Dr. Moyna Vakil

What is indigestion?

What is indigestion?At some point and time in life, most of us have experienced a bad stomach or some discomfort in the abdomen which is not normal. This is what we call “indigestion”. From mild digestive discomfort to more severe problems, indigestion has many causes. Commonly the reasons for indigestion or poor gut health can be very simple like diet or lifestyle-related and can be easily rectified. Sometimes, however, it may not be just simple indigestion, but a more severe problem that requires medical attention.

What is indigestion?
Indigestion is a broad term used by people to describe any abnormal or unusual feeling in the stomach or abdomen. 
Signs and symptoms/ what all is included in indigestion:
What is indigestion?
So what are these abnormal sensations in the stomach or what is indigestion? It can be any of these:
  • Pain in the stomach – mild to severe cramps
  • Bloating, tightness, heaviness – especially post meals
  • Gaseousness, flatulence, burping
  • Nauseous feeling, acidic feeling, burning sensation in the stomach or throat
  • Reduced appetite, feeling very full even though eating very little
  • Abnormal stool pattern/ frequency/ consistency – unsatisfactory or unclear bowel movements, have to go again and again but not clear
  • Gurgling, rumbling, uneasy sensation in the abdomen
  • In severe cases – unexplained weight loss, poor absorption of nutrients leading to deficiencies and other medical problems
What are the causes of indigestion?
Let’s divide the causes of indigestion into 3 parts to understand better:
  • Foods that cause indigestion – 
For most of us, this is the cause that we are aware of and we tend to say that “I probably have a bad stomach because of eating this or that food”. So let us list some of the common foods that cause indigestion:
  • Oily and deep-fried foods – eg; samosa, vada, french fries, chips
  • Spicy foods or foods with excess masala
  • Heavy foods like rajma, chole, corn
  • Fatty foods or rich foods, trans fats, packaged and processed foods having maida – so all bakery items, biscuits, cakes, instant noodles
  • Some vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, radish
  • Excess sugar – sweets and desserts, chocolates
  • Too much tea or coffee
  • Carbonated drinks are available in the market.
  • Alcohol and Smoking
  • Gluten and lactose 
When any of these foods are taken in excess or inappropriately, they are known to cause indigestion.
  • Certain medical conditions and medications:
  • Some pathological conditions or illnesses can cause an upset stomach as a sign/ symptom that points to a bigger underlying pathology – for eg: Diabetic patients tend to have recurrent stomach upsets; Vertigo and migraine can be associated with nausea and vomiting; Thyroid patients and IBS patients have irregular bowel movements; UTI, liver and kidney disease, peptic ulcers are other diseases which manifest as symptoms of indigestion as well.
  • Hormonal changes – like pregnancy, menses, PCOD or even menopause – during these stages in a woman’s life, she is more prone to digestive issues.
  • Certain medications – for eg – metformin, anxiety or depression medicines, steroids, iron supplements, calcium supplements, whey protein – are known to cause digestive disturbances.
  • Lifestyle induced:
Some of our day to day habits may be a major cause for our everyday indigestion problem and we may not even realize it. Some of these lifestyle-related causes are:
  • Eating too fast
  • Not chewing properly
  • Gulping in a lot of air while eating leads to gaseousness and bloating
  • Overeating
  • Eating while watching or using gadgets and therefore we end up overeating
  • Irregular meal timings 
  • Less water intake 
  • Lying down too soon after a meal 
  • Lack of fibre in the diet 
  • Sedentary lifestyle 
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Stress 
What to do to solve this problem of indigestion?
If it is mild indigestion and due to some of the common reasons mentioned above, it can be solved easily by rectifying those mistakes and also with the help of some home remedies. But, if it is a persistent and more severe problem, it needs medical attention and needs to be treated. 
So let’s discuss some ways to rectify this troubling issue of a bad stomach or uneasy stomach and see how we can improve our digestion:
  • Reduce or eliminate oily, deep-fried, spicy, fatty and excessively sweet foods. 
  • Avoid foods like rajma and chole at night.
  • Cook vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radish very well so that it is not raw.
  • Avoid outside food and street food which could be unhygienic and cause a bad stomach
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods like noodles, biscuits, ready to eat foods.
  • Keeping a food diary works well to understand the foods that cause indigestion
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well. This helps avoid overeating and also helps better digestion.
  • Include probiotic foods like curd/yoghurt/ pickle/ kimchi – this helps increase the good gut bacteria and improves digestion.
  • Eat mindfully and  without distractions or gadgets so that you don’t overeat
  • Have small meals every 2-3hours. 
  • Increase your water intake to 2-3 litres a day.
  • Do not sleep or lie down immediately after meals
  • Regular exercise and more movement during the day is essential for better gut health
  • Include more fruits, vegetables and homemade food. Avoid packaged and processed food, junk food and reduce the no of outside meals a month.
  • Good peaceful sleep of 8 hours is important for avoiding indigestion.
  • Better stress management and including recreational activities in your daily life.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol. Reduce the intake of tea/coffee/ carbonated beverages
  • If any medication that you are on is causing ingestion as a side effect, ask your doctor for a substitute medicine.
  • Diagnosis and treatment are important for deeper pathological causes of indigestion.
Some home remedies that you can include for relief from indigestion:
  • Ginger – Sipping on warm ginger tea during the day or having ginger candy post meals helps reduce problems like bloating and gas. 
  • Fennel – Chewing fennel seeds post-meal or having fennel tea in the day aids digestion. Its cooling properties also relieves acidity, gas and bloating.
  • Jeera- Can be had as a jeera tea (boiled in water and strained) or use jeera powder in food. Chew a pinch of raw jeera seeds to relieve gas and acidity.
  • Cinnamon – Add cinnamon powder or cinnamon stick to boiling water to make a tea which helps reduce bloating and acidity
  • Ajwain – Half spoon ajwain seeds with a pinch of rock salt swallowed with a glass of water gives instant relief from bloating, gaseousness and acidity.
  • Hing/Asafoetida – Mix 5gms of hing with a glass of warm water and have this for relief from gas and indigestion.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – mix 5-10 ml with a glass of lukewarm water and have it in the morning or 20-30 mins before meals.
  • Soda bicarb – Mix it with plain room temperature water and have it for instant relief from gas and bloating. It neutralizes the acid in the stomach and gives relief from acidity as well.
All these home remedies should not be overdone and do what works for you. Make sure you are not allergic to any of these things. Also, remember that a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle is the key to better gut health and avoiding troublesome problems of indigestion and an uneasy stomach. For persistent problems and a deeper underlying cause, please do not ignore them and seek medical attention.


Dr Moyna Vakil (Nutritionist and Dietician)

(B.H.M.S, Diploma in Nutrition & Dietetics)

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