Indigestion: Causes & Treatments


It depends on the cause of indigestion. If overeating is the cause of indigestion then enzyme tablets after meals will provide relief. If indigestion is associated with foul smelling flatulence, then drugs like metronidazole or tinidazole will help in reducing the symptoms.


Gas in the digestive tract varies from belching and bloating to flatulence
and abdominal pain. Gas is rarely a sign of serious disease. For some people excessive gas is a regular problem, causing both embarrassment and discomfort.
Belching or burping consists of swallowed air, which is largely nitrogen therefore burping rarely smells foul.  Passing gas from the rectum is known as flatulence. It depends on the food consumed and   the activity of the bacteria in the colon. Undigested food that reaches the large intestine is broken down by the bacteria that are normally found in the colon.

Bacteria break down the food into hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane.
Any food that doesn’t get absorbed well is likely to lead to gas formation. For example, artificial sweeteners like sorbitol which is present in sugar-free gums. Sorbitol doesn’t get absorbed.  Bacteria decompose it and produce gas. Some people produce methane and others do not. Methane imparts foul smell to gases coming out of the rectum.


The milk sugar lactose is really a baby food. In adults the intestines may not have sufficient enzymes to digest milk sugar. Therefore people who have an enzyme problem do not digest and absorb lactose properly. Lactose is not the only sugar that causes gas.

The other sugars or carbohydrates that cause gas are raffinose, sorbitol and fructose.

• Raffinose.
Raffinose is found in beans, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage as well as other vegetables and whole grains. These foods are nutritious, but if they cause gas, than instead of eating big portions at one sitting, one should eat smaller portions or better avoid it.

• Fructose.

Fructose occurs naturally in wheat, onions and most of the fruits. Many juices and soft drinks contain fructose corn syrup as a sweetener.

• Sorbitol.
Sorbitol is used as an artificial sweetener and is commonly found in gums,
candies and dietetic foods. Sorbitol also occurs naturally in many fruits,
such as peaches, apples, prunes and pears.

• Starches.
Starches such as potatoes, noodles and corn, also produce gas when they are broken down in the digestive tract. Rice is the only starch that does not produce gas.

• Soluble fibre.

Soluble fibre, found in beans, oat bran, peas and most fruits, is particularly likely to cause gas when digested in the large intestine. Insoluble fibre, found in most vegetables, produces less gas.

• Smoking, gum and soda. While smoking, chewing gum, or drinking
carbonated beverages a significant amount of air is swallowed.
• Amoebiasis and giardiasis. Persons suffering from infestations by these organisms also suffer from foul smelling gases.  A course of metronidazole or tinidazole produces significant relief.

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