The term indigestion is often used to describe heartburn and/or upper abdominal pain as well as a feeling of gaseousness, difficulty swallowing, feelings of pressure or heaviness after eating, sensations of bloating after eating, stomach or abdominal pains and cramps, or fullness in the abdomen. The medical terms used to describe indigestion include functional dyspepsia (FD), nonulcer dyspepsia (NUD), and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). These are among the most popular diagnoses in North America and yet several review articles have concluded that “the efficacy of current drugs on the market is limited at best.”
Why OTC and Prescription Drugs Make Indigestion Worse
Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs for indigestion often cause more problems than they help. The most popular are acid-blocking drugs. These drugs work by blocking one of the most important digestive processes—the secretion of hydrochloric acid by the stomach. The problem is, acid-blocking drugs also block digestion! Although blocking the production of stomach acid can reduce symptoms, it also substantially blocks a normal body process. Acid-blocking drugs are associated with numerous side effects such as digestive disturbances like nausea, constipation, and diarrhea.
Four Natural Approaches that Are Safe and Effective
In the person with chronic indigestion, rather than focus on blocking the digestive process with antacids, the rational approach is to focus on aiding digestion. Indigestion can be attributed to a great many causes, including not only increased secretion of acid but also decreased secretion of acid and other digestive factors and enzymes. In fact, most nutrition-oriented physicians believe that lack of acid, not excess, is the true culprit in many patients with indigestion. Here are four approaches that can help.
1. Change your diet. The first step is eliminating common dietary causes of GERD/NUD, which includes overeating, obesity, coffee, chocolate, fried foods, carbonated beverages (soft drinks), and alcohol. In many cases, simply eliminating or reducing the causative food(s) or beverage is all that’s necessary to completely relieve GERD/NUD. Other tips: decrease the size of portions at mealtime; chew food thoroughly; eat in a leisurely manner in a calm, relaxed atmosphere; and don’t eat within two hours of bedtime.
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