Some people say that they suffer from indigestion when they feel that their stomach is bloated, heavy, and full. Some also complain of a burning sensation in the abdomen. Others say this pain can go up to the chest, while others may speak of nausea, heartburn, or acidity.
Indigestion is really just another word for dyspepsia which means “difficult digestion.” It’s not an actual disease, but it is a possible symptom of an underlying illness.
Indigestion is something that many people experience at different life periods. It doesn’t have specific symptoms apart from upper abdominal discomfort after eating. But one thing people with indigestion all have in common is how it affects their quality of life because so many people suffer from it.
Causes of Indigestion
Indigestion happens when the acids in the stomach come into contact with the mucus of the organ, which serves as a protective barrier. When they meet, the acids can destroy the lining, making the stomach more sensitive and a greater risk of inflammation and even ulceration.
But why does this occur in the first place? There are many risk factors:
1. The Food That You Eat
Indigestion can have many underlying causes, but its main cause is certainly found in the food we eat nowadays. First, spicy food can already irritate the lining of the stomach.
Second, certain types of food are a lot harder to digest. These include red meat and food with a lot of fat. To improve the digestive process, the stomach produces more acids, which increases the odds of irritation of the lining.
A lot of people think that stress is all in the mind. In reality, it also manifests in the body, and one of the possible outcomes is indigestion.
The digestive system is connected to the nervous system through the vagus nerve, the longest nerve that runs from the brain to other parts of the body, particularly the gut.
When you’re stressed out, the gut-brain axis, which includes the vagus nerve, becomes imbalanced. In turn, it leads to the increased production of stomach acids and more muscle spasms of the esophagus, which allows some of these acids to travel up into the throat. It then irritates not only the stomach but also the esophagus.
The relationship between stress and indigestion also helps explain why you are likely to feel abdominal discomfort and other gastrointestinal issues when you’re anxious, depressed, and panicky.
3. Underlying Conditions
If indigestion develops suddenly or becomes worse, especially despite medications, you have to see the doctor. The condition most likely has an underlying cause. Treating this could reduce or even prevent indigestion.
One of the most common illnesses related to indigestion is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which develops when the stomach acid frequently travels up into the tube that connects the stomach and mouth. When not managed properly, it can develop into esophageal cancer.
Chronic indigestion can also indicate a gallbladder problem, particularly the presence of gallstones. These are hardened deposits of bile, a yellow substance that the liver secretes and helps digest food. The deposit can also include bile salts and cholesterol. The indigestion is likely related to gallstones when it occurs with a stabbing pain on the right side just below the ribcage.
In some cases, indigestion is a warning that something is wrong with the gastrointestinal tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and gastroenteritis. An endoscopy procedure, which involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera to produce live feeds of the internal organs, can help confirm that.
Excessive smoking has also been one of the major causes because these chemicals suppress digestive activity. Another lifestyle-related risk factor of indigestion is obesity.
When a person is overweight or obese, the extra weight adds more pressure to the stomach. Imagine a hand squishing a balloon. As the pressure builds up, the air inside needs to go somewhere. For those with indigestion, it backs up right into the esophagus.
Fortunately, today, there are many ways to get relief from indigestion. If it becomes chronic or severe, the doctor can provide you with medications such as antacids, which help to neutralize the stomach acids, and omeprazole, which decreases the acids.
The rest, though, requires commitment and discipline:
- Avoid carbonated beverages, spicy food, and food rich in fat until the doctor says you’re clear to consume them.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Relax your body and mind through deep breathing or yoga.
Indigestion is often annoying and uncomfortable. However, for others, it is chronic, lifelong, and sometimes painful. Consider these causes as warnings. If the problem gets worse, consult a doctor immediately.