Indigestion / Dyspepsia
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Indigestion / Dyspepsia Info
“I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.”
As the name suggests, indigestion (also known as dyspepsia,) is a condition of impaired digestion. It is characterised by recurrent pain in the upper abdomen and feeling full (earlier than expected when eating.) It can be accompanied by varying degrees of bloating, belching, flatulence, nausea, vomiting or heartburn.
Dyspepsia is a common problem and frequently occurs with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (which is a mouthful – pun intended – abbreviated GERD) or gastritis (which is inflammation of the stomach lining). Other conditions which can lead to indigestion are viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu), stomach ulcer, cancer of the stomach, gallbladder disease, pancreatic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus and pregnancy.
Dyspepsia can also occur when there is no underlying disease present. Functional dyspepsia (no evidence of any organic disease) is estimated to affect about 15% of the general population in western countries.
Stress is a major cause of indigestion and in chronic cases manifests as irritable bowel syndrome. The gut has been named the “second brain” (or enteric nervous system) because of its proliferation of neurons and neurotransmitters. Emotional distress can have a direct effect on digestive function. In addition, one of the most common stressors on the gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract) is food allergies. Eliminating food groups that you don’t tolerate well is an important part of managing good digestive health.
In naturopathic terms indigestion is an issue of ‘weakened digestive force’ characterised by low hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. This results in food particles passing into the small intestine only partially digested. They become lodged there and putrefy, damaging the intestinal walls and emitting toxic acids which leak through the gut wall into the blood and lymphatic systems. These circulate through the body resulting in an over-acid environment.
It is the bitter principle in foods that stimulates and strengthens the body’s digestive force, providing the quality and consistency of stomach acid to digest food well and promote a healthy functioning GI tract. Bitter foods include many leafy greens such as watercress, kale and lettuce, and herbs traditionally used as digestives like wormwood, milk thistle, yarrow and chickweed. NZ native kawakawa is another very good digestive herb. Dandelion and chicory are two wonderful bitter herbs that can be brewed into a tasty tea or coffee.
Ginger, chamomile, lemon balm and peppermint are all effective for treating dyspepsia. These all make tasty teas either individually or in combination.
Red pepper powder has been found to be promising in alleviating symptoms of indigestion.
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