Feelings of fullness, discomfort during or after a meal, burning pain in the stomach, bloating, belching, gas, acidic taste in the tongue and even vomiting are a few symptoms commonly prevalent in all age groups now-a-days. This put in one word is indigestion.
Indigestion has the potential to throw one’s schedule off track. This can be painful and embarrassing if not dealt with correctly. Therefore stop this discomfort immediately and prevent major health problems later, with these tips.
What is Digestion?
The process by which our food is broken down from complex-insoluble substances to simpler soluble ones is called digestion. Our body continuously functions and for that it needs energy. This energy breakdown and supply comes from digesting the food in a correct way.
Stomach and intestine:
When one thinks of digestion, one pictures the stomach. This assumption that the food is digested in the stomach only is a wrong. Digestion first starts in the mouth, the passage of food towards the stomach through the food pipe, the esophagus, and then the stomach and the intestines. So, to tackle indigestion, one needs to firstly understand the working of these different organs and hence work to tackle it smartly.
Mouth and esophagus:
Food is chewed and mixed with saliva in the mouth. Saliva contains various enzymes that help breaking down of food, making it easier and softer for it to pass through the esophagus.
So eating fast, not chewing your food and swallowing it defeat the purpose of the enzymes. When larger chunks of food pass through the food pipe, it causes burning sensation in the chest or heartburn.
Eating with your mouth open:
You tend to swallow air when you are eating with your mouth open which results in belching. Indigestion can lead to weight loss since you do not end up absorbing all nutrients. But sadly, indigestion today is happening more so because of overeating or gorging on very fatty foods which take time to pass through the food pipe. This leads to burning sensations and the feeling of reflux. Belching, farting and burping are normal ways of expelling air that is created and trapped during a meal.
A pear shaped elastic organ which does have a fixed shape and stretches to accommodate the food we eat. It is mainly responsible to break down the food further, especially the proteins into simpler forms. Stomach stores the food till it can be absorbed. The stomach produces Hydrochloric acid (HCL), which plays a major role in breaking down of proteins. This acid is produced from time to time.
Stomach and eating habits:
Unfortunately, we abuse this main engine of the digestive system by our eating habits. We starve, not eat for long hours or overeat or eat at odd hours. HCL if not fed with food can start reacting and eat away the layers in the lining of the stomach itself. Hence, this result is constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, burning in the upper abdomen. By overeating during any meal, too much of acid formation needed to digest the food makes it difficult again for the lining of the stomach. Eating a heavy dinner does not allow the food to get utilised and the stomach muscles fail to relax and don’t close properly
How to Avoid Indigestion:
1)Chew your food very well: Try and close your mouth and avoid talking while eating. Take some time off your busy schedule and set a time aside for your meals, without any disturbance. Disconnect from the gadgets and connect with your five senses to enjoy and savour each bite, thereby, creating a good fauna for the digestion.
2)After eating habits: Relax for a few minutes after a meal. Avoid sleeping soon after a meal as lying down pushes the food back upwards. Keep a gap of at least two-three hours before you sleep.
3)Avoid tight-fitting clothes: They compress the stomach and can cause the contents of food to enter the esophagus.
4)Eat smaller meals: This makes sure the HCL produced from time to time is fed with enough workload and doesn’t react with the lining of the stomach.
5)Drink enough water through the day, to help good production of digestive enzymes needed for better digestion and to absorb the food well. But avoid drinking fluids and water during the meal, as you will tend to gulp more air while sipping.
6)Stress, anxiety, depression suppress the working of the muscles, enzymes and also force one to eat more or not eat at all due to an imbalanced production of leptin and ghrelin hormones. Try and meditate and remove some ‘me time’ so to calm down and think logically.
7)Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol: Alcohol is empty calories and only sugar. Excess sugars disrupt the metabolism of the body, creating an insulin spike, which further pushes you to eat more. This can lead to overeating, excess sugar influx in the liver and thus indigestion.
8)Do not exercise on a full stomach: After a meal, blood flow is needed the most around the muscles of the esophagus and the stomach. Exercising soon after a meal will divert the blood flow and also push the food upwards again, causing more bloating and discomfort.
Try and lose some weight, if you are overweight. Food reflux is also caused because of increased pressure in the belly.
9)Saliva neutralises acid and spurs the food contents to move ahead faster and smoothly.Therefore, having foods that promote more saliva will be wise. Chewing a sugar free gum, sucking on a sugar free lemon candy helps. Avoid having very salty foods like salted nuts, popcorn, and chips. Avoid tannin-producing foods like red wine.
Foods that help prevent indigestion:
1)Water is the best lubricant for your digestive system and the key element in enzymes, thus helping to break down the food you have eaten. Avoid fluids through the way of fizzy drinks, glucose added juices.
2) Include more fibre in your daily diet in the form of wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables. In fruits, Bananas are loaded with pectin, a soluble fiber that forms a gel with water and hence helps in a smoothdigestion. Papayas contain chymopapain, papain enzymes which soothe the stomach and also help in promoting an alkaline environment. Avoid citrus fruits like tomatoes, oranges, and grapefruit as they produce more acid.
3)Yogurt contains the probiotic or the good bacteria of the gut and promotes the same in the lining of the stomach. Having two cups of yogurt in a day will help in good digestion.
4)Include herbs like sweet basil, cardamom, fennel leaves and lemongrass in your recipes as they help maintaining the PH of the stomach in an alkaline environment. Avoid spices like pepper as it causes discomfort.
5)Have more of herbal teas which have less concentration of tannin and more antioxidants, and bioflavonoids to counter act the stress, give relief and aid digestion. Avoid excess coffee and black tea.
6)When your stomach is very upset, take charge immediately follow the right steps to ease the discomfort. Consume boiled white rice, potatoes, curds and bananas as these are easily digestible, hence, during an indigestion attack when the muscles go lax, the stomach doesn’t get overworked.
7)Sip on peppermint, jasmine and chamomile tea, as they are known to activate the digestion by calming the nerves and hence help in smooth digestion.
8)Change your cooking methods: Switch to low oil, boiled, steamed, sautéing, and grilling food instead of frying. Too much oil only makes it more greasy in the lining and hard to digest.