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Indigestion

Indigestion is a vague feeling of abdominal discomfort. It mav be described as a feeling of fullness, belching, bloating, and nausea. It is a common problem.

Causes

Over eating is usually the commonest cause of indigestion. In some persons it occurs soon after drinking wine or carbonated drinks or eating particular foods.

It may also be caused by eating too fast or overeating. Spicy foods, high-fibre foods, fatty foods, or too much caffeine can aggravate this problem.

Anxiety and depression can also precipitate indigestion. Other causes are tobacco smoking, stress and drugs such as antibiotics, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatorv drugs (NSAIDs).

Diseases which can produce indigestion-like symptoms

•Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder)
•Acute or chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
•Acute or chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
•Duodenal ulcer
•Gastric ulcer
•Rarely, the discomfort of a heart attack is mistaken for indigestion.

Symptoms of possible heart attack include jaw pain, chest pain, back pain, profuse sweating, etc.

Consult the doctor, if

•Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
•The pattern of indigestion symptoms changes noticeably
•Abdominal pain persists longer than 6 hours.
•Symptoms include unexplained weight loss.
•There is vomiting of blood or passage of blood in the stool along with indigestion.
•There is yellow colouring of the eyes (jaundice) along with indigestion.

Diagnostic tests are done to exclude diseases that can produce indigestion like symptoms.
The tests that may be performed include:

•Blood tests (depending on the suspected cause)
•Endoscopy
•X-ray. Upper GI and small bowel series (with barium)
•Abdominal ultrasound

An Ounce of Prevention

•Eat slowly Chew the food thoroughly.
•Avoid excitement or arguments during meals.
•Avoid exercise immediately after a meal.
•Avoid chewing gum as it mav cause swallowing of air.
•Avoid aspirin and NSAIDs (use acetaminophen instead).

If they must be taken, take them after meals. The wise men eat fruit in place of fried snacks. They drink water and fruit juices instead of alcohol. They do not eat till the time their belts are feeling the strain.

They eat small portions. They always eat at least a few hours before going to bed.  They do not keep TV in the dining room. They take a 30-minute walk.

Loose fitting clothes make them feel more comfortable.

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