Indigestion

1 Indigestion Summary

Do you always find yourself feeling uncomfortably full after a meal? You might have indigestion. Indigestion is a general term describing discomfort in the upper abdomen.

Your symptoms may be different from others. Symptoms such as heartburn, feeling sick, uncomfortably full in the stomach, bloated sensation, belching, flatulence, or regurgitating consumed food or drink are all described as indigestion. 

Indigestion is very common, and many can recall the last time they have it. Even babies can have indigestion as they sometimes have gas or expel swallowed milk.

Indigestion itself is not a disease or medical condition, but it is a term for symptoms experienced after or shortly after eating. As symptoms vary, each person has his or her own description of indigestion.

Indigestion can have several causes. The most common cause of indigestion is eating big meals. This can cause your stomach to stretch out, causing stomach acids to rise up to the esophagus and cause heartburn.

A full stomach also induces uncomfortable fullness. Certain foods may also induce indigestion in some people. Frequent culprits include oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, garlic, onions, spices, peppermint, cheese, nuts, avocados, and others.Some people have bloating or indigestion on foods like whole grain, beans, or dairy. Others experience indigestion after consumption of alcohol or coffee. 

In some cases, you may have indigestion when very stressed. The digestive system is directly connected to the central nervous system so worries may cause it to become awry and result in indigestion.

Indigestion may be caused by taking certain medications. Some individuals with conditions such as pregnancy or obesity are more prone to indigestion. Babies are prone to indigestion or bloating as they ‘swallow’ plenty of air when crying or feeding.

In some cases, feelings of indigestion may be associated with certain health problems. Medical conditions that cause indigestion include gastritis, peptic ulcers, gallstones, celiac disease, constipation, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), stomach cancer, blockage of the intestines, or reduced blood circulation in the intestines.

These issues should be seen assessed and treated by the doctor, and addressing them as early as possible reduce the risk of further problems.

Most people look for ways to address indigestion quickly. Indigestion can may you feel uneasy, and it can be accompanied by other uncomfortable symptoms. Having discomfort in your stomach may also be a reason for you not to accomplish tasks at work, school, or home.

Diagnosing indigestion is easy but understanding the primary cause, if a health problem is suspected, should be done by a doctor. Depending on your symptoms or findings, diagnosing the cause of indigestion can be found after few or several tests.

Treating the cause of indigestion relieves it. Treatment can be simple or complex depending on the cause. If the cause of indigestion is simple or if you do not have other health issues, home remedies can be effective in reducing discomfort. In many cases, indigestion goes away on its own within hours or in a day without treatment.

2 Causes

Many things can give you indigestion. Many people love to eat, and it is one of the main causes of indigestion. Eating too much food, any food, can stretch your stomach enough and reduce emptying, so you feel uncomfortably full. Since emptying takes longer, it may take hours before you feel relief.

Babies, pregnant mothers, and obese individuals tend to have indigestion even though they are healthy. Too much fat in the abdomen or growing uterus in pregnancy may displace the stomach, so emptying is delayed. Babies tend to experience colic or bloating because their digestive tract is not yet fully developed.

Food:

Another common cause is consumption of certain foods, especially in large quantities. Certain food items can trigger indigestion or heartburn. Here are those foods:

  • Fatty food items
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Soda and other carbonated beverages
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Avocadoes
  • Protein-rich items like steaks
  • Peppermint
  • Chilies and several spices
  • Citrus fruits such as orange, grapefruits, and lemons
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Onion

Not everyone experiences indigestion after eating these foods even in large quantities, while others have problems even with small amounts of these foods.

Stress or having illnesses:

Do you feel unable to eat when stressed or ill? Stress, or becoming stress due to illness, can greatly slow down stomach emptying and cause indigestion. The stomach is connected to the brain through the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it halts stomach emptying for a while. This results to bloating and gas, as well as feeling of fullness.

Side effects of medicines:

Some medicines may give you indigestion as an unintended effect. These medicines may cause indigestion by slowing down stomach emptying or reducing production of digestive acids. Here are the medicines that tend to cause indigestion:

  • Aspirin, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, and Naproxen.
  • Steroids medications such as Prednisone and Methylprednisolone.
  • Birth control pills
  • Estrogen implants or injections
  • Antibiotics such as Erythromycin and Tetracycline
  • Drugs to treat thyroid diseases
  • Drugs to control high blood pressure
  • Statins and other medicines used to lower high triglycerides or cholesterol.
  • Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone, and other narcotic drugs

Here are some medicines that may worsen severity of acid reflux or symptoms of gastroesophageal acid reflux (GERD):

  • Tetracycline and other antibiotics
  • Quinidine
  • Iron supplements
  • Ibuprofen and other pain relievers.
  • Potassium supplements
  • Biphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis, such as Alendronate, Ibandronate, and Risedronate.
  • Oxybutryin and other anticholinergics
  • Antidepressants
  • Medicines used to relieve high blood pressure
  • Narcotic drugs
  • Progesterone injections
  • Quinidine
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers
  • Theophylline

Medical conditions: 

Indigestion may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Many problems in the digestive tract may manifest as indigestion. Here are those medical problems:

Some experience indigestion for no apparent reason. This is termed as functional or nonulcer dyspepsia. The majority of cases of indigestion is not caused by health issues and is nothing to worry about.

3 Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor can easily determine if you have indigestion by describing your symptoms and physical examination. The doctor may find that your abdomen may be visibly bloated, may hear the presence of excess gas in the digestive tract using a stethoscope, or may not hear any rhythmic bowel sounds at all.

If finding show need for further investigation, your doctor may order blood tests, check your stool for the presence of bleeding in the digestive tract or examine your breath to determine the presence of H. pylori bacteria that causes stomach ulcers.

X-rays on the abdomen may be ordered to check for any impaction or blockage in the intestines that might cause indigestion. If your doctor suspects ulcers, masses, or tumors, he or she may recommend a procedure called endoscopy.

This procedure involves inserting a thin tube with a camera deep inside your throat and stomach, which enable the doctor to visualize and see masses, tumors or bleeding.

In some cases, tests and diagnostic procedures failed to turn out anything that could be associated with indigestion and the patient does not seem to have any problems. In that case, the doctor may diagnose the case as functional or nonulcer dyspepsia.

Indigestion may go away without treatment. Treatment for indigestion depends on the cause if there is.

If the cause is found, doctors usually address it by prescribing medicines such as:

  • Prokinetics drugs such as Cisapride, Domperidone, and Itopride speeds up emptying of the stomach
  • Proton-pump inhibitors such as Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Dexlansoprazole, Pantoprazole, and Esomeprazole work by reducing production of acids in the stomach, which is useful in case of ulcers, gastritis, or GERD.
  • H-2-receptor antagonists such as Cimetidine, Ranitidine, Famotidine, and Nizatidine work much like proton pump inhibitors in reducing stomach acidity.
  • Antibiotics are prescribed if indigestion is caused by stomach ulcer positive for infection by H. pylori.
  • Antidepressants or anxiety relievers may be prescribed to help relieve pain and discomfort

There are effective remedies you can try to treat indigestion. If your stomach is too acidic, drinking water can help dilute the acid. To reduce intake of air while eating, eat slowly, do not talk while chewing, and close the mouth when chewing.

Drinking water later rather that with meals promote better emptying of the stomach. You may also experience relief by avoiding late-night meals, spicy food, alcohol, or tobacco, which irritates the stomach and prevents normal emptying. Relax after meals, so your digestive system works properly. Try to identify foods that cause indigestion and avoid them, or at least, reduce consumption.

You can do certain things to prevent uncomfortable indigestion in the first place. The digestive system is better in digesting smaller meals rather than large ones, so keep servings small. Try to manage stress.

Quit using tobacco and taking alcohol, or at least do not light up before a meal. Do not perform strenuous activities right after eating, and do not sleep right after a meal. If you have problems with GERD, avoid reflux by raising the head of the bed and waiting 3 hours after a meal before going to sleep.

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