Indigestion or dyspepsia is a condition in which discomfort, distress or pain is felt in the abdomen (belly) during or after a meal. It is characterized by belching, bloating, nausea, heartburn, recurrent abdominal pain and feeling full earlier than expected when eating.
Indigestion is more accurately described as a symptom rather than a disease, and each case should be carefully investigated to determine what is causing it, and the precise nature of the disorder.
Even though indigestion is frequently associated with stomach disorders such peptic ulcer, it is more commonly caused by poor eating habits.
When food is eaten too hastily and not chewed properly to allow time to mix with saliva, additional work is given to the stomach.
This is because food digestion actually starts in the mouth due to the presence of several digestive enzymes in saliva.
When food is consumed at irregular times, it upsets the natural rhythm of the stomach because the stomach requires restful pauses in between meals.
In addition, eating between meals spoils the appetite, and without a stimulated appetite, a meal is poorly digested and absorbed into the body.
Tea or coffee when too strong or taken excessively can have an irritating effect on the lining of the stomach, reducing the flow of digestive juices and causing indigestion.
Excessive alcohol intake also acts in a similar way. Infections arising from the gums, teeth, tonsils or nose can cause indigestion owing to the constant swallowing of poisonous matter.
There are a number of steps you can take to improve your digestion and absorption of food.
Eating only when hungry has many advantages to it. When we are hungry, the body becomes primed for the process of digestion. And if food is consumed during this time, there will be optimal quantities of enzymes and juices to ensure a strong digestion.
Food also tastes better with hunger. It is equally important to chew food thoroughly and ensure that it mixes completely with saliva.
This is because saliva contains numerous enzymes such as amylase which starts carbohydrate digestion, and lysozyme which destroys bacteria.
Sometimes it may be necessary to eliminate certain foods that may be causing indigestion from our diet.
Wheat flour and foods containing wheat are known to cause indigestion in certain individuals.
However eliminating wheat from the diet may be difficult mainly because wheat is widely used. Especially in processed food, and also because wheat based foods such as cakes and bread are tasty and difficult to resist.
Rice, corn or barley are good alternatives to wheat. Yoghurt and other cultured dairy products are very good sources of friendly bacteria like acidophilus that aids food digestion.
Antibiotics destroy these friendly microbes in the stomach. Drugs like omeprazole are commonly prescribed for indigestion due to their ability to suppress the acid produced in the stomach.
However this acid promotes the growth of friendly microbes by suppressing the growth of harmful microbes. Adding fibre to your diet goes a long way in improving digestion.
Fibre helps keep digesting food moving, while stimulating the digestive process. Good sources of fibre includes; raw vegetables, fruits, well-chewed nuts, whole grains, sprouts and legumes.
Good sources of natural digestive enzymes are; pineapples, bean sprouts, figs and papaya. Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, while papaya contains papain. Sprouts and figs contain a variety of enzymes.
Cooking destroys these enzymes, so it is important to eat these foods and more of your foods raw whenever possible.