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INDIGESTION

Indigestion is a term used for discomfort and pain felt in the stomach. Indigestion is also known as dyspepsia which causes pain in the chest or stomach after eating or drinking water. It is a sign of various problems like the gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), gallbladder disease, ulcers etc. Indigestion is not a disease but is a symptom a person experiences along with abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness after having food.

Indigestion is a common problem faced by people due to improper food habits, lifestyle changes, digestive problems etc. People suffering from chronic digestive problems may experience indigestion on a regular basis. For a few people, indigestion occurs occasionally and it is very mild. It may last from a few minutes to a few hours. There are many ways to feel better and to avoid the recurrence of indigestion.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The signs and symptoms of indigestion are:

  • Pain in the belly
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Growling stomach
  • Burning sensation
  • Fullness after having food
  • Formation of gas in the stomach
  • Acidic taste in the mouth
  • Feeling sick
  • Flatulence
  • Acid reflux
  • Abdominal pain

CAUSES

Indigestion is mostly related to eating and when you eat the stomach produces acid. The acid formed in the stomach may sometimes irritate the inner lining of the abdomen and causes burning and pain in the abdomen. This irritation may be painful and may cause burning sensation in the stomach. The factors which are involved in causing and worsening the indigestion condition are:

  • Certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen may affect the lining of the stomach and may cause irritation and burning.
  • Overweight may also cause indigestion
  • Indigestion is also caused in pregnant women due to changes in the hormone levels in the body. 8 out of 10 women may experience indigestion during pregnancy.
  • Smoking and consuming alcohol may also contribute to indigestion.
  • Stress and anxiety may also cause indigestion.
  • Diseases such as irritable bowel disease, thyroid disease, stomach cancer, stomach infections, and chronic pancreatitis may cause indigestion.
  • Food plays a major role in indigestion. Eating too much or eating fast or food rich in oil and fat may cause indigestion.
  • Tiredness in the body may also cause indigestion.
  • Having food just before going to bed may also cause indigestion.
  • Swallowing more amount of air while eating may increase the symptoms such as burping and bloating which are associated to indigestion.

DIAGNOSIS

The following are the tests performed to diagnose indigestion:

  • Physical examination is the first thing the doctor performs. The doctor may also ask for the complete medical history of the patient.
  • Endoscopy is a test performed which uses a camera and a lighted tube that allows the doctor to look directly inside the esophagus, and stomach. An endoscopy is performed for a better evaluation of the condition.
  • Blood test is performed to check the levels of white blood cells as an increase in the level of white blood cells may indicate the presence of infection.
  • Barium meal is a test in which series of X-rays are taken after drinking a white solution, called a barium meal. This helps in delineating the stomach and intestines clearly to observe the presence of an ulcer in the stomach.
  • Ultrasound and abdominal CT scan are performed in a patient suffering from indigestion to get a clear view of the images of the stomach.

TREATMENT

Indigestion usually does not require any treatment as it may reduce and go away on its own with a few hours but if the patient suffers from severe symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, burning and irritation then the doctor may provide the treatment for indigestion. The treatment for indigestion may depend on the cause of the condition.

The following are a few lifestyle changes which may help in reducing indigestion:

  • Avoid having food which are spicy and oily
  • Divide the meals. Eat 5 to 6 meals a day instead of three large meals.
  • Avoid having certain medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen etc
  • Control stress and anxiety
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce the consumption of alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Have the right kind of food at the right time
  • Do not go to bed immediately after having meals
  • Proton-pump inhibitors are prescribed by the doctor in case a person suffers from severe indigestion along with heartburn.
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