Mayday Hospital Care

What is Indigestion?

Indigestion is a blanket term that covers various symptoms such as stomach cramping, heartburn, and wind, but essentially, they’re all signs that the digestive system is having trouble coping with the amount of food in the body.

The Symptoms of Indigestion

Heartburn is the most common symptom, caused when an overfull belly pushes stomach acid back up the oesophagus—the tube in which food and drink pass from the throat into the stomach. Symptoms consist of an acidic taste in the mouth, a burning sensation when swallowing, and, in the worst cases, stomach cramps and nausea.

Many think the acidic taste is the result of too much stomach acid, but this is rarely the case – it’s because your stomach doesn’t have enough acid to cope with the amount of food you’ve eaten!

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Make sure you have plenty of good bacteria in your gut to help your digestion.

Eat lots of live probiotic yoghurt, which contains the well-advertised friendly bacteria that tops up the good bacteria in the gut, overcrowding the bad bacteria and optimising bodily functions.

The gut is responsible for 70% of our immune function, but good bacteria are killed by alcohol and caffeine, so a constant supply of good bacteria is essential, especially when we overindulge.

Ensure the yoghurt has no added sugar or sweeteners; otherwise, it will counteract the good bacteria in the yoghurt, usually called acidophilus or Bifidus.

Artichokes

Artichokes have been used since Roman times to aid digestion, and although it’s unlikely you will eat one on Christmas Day, you can purchase some excellent herbal supplements called Cynara artichoke extract, available from health food stores and chemists.

They not only help digestion but stave off a hangover, too, because they naturally detoxify the liver – perfect!

Herbal Relief

Two herbs that really do ease heartburn are mint and ginger.

You can buy mint or ginger tea bags in health food shops and supermarkets, or you can make your own by steeping approximately 5-10g of fresh mint leaves or peeled fresh grated ginger in half a pint of almost boiling water for five minutes; strain and drink immediately, adding honey to taste.

You can also buy ginger chewing gum from the Sea Band brand at health food stores. It contains 25mg of ginger oil, which is the equivalent of around 8g of fresh root ginger.

Cider Vinegar

We often suffer from indigestion because there isn’t enough stomach acid to deal with the extra food consumed.

Cider vinegar contains malic and tartaric acid, which helps the body break down rich, fatty food and metabolize proteins, fats and minerals.

Drinking a teaspoon of cider vinegar in half a glass of water during a meal or shortly after will help digestion, balance stomach acid and kill unfriendly bacteria in the gut.

Pharmaceutical Remedies

You can purchase antacids from the chemist, which are relatively safe and effective, but it is always wise to try a natural remedy first.

Experts recommend the best ones be in tablet form and contain a mixture of magnesium hydroxide (which causes diarrhoea) and aluminium hydroxide (which causes constipation), which counteract each other’s side effects.

You can also buy acid inhibitors, which contain small doses of ranitidine and cimetidine, but these can mask a more serious problem if taken on a regular basis and should ideally be used as a last resort.

What Else Can You Do?

  • Eat more slowly
  • Try not to mix your drinks more than necessary!
  • Eat a little and often. The food will still be there a couple of hours later!
  • Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing. If you do, loosen your belt or waistband so your stomach is restricted, as this will only make heartburn worse.
  • Avoid chocolate if you have heartburn. It contains caffeine and is very high in fat, which will immediately aggravate symptoms.