How to Cure From Indigestion

By: Corwin Brown

Indigestion is a condition that is frequently caused by eating too fast, especially by eating high-fat foods quickly.

Indigestion takes the form of gas, bloating, heartburn and abdominal pain and can cause a great deal of discomfort for the sufferer.

Avoiding the foods and situations that seem to cause indigestion is the most successful way to treat it. Excess stomach acid does not cause or result from indigestion, so antacids are not an appropriate treatment, although some people report that they do help. Smokers can help relieve their indigestion by quitting smoking, or at least not smoking right before eating. Exercising with a full stomach may cause indigestion, so scheduling exercise before a meal or at least an hour afterward might help.

Patients with the esophagitis type of indigestion are often treated with H2 antagonists. H2 antagonists are drugs that block the secretion of stomach acid. They include ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid).
Patients with motility disorders may be given prokinetic drugs. Prokinetic medications speed up the emptying of the stomach and increase intestinal motility. They include metoclopramide (Reglan) and cisapride (Propulsid). These drugs relieve symptoms in 60-80% of patients.

Smokers may be advised to quit smoking or avoid smoking before meals. Also, exercising after a meal can be a cause of indigestion, so scheduling exercise before a meal, or waiting at least an hour after eating, can also help prevent indigestion.

Practitioners of Chinese traditional herbal medicine might recommend medicines derived from peony (Paeonia lactiflora), hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), or hare's ear (Bupleurum chinense) to treat indigestion. Western herbalists are likely to prescribe fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), or peppermint (Mentha piperita) to relieve stomach cramps and heartburn.

If you experience indigestion frequently, see your doctor, who will try to determine when your indigestion occurs, what foods and drinks seem to trigger it, in what part of the abdomen the discomfort is strongest, and how long it typically last. Your physician also may want to run a series of tests to make sure that your indigestion is not being caused by a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, colon cancer, stomach ulcer, gastritis, pancreatic disease, or irritable bowel syndrome. A barium X-ray, endoscopic examination of the digestive tract, or stool sample may be necessary. In order to rule out disorders of the pancreas, liver, or gallbladder, your doctor also may recommend an ultrasound examination of those organs.

If over-the-counter products do not offer relief, your physician may prescribe cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid), or omeprazole (Prilosec) to block acid production in the stomach. A medication that increases the strength of the lower esophageal sphincter, such as metocopramide or bethanechol, also may be prescribed.

For heartburn symptoms that occur at night, it may help to sleep in a slightly more upright position, because the action of gravity reduces reflux. To help prevent indigestion, the best advice is to eat regular meals and a balanced diet, so that you maintain a healthy weight. Don't smoke or drink alcohol in large amounts.

Any factors listed above (like smoking and alcohol), as well as the incorrect use of any drugs, should be stopped if possible. Non-ulcer dyspepsia often starts at a time of stress. Stress cannot be easily avoided, but there are many ways that you can deal with it. Avoiding deadlines (especially the self-imposed ones) is important. Delegating more responsibility should be tried, if at all possible. Learn to say No a little more often, and make sure that there are proper evening and weekend breaks. Regular exercise and the distraction of a hobby may be useful. Above all, problems should be discussed openly. Bottled-up feelings and worries are a big cause of stress.

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