What is it?
Indigestion is the term used to describe ‘heartburn’ or a feeling of fullness or gaseousness in the stomach. Other symptoms include belching, rumbling noises, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea and anal irritation.
Causes of indigestion
- High or low levels of stomach acid
- Swallowing air – by chewing with the mouth open, talking whilst chewing or gulping food
- Eating when stressed
- Drinking with food – dilutes gastric juices
- Irritants – alcohol, caffeine, vinegar, greasy or spicy foods
- Food intolerances (e.g. dairy produce)
- Peptic ulcers
- Disorders of the liver, gall bladder or pancreas
- Lack of friendly bacteria
- Eat some fresh pineapple or papaya before meals – they are rich in digestive enzymes.
- Ginger or dandelion root tea/coffee before meals stimulate gastric juices.
- Food combining improves digestion – eat high protein foods (meat, dairy) away from high carbohydrate foods (potatoes, bread, rice, pasta). Impractical, yes but it can be very helpful. Both groups can be eaten with vegetables, and fruits should be eaten on their own.
- Eating when you are stressed or in a hurry
- Not chewing your food thoroughly
- Drinking large quantities of liquid with your meals. A small glass of wine or water is unlikely to cause problems but don’t follow your meal with a cup of coffee, tea or a pint of beer!
- Foods that cause you problems
High or low levels of stomach acid can be identified by a safe and simple test - take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with your meal. If you feel a warm sensation in the stomach (your indigestion may be worse) you have enough acid, if not you don’t.
Low stomach acid is thought to encourage the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which prefers the higher PH (less acid) conditions. The bacterial infection further raises the PH and can cause gastric ulcers to develop. Maintaining levels of the antioxidant vitamins C and E is thought to minimize the damage caused by H. pylori.
TREATMENT FOR LOW ACID LEVELS
With a main meal take one hcl supplement. If this does not aggravate your symptoms take two with the next meal, then three with the next and continue this way increasing at every meal until you get a warming sensation in your stomach that indicates enough acid (stop if you get to seven).
When you have found the required dose, take it at every meal of a similar size. If you have a smaller meal reduce the dose.
With an adequate amount of acid you will absorb the nutrients required (zinc and vitamin B6) for the body to make it’s own. As this begins to happen you will notice the warming sensation and can gradually reduce the dose.
TREATMENT FOR HIGH ACID LEVELS
The stomach produces too much acid usually in response to stress or high consumption of caffeine, alcohol or sugar. Obesity can be a contributory factor, as can overeating.
- Antacids provide temporary relief by neutralising stomach acid but the body reacts by producing even more.
- Cut down on tea, coffee and alcohol
- Avoid acid foods, citrus fruits and vinegar
- Drink fennel, peppermint or chamomile tea after meals
- Chew gum for an hour after meals
Gastric reflux is the upward flow of gastric juices. Improving the tone of the esophageal sphincter can help. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is very effective for this purpose and has also been found useful in eradicating H. pylori, stimulating internal defences and healing gastric ulcers.
For maximum effect, split open capsules and mix with saliva before swallowing 30 minutes before food.