Digestion : Indigestion Can Be Painful

Q:I have been suffering from a strange burning sensation in my chest under my ribs that happens pretty much every time I eat. I haven't taken any medicine for the pain as I'm not entirely sure what is causing it. I'm hoping it's nothing serious but I was wondering if you have any suggestions.

A: The symptoms you are currently experiencing can all be associated with indigestion.

The problem occurs in the upper gut - the area which contains the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The gut is a tube which runs from the mouth right through to the bottom. This is where food is digested, nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream and indigestible waste moves through the tube until it leaves the body.

Indigestion is caused by stomach acid flowing back up from the esophagus - when this acid comes into contact with the protective lining of the digestive system it causes a searing pain.

There are a number of causes associated with indigestion - certain lifestyle issues including smoking for example, drinking too much alcohol and obesity. Most commonly indigestion can occur after overindulgence - so, after eating a lot or indulging in very rich food.

Certain medications can also actually act as irritants - particularly anti-inflammatory tablets - as can stress so trying to stay relaxed is essential.

Any inflammation in the lining of the stomach can also act as a trigger - ulcers, gallstones, a hiatus hernia or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are all listed as causes of indigestion.

For most people indigestion is more of an annoyance than anything that is going to cause serious health problems and there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make in order to try and help guard against it.

Diet and lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and avoiding alcohol can all reduce the risk of indigestion. Eating smaller portions of food at regular intervals, not rushing when eating and avoiding rich or fatty foods can also help reduce some or indeed all of the symptoms.

Over the counter antacid treatments can also help relieve any symptoms. These work to dilute the acid and come in either tablet or liquid form. It's always worth consulting the pharmacist though as they may not be suitable if you're pregnant or already on another form of medication.

Most indigestion symptoms will clear up after making these changes or taking antacid treatments but if your symptoms do persist it is important that you make an appointment with your local GP who will be able to arrange suitable tests to check there are no underlying medical issues.

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