Indigestion, medically called dyspepsia, refers to the difficulty of the stomach in evacuating excess food. In reality, indigestion is not a disease but rather a set of symptoms. It results in abdominal pain or discomfort sometimes associated with bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, or belching.
This is generally not serious but is advisable to consult a doctor if it occurs in a child or when it persists or is accompanied by certain symptoms (fever, blood in the stools, jaundice, for example).
When necessary, the medical diagnosis is based on questioning the patient, clinical examination and additional tests may be done if the doctor suspects an underlying pathology.
Definition Of Indigestion
Indigestion is a common condition caused by a meal that the digestive system struggles to digest, either because it is too large, too fatty, or too fast. This disorder is in the majority of cases transient and not serious.
Symptoms Of Indigestion
Indigestion can manifest itself in various symptoms, the main one being ill-defined and unpleasant pain in the upper part of the abdomen. This annoying feeling can last several hours and fade after resting in a lying position.
Certain symptoms can be warning signs, including the presence of gas in the stomach, a feeling of fullness before the end of the meal, an unpleasant feeling of fullness just after the meal, heartburn or acid reflux along the esophagus, nausea and vomiting
In the most worrying cases, indigestion results in:
- Vomiting and nausea sometimes with blood
- A pale complexion
- General weakness
- Black stools
- Rapid weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive sweating
These types of symptoms generally indicate the presence of an underlying pathology and require medical consultation. Indigestion lasts between 1 and 2 days and only causes complications in rare cases. More rarely, without appropriate care, permanent indigestion can worsen into food poisoning. Fecal incontinence is also one of the possible complications.
Causes And Risk Factors For Indigestion
Several causes can be pointed out. Indeed, certain lifestyle habits can increase the risk of suffering from indigestion:
- Eating too quickly
- To smoke
- Consuming too much alcohol
- Stress and fatigue
- Certain foods like coffee, citrus fruits, and foods that are spicy or too fatty
- Certain medications may also be involved
- Anti-inflammatory and acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin)
- Estrogens and oral contraceptives
- Certain antibiotics
- Being overweight can also increase the risk of suffering from digestive disorders. Indeed, being overweight can create pressure on the abdomen. In doing so, the stomach may be compressed and its contents may rise into the esophagus.
- A little weight loss can significantly improve digestive disorders. In addition to having a positive effect on certain digestive disorders, regular physical activity can help you achieve a healthy weight and help control stress and anxiety levels.
- Depending on your abilities, moderate activity of 30 to 60 minutes per day can have a beneficial effect on several aspects of your health.
What Treatment For Indigestion?
In the majority of cases, indigestion does not require specific treatment. It is, in fact, unnecessary to consult your doctor, except in the event of symptoms that could suggest food poisoning, or when several members of the family have the same symptoms.
Patients are often relieved by rest and/ or taking symptomatic treatment if necessary. For example, the patient can obtain antispasmodics without a prescription for abdominal pain, antiemetics for vomiting, or antidiarrheals for diarrhea.
Some Measures May Be Useful In The Event Of Indigestion:
- Limit your food consumption and drink water regularly
- Making yourself vomit can speed up recovery
- Resume eating gradually by eating lightly for a few days
- To note! Various plants can be used to combat indigestions: fennel, dill, peppermint, cumin, etc. It is advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional to ensure there are no contraindications.
- In cases of repeated or chronic indigestion, the doctor usually prescribed antihistamines such as cimetidine, or proton pump inhibitors, for example, omeprazole and pantoprazole.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed when indigestion is associated with an infection of the stomach or digestive system
Prevention Of Indigestion
The best treatment for indigestion remains prevention. Various tips can be beneficial:
- Have a healthy and balanced diet by consuming as many fruits, vegetables, and cereals as possible
- A nutritionist is helpful for personalized advice
- Take your time to eat, chewing slowly
- Avoid eating large quantities at once
- The idea is to eat several small meals per day to limit digestion efforts
- Limit late meals
- Avoid excessive consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs
- Limit the consumption of chemicals, alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea
- Eliminate sources of stress when possible
- Practicing regular physical activity contributes to better digestion
- After a meal, it is advisable to walk a little and avoid lying down immediately
What Diagnosis Is Suggested For Indigestion?
A medical consultation is recommended when indigestion persists for more than two weeks or if certain symptoms are present such as unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite lasting several days, severe vomiting, and dark stools.
During the consultation, the doctor first asks a few questions about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. The objective for the doctor is to obtain a clear description of the symptoms, their frequency or
the existence of recurrences, their circumstances of occurrence, and the aggravating factors or, on the contrary, the beneficial factors, he then carries out the clinical examination.
These observations guide the doctor on the origin of the disorder and on the additional tests to be carried out.
In case of indigestion, take a spoonful of concentrated lemon juice and then a cup of hot water. If an individual suffering from indigestion is vomiting blood and has very weak vital signs, take them to the doctor urgently.
Everyone can suffer from indigestion at one time or another. However, this must be taken very seriously when it comes to an elderly person who absolutely must consult their doctors.
Learn to avoid indigestion by trying to reduce the consumption of foods that are difficult to digest such as chocolate, fatty meat, carbonated and alcoholic drinks, spicy foods, fried foods, and sauces. Try to identify foods that are potentially at risk or have already caused indigestion.
- Definition & facts of indigestion. (2016).
- Harmon RC, Peura DA. Evaluation and management of dyspepsia (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002574/). Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2010 Mar;3(2):87-98. Accessed 12/19/2022.
- Lasser RB, Bond JH, Levitt MD. The role of intestinal gas in functional abdominal pain. N Engl J Med. 1975;293:524–26.