Eat Well, Feel Great
Suffering from pain and discomfort after every meal? it’s time to make some changes
We are all likely to suffer from indigestion at least once in our lives. In fact, almost 20% of us experience an acid reflux attack – when stomach acid goes back up into the oesophagus – at least once a week*. But what changes can we make to our diet and lifestyle to avoid this? nutritionist Rob Hobson explains...
What’s the difference?
indigestion and heartburn are joined at the hip, but how do we distinguish one from the other? ‘indigestion and heartburn have similar triggers but are not the same,’ explains rob. the best way to separate the two is to remember that indigestion is the condition and heartburn is a symptom. ‘indigestion is a feeling of discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen after eating that causes bloating, wind, belching and sometimes nausea,’ says rob. ‘heartburn is caused by reflux as stomach acid makes its way up to the oesophagus causing a burning sensation in your chest and throat.’
according to rob, indigestion can be caused by bad eating habits. most common, he explains, would be overeating, eating too quickly or eating on the go. Why? because they fail to give the body enough time to produce digestive enzymes and often mean you take in too much air when eating. other causes include medications such as aspirin, antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but here, indigestion or heartburn should be listed as a potential side-effect of the products. conditions such as cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and stomach ulcers will also trigger heartburn and indigestion symptoms. diet also has a part to play, as excess coffee, citrus fruits and spicy foods are all culprits.
Who is at risk?
heartburn is most common among those who are overweight or obese. Pregnant women also experience it for similar reasons, because pressure from the abdomen or excess fat forces fluids back up to the oesophagus. if you are going through a stressful period, you're at risk, too. ‘Physiologically, stress increases the production of stomach acid, contributing to indigestion,’ adds rob. stress may lead to erratic dietary patterns like skipping meals or going for long periods without eating, which both cause bloating and indigestion. stress can lead to overeating and choosing fatty foods too, which also trigger the condition. and many turn to coffee or alcohol when stressed – no-nos when it comes to dodging heartburn.