Monday, February 26, 2024

The Real Culprits Behind Indigestion And What You Can Do To Avoid It

There are several symptoms of indigestion and over 40% of Americans suffer from at least one on a daily basis. In most cases, though, it is highly avoidable.  

Common Symptoms And Their Causes

  • Acid Reflux

Also called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), acid reflux occurs when the contents of your stomach are regurgitated into your esophagus. This bitter-tasting substance can be very painful, especially if your esophagus is already inflamed. 

  • Bloating

Bloating is one of the symptoms of Dyspepsia or general feelings of having an upset stomach. It can occur when you overeat, eat certain foods, or drink caffeinated beverages. Contrary to what most people believe, bloating is not always a sign that you are gassy. Other conditions, such as gluten or dairy intolerance can also lead to bloating. 

  • Heartburn

That painful sensation in your chest that sometimes makes it hard to breathe is the most commonly experienced symptom of indigestion. When you eat certain foods, it can irritate your stomach lining and esophagus and lead to a burning sensation in your chest. One myth about heartburn is that it actually hurts your heart but that simply isn’t the case. 

  • Food Sensitivity or Allergy

Allergies or certain diseases, such as dairy and gluten sensitivity or Crohn’s Disease, can mimic symptoms of indigestion. If you have trouble treating or avoiding heartburn and acid reflux regularly, you may want to consult your doctor.

Common Triggers

Many people who experience indigestion frequently know they’re going to suffer from it before they even engage in the behavior that causes it. The things on this list won’t surprise those people, but if you’re unsure what could be causing so much discomfort, here is a list of common triggers

  • Certain Foods

Foods that are citrusy, spicy, tomato-based, or deep-fried can all lead to symptoms of indigestion. Some of the most common foods that trigger reflux or heartburn are 

  • Pizza
  • Tacos
  • Chili
  • Cheese Curds/Mozzarella Sticks
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Mint
  • Chocolate
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits

While you may not be able to avoid them altogether, be prepared with something for relief on hand.

  • Caffeine or Carbonated Beverages and Alcohol

These beverages are high in acidity and only create a more hostile environment in your stomach. They lead to increased bloating, heartburn, and reflux.

  • Overeating

Your stomach has a limited capacity and when you overeat, you’re more likely to experience reflux as your stomach acids work overtime to digest the food you consumed. And since you overate, digestion is occurring closer to the top of your stomach, which is the perfect recipe for regurgitation.

  • Stress

While there’s no conclusive proof that stress causes indigestion, there is a link. Many people report that when they’re anxious, they experience heartburn, gas, and diarrhea. There is a theory about why that might be. Scientists think that when you’re experiencing stress, it causes your esophagus to spasm, which then sends a signal to the brain for your stomach to produce more acid in preparation for digestion. Other scientists believe that stress reduces the body’s threshold for pain, leading to symptoms of heartburn. Either way, reducing stress is beneficial no matter the cause. 

  • Smoking or Tobacco Use

It’s no secret that smoking and using tobacco products cause inflammation in the esophagus, but what some might not realize is that it also weakens the sphincter responsible for keeping you from regurgitating your food. That small opening at the base of the esophagus, known as the LES, becomes weakened when exposed to cigarette smoke or tobacco juice. When this happens, acid reflux becomes more prevalent and because your throat is already inflamed, it is that much more painful for smokers. 

What You Can Do About It

If you aren’t able to avoid indigestion altogether, which most people aren’t, there are a host of management tips for relief

  • Increase your water intake
  • Stop smoking
  • Add herbal supplements like peppermint oil or ginger to your diet
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Lie on your left side
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing when you eat a large meal
  • Eat potassium-rich foods like bananas, nuts, and melons
  • Avoid triggering foods like citrus and tomatoes
  • Follow a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast)
  • Take OTC or prescription medication

All of these things can help reduce the severity of your indigestion symptoms. According to in more severe cases, your doctor may recommend medication. 

Most products you can find on the shelf (Prilosec, Famotidine, Tums) are safe for consumption but for people who used to take Zantac or ranitidine for relief, you’ll find those products are no longer available in the US due to their link to cancer. If you were using one of these items to treat heartburn and subsequently received a cancer diagnosis, there may be a link and you should connect with an injury lawyer to see if you qualify for compensation. 

As always, exercise caution when treating stomach ailments and if you experience severe pain, vomiting, or bloody reflux, contact your doctor immediately. 


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