausea, vomiting, burping and belching, stomach uneasiness or burning pain, flatulence (gas), abdominal pain, bloating, growling stomach are all symptoms of indigestion, causing the sufferer much discomfort or embarrassment.
Even seemingly unrelated symptoms such as dry coughing, sour or bitter tastes in the mouth, hoarseness and wheezing can be related to acid reflux.
Indigestion is very common and most people suffer from it at least occasionally. With so many lifestyle triggers leading to indigestion this is not surprising.
Drugs prescribed for indigestion are on the increase. Most people use over the counter antacids to find relief but this is one of the worst ways to treat it.
Antacids give temporary relief but can also have side effects such as diarrhea or constipation. Other drugs prescribed fall into two groups – H2 blockers (eg Zantac) and Proton pump inhibitors, PPI’s, (eg Nexium).
The problem with these drugs is that they reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. This may seem beneficial. However, in many instances the problem behind indigestion is actually that your stomach is producing insufficient stomach acid, not excess. When you do not have enough stomach acid you are unable to properly digest food, and digestive problems occur.
The drugs can easily mask imbalances and lead to more serious problems. They may cause many side effects – for example they may lower your levels of vitamin B12, cause nausea or vomiting, headache, bruising, constipation or diarrhea, increase the risk of fractures and the risk of infections. Plus, once you start you need to keep taking them because they cause a rebound effect. This is where the indigestion symptoms return even worse than they previously were, if you stop taking the drug.
CAUSES OF INDIGESTION
Acid reflux occurs when the valve between the stomach and oesophagus (LES) does not close properly, allowing small amounts of stomach acid to spill over into the oesophagus.
Bloating or gas may be due to the fermentation of some trigger foods or foods that are difficult to digest. It can also be due to swallowing air during eating. It may also be a symptom of a disorder such as Coeliac Disease.
There are many Lifestyle triggers for indigestion including:
- Being overweight
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Stress and anxiety
- Medications (including aspirin, thyroid meds, or Oral Contraceptives)
- Eating trigger foods and drinks
- Eating too fast
- High-fat foods
Some of the common trigger foods include:
- Fatty meats
- Deep fried foods
- Alcohol in excess
Stress lies behind many cases of indigestion. Keeping a record of your moods and the times when you feel stressed, rushed, anxious, worried, overworked or even uneasy can help you identify emotional triggers for your indigestion. Once you work out what situations trigger the problem, regularly undertaking activities such as meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi or relaxation exercises goes a long way towards reducing stress levels and the symptoms of indigestion.
While prevention is ideal it is not always possible.
But you can make changes in your lifestyle that will help reduce symptoms:
- Avoid putting pressure on the stomach, avoid tight clothes.
- Avoid carbonated drinks.
- Eat small meals – five to six over the day, and eat them slowly
- Eat fibre (40g a day)
- Avoid spicy foods
- Drink coffee (including decaffeinated) and tea in moderation
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid ice cold food and drinks which can inactivate digestive enzymes
- Avoid cocoa and foods containing it
- Avoid eating in the three hours before you go to bed
- Undertake practices to relieve stress
- Stop smoking, avoid tobacco
- Lose weight
- Reduce processed and sweet foods
Foods like kefir, sauerkraut and miso contain probiotics to restore the natural balance and function of your gut. Or take a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Not only do they restore the bowel flora, they also help your digestion. Taking Spirulina will also increase healthy bacteria in your digestive tract.
Vitamin D is important for stomach health. If you are not getting adequate sunshine or normally wear sunscreen, increase your Vitamin D intake. Source it from cod liver oil (which is also rich in omega 3) or take a supplement.
You can help increase your natural production of stomach acid, hydrochloric acid, by including Himalayan salt in your diet. This ensures your body gets enough chloride to make sufficient hydrochloric acid, plus it provides 83 trace minerals that are needed by your body in order to function well.
One way to identify any food triggers that may be causing your digestive problems is to keep a food diary over a few weeks.
NATURAL INDIGESTION RELIEF
Homeopathy for Indigestion
There are a number of Hoemopathic remedies that can effectively stop the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion when selected and taken in accordance with homeopathic prescribing guidelines.
Ipecacuahna is one of the most commonly used homeopathic remedies for acute nausea and vomiting which is not relieved by vomiting. The tongue is surprisingly very clean. Symptoms get worse from warmth but improve a little in the fresh air..
Nux-vomica is great for acute nausea especially when the result of overeating, drinking alcohol or coffee, or digestive problems which are made worse by therapeutic or recreational drugs. It is often accompanied by constipation, flatulence or heartburn. Symptoms are made better by warmth and warm applications.
Homeopathic Pulsatilla can be helpful if the indigestion is the result of eating pork or rich fatty foods. Symptoms include bloating sometimes a headache. They do not feel thirsty and find some relief from cool, fresh air.
Carbo-veg gives relief from bloating with lots of offensive gas, which is sometimes released by drinking carbonated drinks.
Natrum phos is an important homeopathic remedy for indigestion with sour belching, sour tasting vomit and a yellow colour on the tongue. Good for those who get indigestion from eating fats. You can take Natrum phos as either a Homeopathic preparation or as a Cell Salt (Schuessler’s Tissue Salts).
Take Homeopathic preparations in the 6th potency, or the 30th potency if you are familiar with Homeopathic prescribing guidelines.
These are only a few of the hundreds of different Homeopahic remedies that help indigestion and give fast effective relief. If you are not familiar with the intricacies of Homeopathic prescribing consult a practitioner.
Herbs for Indigestion
In addition to changing poor habits there are many wonderful herbs to aid your digestion.
Ginger tea can give immediate relief for heartburn or indigestion. It can also help reduce bloating. Shred some fresh ginger root and pour boiling water over. Allow to steep for ten minutes, strain and drink.
Fenugreek seeds coat the lining of your stomach to relieve symptoms. Add one to two teaspoons to your food or eat separately.
Licorice root can be an effective treatment for reflux. It stimulates the production of digestive secretions that help reduce reflux. Take one or two tablets before meals or bed, or take as a tea to stimulate saliva and prevent symptoms. Make certain it is deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) particularly if you suffer from hypertension.
Bitter herbs. Herbs such as dandelion root, caraway, fennel, yellowdock, blessed thistle and gentian, found in Swedish Bitters, are some of the bitter herbs that promote better digestion because they encourage gastric secretions including saliva, hydrochloric (stomach) acid and digestive enzymes. They can treat or even prevent reflux. Take bitters just before eating to get the digestive juices flowing.
Holy Basil or Tulsi, has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to treat many disorders including stomach disorders, nausea and stress. Sipping a cup of Tulsi tea could help combat your indigestion by reducing the actual stomach symptoms as well as addressing the stress behind them.
Peppermint. Many people find peppermint tea an excellent digestive soother. However it can have the opposite effect for nearly half the population, causing heartburn If this applies to you try chamomile tea instead. Peppermint relaxes smooth muscle of your digestive tract to ease cramps, gas and nausea. It can soothe disruptions in the bowel caused by nervousness, overeating or diet changes.
Charcoal. If you suffer from excessive flatulence taking activated charcoal in the hour or two after your meal can help reduce the gas. Be careful about taking it on a regular basis as it can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
Slippery Elm Powder taken before meals helps heal irritated digestive tracts. It is mucilaginous and becomes gel-like when in contact with water to coat, protect and soothe the digestive tract. It comes as a powder to add to drinks or in capsules.
Apple Cider Vinegar. Many people swear by apple cider vinegar. One tablespoon of ACV and one tablespoon of honey in a glass of pure water before meals can ease heartburn.
Lemons. Eating lemon before a meal can prevent heartburn or take some lemon juice in a glass of warm water. Lemon also stimulates bile production to help break down fats and improve digestion.
Chronic heartburn and indigestion is a serious problem and can be part of an underlying illness. Consult your health care practitioner if symptoms persist.
What’s your favourite kitchen cure to sort out for your digestive problems?
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.