Diving into the larger picture, it's essential to recognize that sluggish digestion is just one piece of the puzzle. Older adults, in particular, might find themselves grappling with conditions that can trigger regular indigestion, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, and food sensitivities such as lactose intolerance. Chronic indigestion is also often linked with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia, both of which entail persistent symptoms without a specific cause.
Fortunately, indigestion usually fades away on its own over time. Over-the-counter aids like antacid pills, liquids, or stomach-soothing medicines such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) can offer relief. Acid blockers like proton-pump inhibitors (e.g., omeprazole or lansoprazole) or H2 blockers (e.g., famotidine) are also potential options for managing heartburn.
Navigating the culinary landscape can also play a role in taming indigestion. Here's how you can make a difference:
- What: Pay attention to what you eat and drink when indigestion strikes, and consider cutting back on or avoiding problematic items like spicy and highly acidic foods, coffee, citrus- or tomato-based beverages, and processed or fatty foods.
- How: Opt for smaller servings and eat at a more leisurely pace. Avoid multitasking while eating, as it hinders mindful consumption. Experiment with more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day.
- When: If indigestion tends to haunt your evenings or disturb your sleep, consider having dinner earlier and refraining from eating within two hours of bedtime to prevent overloading your stomach when digestion slows down.
While drugstore remedies can be helpful, they come with some caveats. Magnesium-containing antacids might lead to loose stools, while calcium carbonate (Tums) or aluminum-based antacids could result in constipation. Occasional use is generally fine, but if reliance on these medications surpasses three times per week, it's advisable to consult with your doctor, as it might indicate an underlying digestive issue.
Keep an eye out for red flags like rectal bleeding, black stools, difficulty swallowing, or sudden weight loss, as these could signal more serious problems like inflammation in the digestive tract, ulcers, or gastrointestinal cancers.
If recurrent indigestion is your woe, there's much you can do to alleviate its frequency and intensity without resorting to medication. Consider these lifestyle adjustments:
- Reduce stress: Stress can exacerbate digestive issues through the brain-gut axis. Activities like exercise and meditation can aid in stress management, and in more challenging cases, your doctor might suggest a low-dose antidepressant.
- Address smoking and drinking: Smoking elevates the risk of reflux and digestive cancers, while excessive drinking amplifies the chances of various gastrointestinal diseases. Even occasional drinking can trigger underlying digestive problems.
- Lose excess weight: Overweight individuals, especially those dealing with acid reflux, are more susceptible to indigestion due to increased abdominal pressure. Shedding even a modest amount of weight can have a significant impact on digestion.
So, don't let indigestion ruffle your feathers; tackle it with a multifaceted approach that includes mindful eating, lifestyle adjustments, and, if needed, a chat with your healthcare provider