The Truth Behind Your Indigestion
About 1 in 4 people in the U.S. suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Dyspepsia, or acid indigestion, can be due to peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), another underlying issue—organic dyspepsia, or for no obvious cause—functional dyspepsia.
Know the type of dyspepsia you're dealing with so you can alleviate the symptoms. For a correct diagnosis, you'll need to consult with your doctor.
Common causes of organic dyspepsia are peptic ulcer disease, GERD, and less frequently, gastric cancer.
Symptoms of a peptic ulcer include a burning pain in the stomach. The pain is usually felt on an empty stomach, and diminishes with food, fluids, or antacids.
Symptoms of GERD include a burning pain behind the breastbone, which usually worsens when you lie down or bend over.
Though the above conditions are the most common causes of organic dyspepsia, they are not the only ones. It's important to review all of your symptoms with your physician to determine the exact cause of your discomfort.
Functional dyspepsia is an upset stomach that isn't related to a direct cause. It's more commonly the cause of indigestion.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), symptoms of functional dyspepsia include:
- A feeling of fullness during a meal and an uncomfortable feeling of fullness after a meal.
- A burning sensation in the upper abdomen (this pain is different than heartburn, which radiates toward the neck or back).
- Pain and burning in the epigastric area—from the lower end of the chest bone to the navel.
And to a lesser extent, symptoms may include:
Though medically defined as a functional disorder because no clear cause is linked to the disease, there are risk factors that can increase your chance of experiencing symptoms. They include:
- Excessive caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated beverage consumption
- Use of over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, which can irritate the stomach
If the indigestion is caused by peptic ulcer disease, your doctor will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics along with antacids. That's because most ulcers are caused by an infection of a bacteria called H. pylori.
For reflux and functional dyspepsia, there are a few different treatment options that can help. You can make lifestyle changes (stop smoking, eat slowly, reduce stress) to see if that brings relief. Or, if necessary, there are medications (mostly over the counter) that can help. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Here are four common remedies:
The first-line of defense against indigestion? Over-the-counter remedies such as Alka-Seltzer, Tums®, Mylanta®, and Maalox®, may help neutralize stomach acid.
Available as an over-the-counter treatment or a prescription, these medications help reduce acid production. These include: Tagamet HB®, Pepcid AC®, and Zantac 75®.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
These medicines reduce symptoms by blocking the pumps that produce acid. They are available on drug stores-Prevacid® 24HR and Prilosec OTC®-or your pharmacist can fill a script from your doctor if you need a stronger dose.
Some people experience indigestion if their stomach empties too slowly, not from acid production. This works by improving muscle action to help speed stomach emptying.
Gastrointestinal Disorders in Adults, International Foundation Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Web
Indigestion. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Web.
Understanding Heartburn and Reflux Disease, American Gastroenterological Association. Web.
Nonulcer stomach pain: Treatments and drugs. Mayo Clinic. Web
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