Indigestion (Dyspepsia): Causes, Tips, and Remedies To Manage ItLuke Coutinho
Dyspepsia also known as indigestion is a common gut issue that affects millions of people today. The term is used to describe discomfort or pain within the upper abdomen. It’s not a disease but a gaggle of symptoms that may range from constant bloating, nausea, and burping.
How does indigestion happen?
It is usually caused by stomach acid coming into contact with the mucosal or sensitive protective lining of our gut. When this happens, the stomach acids break down the mucosa and cause irritation and inflammation, which also triggers other symptoms of indigestion.
Causes of indigestion
- Eating at a rapid pace without chewing
- Excessive alcohol consumption, caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages
- Excessive consumption of greasy and fatty foods, junk and processed foods
- Food allergies
- Stomach infection
- Side-effects of certain medications (antibiotics, pain relievers, and so on)
- Late night meals
- Keep long gaps between meals
But the root cause in most cases is a poor lifestyle that needs change.
Your indigestion can also be a sign of other underlying conditions ranging from peptic ulcers, constipation, celiac disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, thyroid, pregnancy, gallstones, and so on.
Tips to manage indigestion
When it comes to digestion, there is one thing that you must understand: It isn’t just about what you eat but how your body breaks it down, absorbs, and assimilates it. You can go on chugging protein shakes or eating quality carbs and fats, but if you don’t have the digestive enzymes in terms of quality and quantity to break it down, it gets stored in your body as fat. It will slow your metabolism and create digestive issues.
Look after your pancreas
Your pancreas may seem like a small organ, but it plays a crucial role. It produces insulin to manage your blood sugar levels. It also secretes your digestive enzymes. Of the many digestive enzymes, here are three you must acquaint yourself with:
- Protease: This digestive enzyme breaks down protein.
- Lipase: This digestive enzyme helps break down fat.
- Amylase: This digestive enzyme breaks down carbohydrates.
If you are too acidic, excessively consume coffee, and alcohol, smoke, are sedentary and are perpetually sleep-deprived, you will wear your pancreas out. In the long run, this uncontrolled inflammation in the pancreas may lead to pancreatitis.
So prevention is your best bet, and looking after your pancreas is important. Hopping from one antacid to another will only give your temporary relief. It will not address or stop the damage to your pancreas and digestive system. Antacids only make your stomach produce less acid for surface-level relief. So, find out the root cause.
The inability to break down food without the correct digestive enzymes can lead to food allergies and intolerances to foods you may have grown up eating.
It is why you will notice when you have a problem with your pancreas, your doctors or nutritionists will put you on digestive enzymes to aid the process of breaking down your foods until your pancreas heals.
Chew your food slowly and mindfully
The most effective way to deal with indigestion is mastering the art of chewing. Eat your food slowly and mindfully. You may believe that digestion begins in the stomach but the truth is it begins in the mouth. When you bite every morsel, your saliva has digestive enzymes that help you break down this food. The action of chewing and producing saliva signals your stomach to start the production of acids and other enzymes to aid digestion. When you eat your food too quickly without using your teeth to break it down into smaller particles, you send partially digested and larger chunks of food into your stomach. This leads to your stomach producing more acid and paves way for acidity and indigestion. Undigested chunks of food then travel to your small intestine, irritate the mucosal linings of the intestine, causing gut inflammation, bloating, more acidity, and upsetting the gut microbiome. Learn more about the art of chewing here.
Kitchen remedies to deal with indigestion
Tap into your kitchen pharmacy for these medicinal foods
- Ginger, cumin (jeera), bishop’s weed (ajwain), and fennel seeds (saunf) are excellent to manage indigestion and get quick relief from bloating.
- How to use them? You can drink a glass of lemon-ginger water or ajwain-jeera-saunf concoction for 30 minutes of your meals. Check out the recipe of the concoction below:
- If you do not prefer concoction or kadhas, you can also opt to chew a mixture of ¼ tsp ajwain, ½ tsp jeera, and ½ tsp saunf thoroughly to release digestive enzymes. Once you swallow them, drink a glass of warm water. This will boost your digestive function by facilitating the discharge of gastric juices.
- Buttermilk made with A2 curd or coconut curd with asafoetida, coriander seed powder and cumin powder is a powerful remedy to ease indigestion and bloating. You can also add mint or coriander leaves to this.
- If buttermilk does not suit you, you can even take Sol kadhi (the coconut milk and kokum drink) which soothes the gut lining. Find our recipe for this much-relished drink from the coasts of Maharashtra here. It acts as a coolant and can be powerful after a heavy meal. The leaves, roots, bark, fruits, seeds, and shells of the kokum tree – all hold medicinal value. When consuming, ensure to sip this tummy pacifier slowly.
- If you are experiencing severe bloating, apply asafoetida or hing paste around the navel for momentary relief.
- Sit in Vajrasana post meals or Pawan Muktasana an hour after a meal to relieve bloating and aid digestion.
- Get your dose of natural probiotics and prebiotics to improve your gut microbiome. These will populate and diversify your good bacteria and control the count of bad bacteria.
- Good sources of readily available prebiotics include garlic, onion, apples, bananas, oats, cacao or raw cacao nibs, good quality dark chocolate, flax seeds, apple cider vinegar, psyllium husk/isabgol, and so on.
- Good sources of probiotics if you are not vegan or lactose intolerant include homemade yogurt, A2 buttermilk, A2 curd, fresh cheese, kefir (without sugar), sauerkraut, kimchi, apple cider vinegar (with the mother culture), and homemade pickles (using good quality ingredients).
- One of the oldest and most effective probiotics is rice kanji where you take 2 tbsp of leftover white rice. Cool and add it to a small mud pot and fill it with water. Cover it overnight. Once it ferments, have 3 to 3 tbsps of this on an empty stomach.
- In some cases of indigestion, going gluten-free and lactose-free may help as these are heavy to break down and can lead to inflammation in an already inflamed body, especially in cases of autoimmune conditions.
- Drink ample water throughout the day to keep your organs hydrated. This will also help flush out toxins and automatically reduce the load on your digestive system.
Other foods that contain digestive enzymes and can be powerful for indigestion
It contains bromelain, which has enzymes called cysteine proteinases that break down protein. This is why in many meat-eating countries, people cut slices of pineapple and put them over the meat so that its juices and enzymes can seep into it, thus breaking down and tenderizing the protein.
Papaya has papain that contains proteolytic enzymes that break proteins down into peptides and amino acids. This too is used to tenderize meat.
Before saying, “Mango has carbs and it makes me fat,” STOP. Mango contains amylase that breaks down carbohydrates. This is the beauty of nature, a carb that has in-built enzymes to help you break it down and easily digested and absorb it.
We are not talking about your normal or processed honey. If your bottle says it’s organic but doesn’t have raw and unpasteurized written on it, it will not benefit you. Raw honey unpasteurized honey is naturally loaded with digestive enzymes. This is another reason why it has been used as a medicine across civilizations for digestive, gut issues, and general well-being.
Most people think bananas will make them put on weight because contains carbs. But just like mango, bananas have amylase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates.
Avocado contains lipase which breaks down fat. This super fruit is also loaded with fiber and potassium which are excellent for digestive health. It is low in fructose and less gassy compared to other fruits, but be careful of the quantity you consume.
Avoid juicing your fruits. In the absence of fiber, all you are left with is a glassful of sugar. Always eat it whole and chew it mindfully. On the other hand, you can juice your vegetables since they contain the digestive enzyme, cellulase.
Very few patients who are unable to chew can have fruit juices in controlled quantities.
Ginger has the bioactive compound gingerol which is highly anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants. This is super powerful when it comes to remedying indigestion because it has the natural ability to reduce stomach acid. You can peel, grate, slice, or dice it. Add it to your food preparations like soups, stir fry, salads, sabzis, and curries. You can also chew it raw or steep it in hot water to make ginger tea.
Remember nutrition and kitchen remedies can never work alone. Beyond this, work on all aspects of your lifestyle including your activity levels, emotional health, and sleep. Most of these lifestyle tips are inexpensive to incorporate. All you need is self-discipline and consistency. Tell me how it worked for you in the comment section.
(A previous version of this article appeared in Indulge for The Indian Express)
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I have problem of gas and acidity…everyday I have pain in my upper abdomen and back and sometimes chest….tried soo many things…plz guide what can I do to get rid of these two…
Hi Surbhi, Sorry to hear that you have been struggling with this. Before suggesting anything, my team and I would need to assess your case closely in detail. You can reach out to us at email@example.com or set up a one-on-one consult at 18001020253
Very useful information! Thank you Luke for all the insights…
Most welcome Parin 🙂
Thanks Luke, I have serious digestive problems and watching your videos and updated information, applied on my life style and Improved my health and my digestion is better now. I have changed my life style and eating style as well to enjoy my health.
Testimonials like these drive me and my team to continue to do what we do. Thank you Asha 🙂