Tummy Trouble

Careful eating habits can drive away the discomfort of indigestion.

All too often when we indulge in our favorite foods, a burning pain and discomfort known as indigestion is quick to follow.

Indigestion can be a symptom of heartburn, which is caused by stomach acid backing up in the esophagus. Most of the time, indigestion causes a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, bloating, belching and nausea. Generally, indigestion is caused by foods with a high fat content, like fried foods and foods rich in oils and creams.

It’s not always easy to get healthy foods when you’re on the road, and in today’s fast-paced world, grabbing fast food is sometimes an everyday event. For the most part, avoiding the foods that seem to give you indigestion can be the best way to treat the problem. For example, if greasier foods seem to settle heavier on your stomach at night, it may be a better idea to try and eat a big lunch and a light dinner.

Of course, counting calories and fat grams is ideal for a healthy diet, but many restaurants don’t have nutritional content for their foods posted. Take a moment to evaluate your options, and try to aim for the lighter fare on the menu. For example, a chicken taco will have much less grease and calories than a beef taco. Some restaurants indicate which dishes are lower in fat, and low fat most always means low indigestion.

Sometimes the problem isn’t what you eat but how you eat it. The old rule about waiting 30 minutes after you eat before exercise still holds true. Exercising with a full stomach is one of the main causes of acid reflux disease, so make sure you have time to sit a while after you eat, especially if you’re eating fatty foods.

Eating too quickly and not drinking enough fluids can create a buildup of gas and acids. Slowing down when you eat and drinking enough with your meal will help neutralize acids from food faster. Although drinking enough is important, drinks that are excessively hot or cold can irritate the lining in your esophagus and create heartburn-like feelings.

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It’s also a good idea to eat dinner at least four hours before going to bed. Eating early can help you to lose weight as well as digest your food more quickly.

Indigestion isn’t only caused by diet. Sometimes highly emotional or frustrating situations can cause feelings of nausea and heartburn. Smoking can also increase indigestion, especially smoking just before a meal.

Laying down can worsen acid reflux and promote bloating. In fact, staying elevated at night is an excellent way to help indigestion. Some sufferers have found that placing wooden blocks under the head of their bed to elevate their upper abdomen can greatly reduce acid backup in the esophagus.

Treatments for indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux differ, but most quick-fix remedies are calcium-carbonate-based antacids. Calcium-carbonate helps to provide a buffer between excess acids and the stomach lining, thereby reducing the burning sensation. Fortunately, antacids should bring relief almost instantly, but antacids fail to reduce bloating or curtail further acid buildup.

Although most indigestion pain can be fixed with a change in diet, sometimes an ulcer or a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can be to blame. If your indigestion persists and worsens even with medication, a doctor’s visit is in order.

Simple Cures

  • Eat slowly and avoid foods or drinks that are extremely cold or hot.
  • Try not to eat a big meal less than four hours before going to sleep.
  • Avoid stressful situations, and look for ways to reduce stress.
  • Antacids that are calcium-carbonate-based are excellent for reducing bloating and indigestion pain.

—Kathryn Tuggle