Sunday, May 22, 2016
Indigestion is a common problem that affects many people, usually after eating or drinking. It can cause varying levels of discomfort and pain, but we want to take a look at what exactly is indigestion, what causes it and how you can deal with the pain and effects more effectively.
Indigestion or dyspepsia is usually associated with pain or discomfort in your upper abdomen or a burning pain behind the breastbone, known as heartburn, which usually occurs after eating or drinking. In some instances, these conditions happen together, or they can occur on their own.
Typically, indigestion and heartburn are caused by stomach acid coming into contact with the delicate protective lining of the digestive system, called the mucosa or acid reflux, where stomach acid travels up into the gullet or oesophagus. In both instances, the lining can become inflamed and cause physical pain and a burning sensation.
Some of the key signs to look out for with indigestion or heartburn are:
When we eat, stomach acids are produced to help break down the food or drink we have consumed. However, in some instances, this stomach acid can come into contact with the protective lining of the digestive system or oesophagus. In some cases, this can cause inflammation in the digestive system. But most cases are thought to be sensitivity of the mucosa, caused by the stomach stretching or the acidity levels in the stomach.
Indigestion can happen for a number of reasons. It can be a reaction to something you ate, eating too quickly, lifestyle choices or an underlying medical concern. However, identifying the causes and symptoms will help to determine if this is a one-off bout or something more serious.
Other factors that can trigger indigestion beyond eating include drinking alcohol, stress, pregnancy, smoking and fatigue. Indigestion can also be a sign of an underlying medical problem such as ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), stomach infections, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas) or thyroid disease.
While there are various treatments available for managing the pain associated with indigestion, it’s important to look at the factors that cause your indigestion to flare up in the first place, as eliminating or reducing these elements may help you to manage the problem better.
Maintain a healthy weight - Being overweight can put added pressure on your stomach, making it more likely for stomach acid to be pushed up into your gullet. This is called acid reflux and is the most common cause of indigestion.
Whilst the measures above should help to reduce the instances of indigestion, you can also take effective medicinal treatments recommended by your GP or pharmacist, such as antacid medicines and alginates.
Antacids can offer immediate relief for mild or moderate indigestion, working to neutralise the stomach acid levels and reduce the irritation of the lining of your digestive system. These can be taken in liquid or tablet form and can be bought over-the-counter at a pharmacy.
Alginates are used to treat acid reflux, by acting as a barrier between the stomach and the gullet. They form a foam barrier that sits on top of the stomach acid, preventing it from reaching the oesophagus.
Dealing with the pain of indigestion can be difficult, but taking an informed view of the causes and seeking professional medical advice and medication for persistent heartburn can help you to manage the causes and effects of heartburn much more effectively.
For more information on how our dedicated GP can help you deal with indigestion, please click here.