Everyone experiences indigestion every now and then. But suffering from an upset stomach frequently can actually have something to do with bigger and more dangerous diseases.
Dr. Archana Bista
Here, The Week’s Anweiti Upadhyay talks to gastroenterologist Dr Archana Bista to find out what are the common causes of indigestion, and how one can prevent and cure this annoying health problem.
What causes indigestion?
Food and water
The first and the most obvious factor that causes indigestion is the food you eat. If food items like fruits and a few vegetables that are eaten raw aren’t thoroughly cleaned, then that will upset your stomach. Similarly, sometimes half cooked food can also cause indigestion. If your hands or utensils you are using to eat with aren’t washed properly then that too can lead to indigestion. A lot of the time, it’s the (unclean) water that upsets your stomach when you go out to eat rather than the food itself. Water that isn’t filtered thoroughly or boiled properly carries a lot of germs and harmful bacteria.
Getting an upset stomach because of stress and anxiety happens to a lot of people way more frequently than they think it does. Intense emotions like stress and anxiety releases your body’s natural instinct of fight or flight that halts the functioning of a lot of body parts including your gut. So, if you get stressed or anxious quite frequently, then this will affect your digestive system as well. The amount of acid in your stomach increases and the balance between helpful and harmful gut bacteria also gets disturbed due to anxiety and that causes both digestive disorders and heartburn.
A symptom of bigger issues
Because most people consider indigestion as a small health inconvenience that is easily triggered, they don’t really put in the effort to dig into what is causing it. Your frequently upset stomach could actually be warning you about some other more dangerous underlying diseases. Indigestion is a common symptom of a lot of diseases including heart disease, angina, heart attack, thyroid issues, depression, stomach cancer, hiatal hernia, gallstones, pancreatitis, gastritis, ulcer, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), esophagitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and food allergies among others.
Other factors that cause indigestion
• Eating too little or too much.
• Excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine.
• Not getting enough sleep and fatigue.
• Untimely eating habits.
• Food allergies.
How to deal with indigestion?
To prevent indigestion, start by drinking only boiled or filtered water. If you can, carry a water bottle and avoid drinking water from other sources at all costs. In case you already have an upset stomach, drink as much water as possible. It will ease the pain and keeping your body hydrated will also help your digestive system get back in shape quicker.
Avoid eating at unhygienic places. People with digestive problems should stop eating street food completely. You should also carry a hand sanitizer with you and use that – if you can’t actually wash your hands – before eating anything. Wash fruits and vegetables properly and cook your food completely before consuming it.
You should also have a routine for eating. Have all of your heavy meals around the same time every day and also regulate the amount of food you eat during each meal. Eat enough for your body to get all of its nutrients but don’t overeat.
Sometimes, allergies to particular food items can also flare your digestive system and cause indigestion. So, figure out all of these triggers that prompt indigestion. If you can’t find this out on your own, there are medical check ups you can do that’ll figure out your allergies for you. Avoid these food items and always carry with you medications that can control the effects of these allergies.
You also need to keep your body clean to avoid getting indigestion in the first place. You don’t have to do anything special – just focus on completing all of the basic body care things regularly. Take a shower every day. Trim your nails short and keep them clean – focus on cleaning your nails when you wash your hands. Wash or at the very least sanitize your hands a few times every day.
Stress and anxiety also affect your stomach and digestive process. So, take some time out daily to take care of your mental wellbeing. Indulge in an activity that makes you happy for a short period of time. If you can’t manage stress and anxiety on your own, don't hesitate to seek help from a professional.
Surprisingly enough, even exercising regularly helps with indigestion. Incorporate a few exercise moves that target your core and abs into your daily routine. Doing this regularly will get rid of the gas in your stomach and prevent bloating. Exercise also releases dopamine that helps with stress and anxiety.
As an upset stomach could also be a symptom of a bigger underlying issue, consult a doctor if indigestion is a fairly regular thing.