The pain and discomfort of indigestion can sometimes take us by surprise. In serious cases, we may even think it may be something more than simple indigestion. In fact, indigestion it is quite easily treatable at home and is likely to pass in a short time. There are a number of ways you can self care for indigestion at home, including the use of over-the-counter medicines and some simple home remedies.
What Causes Indigestion?
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is caused by stomach acid irritating the stomach lining and throat. This can result in a burning sensation, pain and a feeling of stomach cramps. You may also experience bloating, excessive gas or belching, or in some cases nausea and vomiting. It is often accompanied by heartburn, or acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid travels up towards the throat.
Causes of indigestion can vary, but are generally associated with the types of food you eat. Spicy, fatty or greasy foods are more likely to cause symptoms of indigestion. Symptoms can also be aggravated by smoking, over indulging in alcohol, or as a side-effect of certain medicines.
Occasionally, symptoms of indigestion may result from a more serious underlying illness. These can include:
- hiatus hernia – this is where part of the stomach moves upwards into the chest, and is more common amongst those over 50 years of age. This condition does not necessarily require treatment unless it is causing you specific problems.
- stomach ulcer – a stomach ulcer is an open sore which develops in the lining of the stomach. These can cause burning or gnawing pains in the abdomen, but in a lot of cases patients do not suffer pain. They may instead experience indigestion, heartburn, or nausea.
- stomach cancer – persistent indigestion, stomach pain, trapped wind, and feelings of fullness after normal sized meals could indicate stomach cancer.
- gastro oesophageal disease (GORD) – regular bouts of heartburn and acid reflux.
- pregnancy – indigestion and heartburn are both very common during pregnancy, particularly from week 27 onwards
Whatever the cause, symptoms of indigestion can be worsened by stress.
Self Care For Indigestion – Treating It At Home
There is a simple list of ‘dos’ and don’ts’ which can be followed to prevent indigestion from occurring in the first place:
- Cut down on caffeinated and fizzy drinks
- Lose weight
- Prop yourself in a more upright position at night to prevent acid from rising from the stomach
- Avoid eating 3 to 4 hours before bed
- Avoid rich, spicy or fatty foods
- Avoid ibuprofen or aspirin if you are experiencing indigestion or heartburn as these can make symptoms worse
- Quit smoking
Treating symptoms of indigestion is relatively straightforward. You can visit your pharmacist for advice on the best forms of antacids, which can be bought over the counter and do not require a prescription from the doctor.
Some people may wish to try some natural home remedies to prevent and treat indigestion. These may include green tea, peppermint tea, or baking soda in water.
When To Seek Medical Advice
If you experience indigestion or heartburn on a regular basis, and dietary changes do not solve the problem, you may need to think about going to your GP. You can book an appointment with your GP, or call NHS Direct on 111 to talk to a trained professional nurse who can give you an idea of what your symptoms could indicate. NHS Direct can advise you on whether a GP appointment could be necessary, and can also direct you to your local out of hours service.