We were due to go to South Korea for a holiday, when at the last minute, my cousin couldn't make it. He had severe indigestion. So we had to go without him. I've had indigestion before, but I never really thought about what causes it. Can you shed light on it?
Indigestion is a term you use to describe a symptom or a plethora of symptoms that can occur during or after a meal. Indigestion is also known as dyspepsia.
It is very, very common for some people and can occur every day for them.
Most people use "indigestion" to describe this feeling of fullness or discomfort that they have in their stomachs. It is sometimes accompanied by a burning pain.
Others consider flatulence to be indigestion as well.
What do people experience when they get indigestion? What can be classified as indigestion?
Look for the following symptoms:
·Fullness during a meal: When you feel "too full" soon after you've begun eating, and you subsequently cannot continue to eat.
·"Over-fullness" after a meal: When you feel "too full" after you've finished your meal. It's as though the food is staying inside your stomach for too long and you don't feel hungry even hours after the meal.
·Pain in the area of your stomach just below your ribcage. This may be a burning pain. It can be mild, or severe.
This should not be confused with heartburn, as heartburn is caused by stomach acid rising to your oesophagus and is represented by a painful burning feeling in your chest that can radiate up to your neck and back.
·Nausea and vomiting.
·An unpleasant tightness in the stomach.
·A "growling" stomach.
·Acidic taste in your mouth.
What causes indigestion?
Most of the time, no cause can be found. The indigestion resolves by itself. This type of indigestion is called functional dyspepsia. It is thought to originate in the area where your stomach meets your small intestine (duodenum).
Theories postulate that there may be abnormal movements going on in the squeezing and relaxing actions (motility) of your normal stomach muscles as it digests the food and passes it to the duodenum.
But sometimes, there's a more sinister underlying disease. Some diseases which can lead to symptoms of indigestion are:
·Gastric and duodenal ulcer.
·Gastro-esophageal reflux of acid.
·Infections of the stomach, both bacterial and viral.
·Gastroparesis, where the contents of your stomach don't empty properly. This is common in diabetics.
·Stomach cancer (but don't worry, this is a rare cause of indigestion).
·Irritable bowel syndrome.
·Certain medications like painkillers (especially aspirin), antibiotics, oral contraceptives, steroids, etc.
·Pregnancy, especially when your belly is getting really big.
Naturally, the way most Malaysians eat is not helping either. We eat too much, stuffing ourselves at buffet tables. We eat too fast and we eat too much fatty foods. We smoke and drink too much fizzy drinks and alcohol.
Sometimes, we swallow too much air when we are eating, and we end up feeling bloated and we belch a lot.
All this can lead to indigestion, or what we "term" as indigestion.
And when we are stressed, we may tend to eat too much, and this leads to indigestion as well.
How do we treat indigestion?
You must remember that indigestion is a symptom rather than a disease. So if your indigestion is very severe or if it happens too often, you should see a doctor about it. He/she will then try to investigate for an underlying disease.
The treatment will then depend on the underlying disease. If you have a peptic ulcer, you will be given medications for that.
If you have an infection, you will be given antibiotics.
Meanwhile, you may be given antacids or activated carbon to alleviate your symptoms of indigestion.
Meanwhile, if you are one of those people who are prone to getting indigestion and you have been investigated by a doctor and found to have no underlying cause, you can do the following:
·Avoid food and drinks that give you indigestion. Some people cannot take coffee, for example, or cheese.
·Don't chew with your mouth open or talk while you are eating as air will get into your mouth.
·Don't eat too fast.
·Drink fluids after a meal, rather than during the meal.
·Don't eat too late at night. Avoid suppers.
·Don't eat spicy foods.
·Don't smoke or drink alcohol.