Do you suffer from indigestion? You don’t have to. While “heartburn” and “indigestion” used to be discomforts that many adults just learned to live with, new insights and treatments have uncovered the medical reasons and effective treatment for these upsets.
While the terms “heartburn” and “indigestion” have no medical definition, if your “heart” burns or you “indigest,” there is usually a medical reason. The most common medical reason for these symptoms is a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Reflux happens when the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus fails to contract enough to keep food and digestive juices in the stomach. If you experience pain in the middle of your abdomen or just below your breast bone shortly after eating, wake up with this pain during the night, or have periodic episodes of unexplained “asthma,” suspect that you may have GER and discuss the diagnosis and treatment with your doctor. Besides medications that lessen the amount of stomach acid you produce and help the stomach empty faster, here are some self-help measures you can try to lessen the regurgitation of acid and foods back up into your esophagus after eating:
- Graze. Eat small, frequent meals, or mini meals, rather than three large meals a day.
- Take small bites and chew your food well. Smaller food particles empty faster from the stomach.
- Eat foods that pass through your stomach quickly, primarily proteins and carbohydrates, rather than foods that linger in the stomach a while, such as high fat foods.
- Remain upright and quiet for 30 minutes after eating. Moving around jostles the acid in your stomach, aggravating the condition.
- Don’t go to bed with a full stomach. Eat dinner earlier in the evening and keep it low fat. Remember, “don’t dine after nine.”
- Relax. Stress produces stomach acid.
- Get friendly with your blender. Fruit and yogurt smoothies and blended vegetables are liquid enough to pass through the stomach quickly, minimizing the chance of reflux.
Despite what the advertisements tell you, it’s best not to self-diagnose and self-medicate if you suspect you suffer from GER. Consult your doctor or gastroenterologist for proper diagnosis and the most up-to-date treatment for this most uncomfortable condition.