Whether you stuffed yourself going for seconds at a big holiday meal or enjoyed some fatty or spicy foods that are typically hard to tolerate, indigestion can be a real pain. The discomfort can keep you from sleeping and make it hard to do anything comfortably. But there are some remedies that can help to relieve this annoying occurrence. Find out what to do to quickly ease the discomfort of indigestion.
Indigestion is a bit of a catch-all phrase for the occasional stomach pain and uncomfortable abdominal fullness after eating. Often symptoms can include gas and bloating, but the biggest complaint is usually a burning sensation in the upper abdomen which can make laying or reclining especially uncomfortable.
There can be many reasons why indigestion occurs, but most of them have to do with the foods or drinks that have been consumed. For instance, dishes that are especially high in fat, or are extremely spicy or sour can cause indigestion. Some people have specific food sensitivities that cause indigestion to occur. There’s a wide range of foods that can trigger indigestion; some include citrus fruits and juices, alliums (for example, onions, garlic, shallots), tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, or foods containing peppermint. Carbonated drinks or alcohol can also be a trigger.
However, sometimes specific foods aren’t to blame. Indigestion can also be brought on by issues in the gastrointestinal tract, such as an insufficient quantity of digestive enzymes in the gut or an imbalanced gut microbiome. Certain eating habits can also cause indigestion, such as eating too quickly, skipping meals, overeating or eating too close to bedtime.
When the discomfort of indigestion hits, you want immediate relief. There’s a wide array of natural remedies that can be found right in a kitchen or pantry. It’s a good idea to try out one until you find a solution that works and then keep it on hand for those indigestion emergencies.
Since peppermint can have a calming effect, it may be beneficial in slowing down a churning stomach. Plus, it comes with the extra perk of being a source of antioxidants. However, highly concentrated forms, like peppermint oil, can actually make indigestion worse by relaxing the esophageal sphincter. It’s best to stick to milder forms. So, instead, drink a cup of peppermint tea!
Chamomile is another herb with soothing properties. It’s the herb in bedtime teas prized for its mild sedative properties. In terms of digestion, chamomile is a long-used remedy because it can be a digestive relaxant and can help with gastrointestinal disturbances, such as gas and indigestion.
One study found that the citric acid in lemon water can help promote peristalsis, which is the movement of the intestines. This may be beneficial in moving irritating foods through the stomach and further down into the intestines. The same study also found lemon water to aid in the production of gastric acid. Since lemon water can be acidic, it’s best to dilute it to a level that is comfortable to drink.
Licorice root contains a substance known as glycyrrhizin, which can cause salt to be retained by the body as well as elevating potassium levels and possibly impacting blood pressure. For this reason, licorice root comes in a deglycyrrhizinated form, known as DGL, making it safer and free of this bothersome substance. DGL licorice root may ease indigestion by promoting more mucus production, which can protect the body from excess acid.
Apple cider vinegar is a very acidic substance that is sometimes recommended as one of the popular indigestion home remedies (diluted within warm water) to provide additional acid when insufficient stomach acid is present. However, there has been no scientific research that supports its benefits to indigestion, so it’s probably best to rely on more well-studied therapies.
Ginger is a popular stomach soother and this study outlines why. The carminative effect of ginger helps to lower pressure on the esophageal sphincter, which can allow stomach acids to be better contained in the stomach. This effect also can help aid in reducing intestinal cramping and may also help prevent dyspepsia, flatulence, and bloating. Try ginger tea as a soothing beverage for indigestion.
Fennel is another vegetable like ginger, which is a carminative. While fennel can help support proper digestion, it’s also beneficial to the body because of its high concentration of phenols, which act as antioxidants. Chewing fennel seeds (in a small amount) may be all that is needed to reduce indigestion.
You may know aloe as a skin-soothing salve, but aloe juice can also be soothing for the stomach. One study found that participants who were given an aloe syrup said it was effective at soothing the discomfort of digestive disturbances.
Indigestion is notorious for striking at bedtime, due in part to how stomach acids can flow back into the esophagus when the body is in a reclining position. If you experience indigestion at night time there are some steps to take that may help ease the discomfort.
Lying down after consuming a big dinner may feel satisfying at first, but it can quickly become uncomfortable because of indigestion. Rather than laying flat right after eating, try sitting or elevating the upper body so you are not in a horizontal position.
Since heat can help ease the symptoms of indigestion, soaking in a warm bath or applying a warm compress to the abdomen may be helpful before bedtime.
Mixing baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with water has been an indigestion remedy for decades. While this mixture can ease the excess acid which can be a cause of indigestion, it’s best to be conservative with your consumption. Consuming too much baking soda can actually cause digestive discomfort, such as nausea or loose stool.
A proactive approach to digestive health should be the first step to minimizing the occurrence of indigestion. You can support digestion by taking digestive enzymes, which help the body in breaking down foods during digestion. A healthy microbiome can also support proper digestion. Probiotic supplements can help replace bacteria needed within the gut, while prebiotics will help nourish these good gut organisms. You can find all of these essentials with Care/of’s Gut Musts collection.
Chewing gum can cause the mouth to produce more saliva, inducing more swallowing, which can help flush away stomach acid that has found its way into the esophagus. By opting for sugar-free gum, you avoid the damaging effects sugared gum has on oral hygiene.
Sometimes you can prevent indigestion before it begins by simply giving your gut more time to digest less food. Try chewing foods more thoroughly (around 30-40 chews are needed for most bites of food) and eating your food more slowly. This can also help give your body time to know that it is full, which can prevent another common cause of indigestion: overeating.
Going to bed with a stomach full of food can be a recipe for indigestion to occur. Instead, wait at least two hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime.
Thanks to its high potassium content, bananas may help counteract the discomfort of too much stomach acid. However, the scientific evidence to support this link is sparse and the benefits tend to be anecdotal, rather than based on medical studies.
In case you needed another reason to quit smoking, doing so has been found to be good for digestive health. That’s because nicotine can damage the body’s digestive function and weaken the esophageal sphincter.
You probably already know that the digestive system is tied to the nervous system (recall the saying “butterflies in your stomach,” for instance). In fact, the digestive system relies on the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are stressed, our parasympathetic system recognizes this as a “fight or flight” emergency, which can lead to disruptions in digestion.
Occasional indigestion is annoying but it’s typically not something serious. However, if you experience continuous indigestion for more than a week or have chronic indigestion, it’s worth consulting your doctor to rule out any serious issues.
You should seek medical care if your indigestion doesn’t go away in a day and is accompanied by more serious signs, such as weakness, frequent vomiting, loss of appetite, stools that are black, or trouble swallowing.
Because heart conditions have been mistaken for indigestion, it’s important to go to an emergency room if you also experience shortness of breath or a pain that radiates from the chest to the jaw, arm, or neck.
Indigestion is a common stomach discomfort that can be caused by how much we eat, when we eat, or what we eat. There are many common foods that can help minimize the discomfort of indigestion, including peppermint or chamomile tea, aloe, and ginger.
Avoiding laying down after eating, slowing down your intake of food, and stopping eating several hours before bed are good ways to help prevent indigestion. Digestive enzymes and probiotic and prebiotic supplements can help maintain a healthy gut biome, which is crucial to proper digestion.
Indigestion is usually not a cause for alarm. However, if you have severe pain, or if your indigestion is ongoing or chronic, it is best to see your doctor to rule out more serious conditions.