Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a term used to describe a combination of symptoms. These include a feeling of fullness during a meal, uncomfortable fullness after a meal, and burning or pain in the upper abdomen. Sometimes the term indigestion is wrongly used to describe the symptom of heartburn. Heartburn is a painful, burning feeling in the chest that radiates toward the neck or back; there can be water brash (regurgitation of fluid into the mouth that may be sour or tasteless) as well as reflux of stomach acid into the oesophagus. A person can have symptoms of both indigestion and heartburn. Indigestion may be a sign of deeper disease especially if there is frequent vomiting with or without blood in the vomit; weight loss or loss of appetite; difficult or painful swallowing; or indigestion accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, or pain that radiates to the jaw, neck, or arm (see Heart Disease). A blood test may reveal peptic ulcer disease caused by bacteria, and antibiotics are used to treat this.
Generally there appears to be little effort to deal with milder underlying causes such as stress or poor gut flora, liver disharmony or pancreatic weakness. Digestion is an energy-intensive process. When the digestive system is weakened or overloaded there is very little energy after a meal. The entire digestive tract needs to be treated holistically – this is after all how the body works to digest food and process nutrients as well as eliminate. Low vitality and congestion in one area will affect other parts. Over time, chronic indigestion can contribute to low absorption of nutrients (leaky gut). Lower bowel problems, as well as a sluggish liver and a tendency toward food allergies are also more likely.
Foods & herbs for the home
- Conventional advice is to eat little and often to reduce stress on the digestive system. Starting each small meal with a little raw food, especially salads that are slightly bitter, will also prime the digestive system. Try a small mixed leaf salad with rocket, watercress, chicory, olives and onions. Raw foods are cooling, and bitter tastes are supportive of the liver.
- Highly acid-forming and harsh foods are better avoided. Carbonated soda drinks are the worst offenders but tea, coffee and alcohol may further weaken digestion.
- If reflux is an associated problem, then avoid hard-to-digest foods such as wheat, very high fibre foods and nuts as these can commonly cause problems.
- Avoid fried foods and cooked spices. Add mild spices to food after steaming or grilling.
- Fasting for one day a week can really help to rest the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract; acid levels are normalised and inflammation is dampened. Evidence is now indicating many benefits for simple fasting measures. When fasting try pureed apple combined with Slippery Elm Plus Powder. This is soothing and calming to the mucous membranes as well as nutritious.
- Arrowroot powder is also soothing and easily available.
- Lemons and apple cider vinegar can help to balance hydrochloric acid and pepsin production in the stomach. Try taking between 1 and 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily in apple juice or honey and water, or use Lemon & Artichoke Concentrate in water or as a salad dressing. However if any of these make your symptoms worse, discontinue use. Also avoid if you have known peptic ulcers.
- Similarly, wild Meadowsweet Herb Tea will support fragile systems. Or make your own tea from fresh garden herbs such as peppermint and fennel.
- Eat pineapples and papaya for extra digestive help; the bromelain in the pineapple is good at breaking down part-digested food matter and the papain in papaya digests proteins and starches and soothes the stomach as it does so.
- Easy to digest and assimilate, Superfood Plus can act as a meal replacement and energy boost when a meal feels like too much to cope with.
- Rest especially after meals.
- Seek ways to decrease emotional and physical stress such as relaxation therapy or yoga.
- Try relaxing with your favourite blend of essential oils, such as Lavender.
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