Indigestion (dyspepsia) is defined as pain or a burning feeling in the upper belly or abdomen. It is common in adults but not limited to them. Kids and pets can have it too.
A normal case of pet indigestion is most often gastric distress that comes from eating the wrong food, too much food, or too much of a certain type of food causing stomach issues such as nausea and eventually weight loss. Simplifying the diet, adding non-irritating foods can improve human and pet indigestion. According to American Kennel Club, dyspeptic dogs benefit from a mild diet of cooked chicken and rice, pumpkin, bone broth and baby food. Cats are carnivores. Meat is their dish. Humans are a lot more complicated.
What is indigestion?
Most of us think of indigestion as a generalized discomfort that includes bloating, gas, pain, burping, constipation or diarrhea enough to make us miserable. But since digestion is a complex action that requires coordination of organs and enzymes, indigestion can be broken down into its various parts. For example, indigestion is not the same as heartburn. It is not related to stomach acid.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is felt when stomach acid goes out of the stomach and backs up into the esophagus. We can have symptoms of both indigestion (bloating) and heartburn at the same time. Foods that commonly trigger heartburn include alcohol especially red wine, caffeinated coffee and tea, onions, garlic, hot spices, chocolate, peppermint, tomatoes, and citrus.
What Most Often Causes Chronic Indigestion?
Chronic indigestion can be caused by health problems, lifestyle issues, poor diet or food-combining, or medicines.
Health problems or diseases that lead to indigestion include:
- Sores or ulcers in the stomach or small intestine
- Redness and swelling or inflammation in the stomach (gastritis)
- Acid flowing back from the stomach into the esophagus (GERD or gastro-esophageal reflux disease)
- Bacterial infection in the stomach (H. pylori or Helicobacter pylori)
- Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)
- Lumps of solid material (gallstones) in the gallbladder
- Swelling of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Food moving too slowly out of the stomach (gastro-paresis) (common in people with diabetes)
Damaging Lifestyle issues include:
- Having too much caffeine
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating too fast
- Eating too much
- Eating spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
- Eating high-fiber foods that irritate digestion
- Feeling very stressed
- Eating too frequently, eating a meal before digesting the previous meal
- Eating too late at night
Digestion-harming Medicines include:
- Bacteria-fighting medicines (antibiotics)
- Aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medicines (NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
What are the symptoms of indigestion?
- Feeling full too soon while eating
- Feeling pain, burning, and discomfort in the upper belly or abdomen
- Feeling bloated
- Burping and loud stomach gurgling
- Having an upset stomach or vomiting
- Having diarrhea
- Having gas
Indigestion discomforts may look like other health problems. Indigestion may hide other health problems. For example jaw pain, shoulder pain, digestive upset and upper abdominal pain and indigestion have been shown to be early symptoms of heart disease in women.
How is indigestion diagnosed?
Medical doctors look at our past health history and give a physical exam that may including testing (blood tests, stool tests, X-rays etc.). It is important to eliminate other illnesses with correct diagnosis. But we can prevent and ease simple indigestion at home.
How is indigestion treated?
We should not have foods or medicines that cause indigestion. Also it is important to avoid stressful situations. Good luck! It’s 2020 in the middle of COVID19, the winter holidays and an absentee government. Here are a few helpful tips.
Indigestion symptoms will feel better if you:
- Quit smoking
- Pay attention to wise food combining
- Separate protein meals from starch meals, eat them separately because they require different digestive enzymes.
- Avoid mixing sweet or acidic fruits with protein and starch. Fruits are sugars that digest faster than protein. Mixing complex foods like animal proteins and rich sauces, which require longer time for digestion or complex starches, along with fruits makes gas bubbles in the gut.
- Eat a salad with a protein such as meat or cheese not a starch. The salad will help the meal to pass through the digestive tract quicker and easier.
- Eat at regular meal times,
- Chew foods thoroughly which increases stomach acids that are necessary for good digestion.
- Eat more vegetables than animal protein in a meal. Usually 2 oz. of meat for women (the size of a matchbox), 4 oz of meat (the size of a deck of playing cards) is enough for a meal.
- If you eat dessert, separate it from a meal by at least 4 hours. Have dessert with afternoon tea.
- If necessary take digestive enzymes to improve digestion
- Don’t argue or watch upsetting news during meals.
A medical doctor may suggest medicines that:
- Help the stomach move food more quickly into the small intestine. This can be accomplished naturally by eating more greens, laxative foods and drinking green or oolong tea.
- Decrease the amount of acid in the stomach. This can be accomplished by soaking whole grains (overnight adding lemon juice) before cooking to reduce their acidity. Avoid sugar.
- Kill bacteria (antibiotics) if tests show you have the H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) bacteria in the stomach. Gut fluora can be improved with probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir etc. see below.
There are many things you can do to prevent indigestion. Making changes in our diet and eating habits can help. These include:
- Eating several small meals each day instead of 3 large meals
- Eating slowly and taking enough time for meals
- Limiting spicy, fatty, greasy, or high-fiber foods
- Chewing food well
- Limiting or not having any coffee, soda, or alcohol
Avoid medicines that hurt the stomach.
These include aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medicines (NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). If you do take them, do so after you eat.
Lifestyle changes that improve indigestion
- Quit smoking and drugs
- Avoid alcohol during the evening or before bed
- Get enough rest
- Find ways to lower emotional and physical stress, such as meditation or yoga, prayer, deep breathing, visualize comfortable digestion
- Exercising before a meal or waiting at least 1 hour after eating
When is indigestion a serious health problem?.
- Frequent vomiting
- Blood in vomit
- Weight loss or not feeling hungry
- Bloody, black, or tarry stools
- Sudden sharp pain in the belly or abdomen
- Trouble breathing
- Sweating with lf after eating
- Pain that spreads to the jaw, neck, or arm
- Difficult, painful swallowing
- Yellow coloring of eyes or skin (jaundice)
- Indigestion that lasts longer than 2 weeks.
Foods to Correct Indigestion:
Certain conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Crohn’s Disease, diverticulitis and heartburn, can put us at risk for more severe digestive issues. However, even a healthy person can experience digestive problems due to things such as a lack of fiber or probiotic-rich foods in their diet.
Here are foods to improve digestion:
Yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented, typically by lactic acid bacteria. Yogurt contains probiotics, which can aid digestion by promoting healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
Apples are a rich source of pectin, a soluble fiber. For high fiber eat apples with the peel. Pectin bypasses digestion in the small intestine and is then broken down by the friendly bacteria in the colon. It increases stool volume and is therefore commonly used to resolve constipation and diarrhea. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of intestinal infections, as well as inflammation in the colon.
Fennel a plant with a pale bulb and long green stalks, is used to add flavor to food. Its fiber helps prevent constipation and improves regularity in the digestive tract.
Kefir is a cultured dairy product made by adding kefir “grains” to milk. These “grains” result from mixing yeast and bacteria with milk and have digestive benefits. Like the probiotics in yogurt, kefir’s cultures aid the digestion of lactose, decreasing some of the negative side effects associated with lactose intolerance such as bloating, cramping and gas. Kefir consumption has also been associated with decreased inflammation in the gut, further enhancing the digestion process.
Chia Seeds are an excellent source of protein and fiber, which causes them to form a gelatin-like substance in the stomach, once soaked and consumed. They work like a prebiotic supporting the growth of healthy gut bacteria and therein contributing to healthy digestion.
Kombucha is a fermented tea made by adding specific strains of bacteria, sugar and yeast to black or green tea, then undergoing fermentation for a week or more. Kombucha’s ample probiotic content improves digestion and gut health. The drink may also help heal stomach ulcers.
Papaya fruit contains a digestive enzyme papain that helps break down protein fibers. Papain may also ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as constipation and bloating. It’s commonly used as the main enzyme in digestive supplements due to its gastrointestinal capacities.
Whole grains: to be classified as a whole grain, it must contain 100% of the kernel including the bran, germ and endosperm. Their fiber aids digestion. Popular fiber-packed whole grains include oats, quinoa, farro and products made from whole wheat. (We recommend semolina wheat pastas from Italy where they do not use Roundup and other deadly pesticides.) Some grain fibers act like prebiotics and help feed healthy bacteria in the gut. Due to their high fiber content, whole grains can support healthy digestion by adding bulk to reduce constipation and increase healthy gut bacteria. (See “How safe is Roundup? Don’t Breathe”)
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Fermentation breaks down sugars through bacteria and yeast. Fermented foods such as tempeh are a good source of probiotics that create a protective lining in intestines to shield them from harmful bacteria. Studies have found that probiotics help to alleviate IBS symptoms, prevent diarrhea, decrease bloating and improve regularity
Beet root is a good source of fiber. Beetroot’s nutrients can help improve digestion by helping feed friendly gut bacteria and adding bulk to the stool. Beets are nutritious and they enhance circulation.
Miso: Commonly consumed in miso soup, miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. Like other fermented foods, it helps improve digestion by increasing the good gut bacteria
Ginger root tea helps improve digestion and prevent nausea. Ginger appears to expedite food’s movement through the stomach, easing certain side effects associated with slow digestion. It has also been used to treat nausea, including morning sickness during pregnancy.
Kimchi, usually made from fermented cabbage, and sometimes other fermented vegetables, contains probiotics that help with digestion and promote the growth of good bacteria in the colon. The longer kimchi ferments, the higher the concentration of probiotics..
Dark Green Vegetables are an excellent source of insoluble fiber. Some of the most common dark green vegetables that provide this benefit are spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other leafy greens. Green vegetables play a role in healthy digestion by providing fiber and magnesium to the diet, as well as feeding good bacteria in the gut.
Natto: Like tempeh, natto is made from fermented soybeans. Typically eaten plain or with a hot mustard sauce on rice, some popular toppings for natto include kimchi, soy sauce, green onion and eggs. It can also be eaten with cooked rice. Natto contains probiotics that serve as a defense mechanism against toxins and harmful bacteria, while also increasing healthy gut bacteria that improve digestion. Natto’s rich probiotic content can aid gastrointestinal health and digestion, improving the regularity of stools and reducing constipation.
Sauerkraut is fermented with lactic acid therefore it contains probiotics. Research suggests that a half-cup (71-gram) serving may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains that increase good gut bacteria.
Salmon: An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can help reduce inflammation in the body. People with inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances and other digestive disorders often have inflammation in the gut. The omega-3s found in salmon may reduce inflammation in the gut, thus improving the digestive process
Bone broth is made by simmering the bones, fat and connective tissues of animals. Bone broth gelatin derives from the amino acids glutamine and glycine. Glutamine protects the functioning of the intestinal wall. It has also been shown to improve leaky gut and other inflammatory bowel diseases..Bone broth is an excellent source of glucosamine to build collagen for joint health and beaity.
Peppermint tea and oil is made from the essential oils found in peppermint leaves and has been shown to improve digestive problems. The oil contains menthol, which may ease symptoms of IBS, including bloating, stomach discomfort and bowel movement issues. The oil appears to have a relaxing effect on the muscles of the digestive tract, which may improve digestion and by accelerating the food’s movement through the digestive system
Digestive discomforts are a challenge that can and should be improved with practice Eat foods that are helpful in easing symptoms and building wellnss. They are foods that are featured in the Academy of Healing Nutrition’s “Longevity Diet.” and include:
- Fermented foods such as miso, fermented vegetables and yogurt to increase probiotics
- Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, dark green vegetables, seaweeds, nuts and seeds, vegetables and green tea.
- Proteins that have been found to provide safe, effective sources of energy and wellness that have been used successfully for generations
- A wide variety of nutritious foods that support a complex balance of digestive fluora
- Healthy traditional sources of oils that support growth, healthy brain function, and digestive wellness
- Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs and delicious health and beauty Elixirs
For professional training on healing foods and how to prepare them properly according to individual needs, for the best seasonal diets, herbs and supplements, become a Holistic Nutritional Coach at the Academy of Healing Nutrition online, in New York and London.