What causes indigestion?
Let’s begin with understanding the digestive system. The digestive system helps in supplying nutrients to the entire body. Its primary roles are digestion and absorption of nutrients and excretion of wastes.
Digestion refers to breakdown of foods and nutrients into their smallest simplest units, such that they are small enough to be taken up or absorbed into the blood or lymph.
Absorption refers to the uptake of the digested products i.e. the smallest simplest units of each nutrient from the digestive tube also called the gastro-intestinal tract into the blood vessels or the lymph vessels to the removal of stools or feces containing waste products and toxins from the body.
Indigestion or dyspepsia is the most frequent disorder which we all experience some time or the other. Dyspepsia is the term given to a group of gastrointestinal symptoms associated with the taking of food e.g. nausea, heartburn, stomach pain, discomfort and distension. Other symptoms include feeling of fullness immediately after eating a meal, excessive gas or belching.
Dyspepsia or indigestion may be functional or organic. In functional, there is no structural change in any part of the alimentary canal. The symptoms may be psychological and emotional in origin or due to intolerance of a particular food or faulty food habits. A disease or a disorder of the digestive tract or a chronic disease of the kidney or heart can cause the organic dyspepsia.
Causes of indigestion
Indigestion can result from overeating or eating too fast, not chewing your food well, eating spicy foods and fatty foods, lying down immediately after eating a meal, excess consumption of alcohol, certain medications such as anti –inflammatory drugs , smoking, acid reflux, ulcers and others. Indigestion cures includes diet and lifestyle interventions.
A healthy gut supports digestion. And a healthy gut is the house of the beneficial bacteria that help in optimal well-being. A sick gut is caused by a poor diet filled with processed foods that are filled with trans-fat, refined flour and sugar. It is interesting to know that the healthy bacteria don’t digest these foods; the unhealthy bacteria consume processed foods. This, in turn, increases the unhealthy bacteria population and lead to indigestion. Hence, it is imperative to feed your gut with real whole foods like whole grains, legumes, high-fibre fruits and vegetables.
How to avoid indigestion?
Here are some ways that can help you avoid indigestion:
A healthy gut is a gut that is well hydrated. Poor water intake results in constipation leading to bloating and gas. It can increase the amount of toxins in the body. Hence it is essential to have at least 2.5 litres of water for women and 3.5 litres of water for men.
Chewing food properly
Digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing food until its liquid helps to maximize the surface area available for the enzymes, and these enzymes help break down the food. Chewing a morsel 20-30 times is ideal. This helps to prevent indigestion, gas and bloating.
Noticing food sensitivities
Look for food sensitivities. Foods consumed frequently which are not tolerated well by the body can lead to indigestion. Journaling will help to create awareness around such foods. Dropping such foods for a brief period to heal the gut is beneficial.
Jeera or Saunf water
Experiment sipping on jeera (cumin) and saunf (fennel) water 15 minutes before meals. This helps to secrete digestive juices and enzymes that help to break down food efficiently and prevent indigestion. Jeera also increases the release of bile from the liver that helps to digest fat and certain other nutrients.
Add turmeric in everyday foods, this spice helps to break down food, helps with digestion and reduces inflammation. A good concoction would be 1 tsp cold pressed coconut oil, pinch turmeric and pinch black pepper for better absorption. Use unadulterated turmeric such as Tata Sampann, which contains natural oils and has 3% guarantee of curcumin.
Adding rock salt can also help with digestion. It helps to relieve stomach pain. Enjoy a glass of chaas with some rock salt, jeera powder and coriander leaves.
Add cinnamon water to your daily routine, it helps with the growth of healthy bacteria and prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria helping to prevent indigestion. It also helps in balancing blood sugar levels and we really don’t have any side effect to that!
Add probiotics or healthy bacteria in the form of fermented foods like fermented vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, radish and dahi (curd).
Eat food at least 2 hours before lying down. If you feel acid reflux, don’t eat right before bedtime. Raising the head of your head could help.
Take medications only under a doctor’s prescription. Avoid self-medicating.
Indulge in deep breathing, prayer, chanting or meditation. This stimulates the vagus nerve, which, helps to stimulate the para-sympathetic system resulting into optimal digestion and prevention of bloating, gas and other gastric issues.
Eating is a sacred act! The whole point when eating is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system that aid rest and digestion. Here are few ways that help:
- Stop worrying at the time of meals. Allot a certain time for this along with reviewing. This helps to prevent the digestion to be under stress and preventing gastric issues.
- Avoid watching the television or being in front of the computer or the phone while eating, focus on the meal
- Avoid your mind from swaying away to thinking while eating, Focus on texture and taste of the food.
- Share your meal with a loved one; we are wired that way. Connection and love can actually lead to optimal well-being.
- Say a prayer expressing gratitude before every meal and believe that the food you eating is nourishing your mind, body and soul.
Keep your digestive system happy by feeding it whole foods and lifestyle measures – the true indigestion cure. Indigestion can not only be physically painful and uncomfortable, but may also lead to social withdrawals, immunity dip and brain fog!
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