The feeling is universal: Yuck! The look is unmistakable: The lips curl up, the eyes register dismay, the forehead furrows, and a hand caresses the abdomen—it’s dyspepsia.
Most people use the word ‘indigestion’ but medical practitioners often use ‘dyspepsia’ to better describe it. It’s painful, difficult, or disturbed digestion, and usually it’s harmless, associated with overeating or eating the wrong foods.
Sometimes, though, dyspepsia may be a symptom of a serious illness—gastritis (stomach inflammation), peptic ulcer, stomach cancer, pancreatic disease, gallbladder disease, diseases of the lining of the small intestine, irritable bowel syndrome (the illness causing the majority of cases of chronic dyspepsia), and diabetes mellitus all can cause dyspepsia. When it’s chronic, dyspepsia warrants a doctor’s attention.
Blessedly, dyspepsia is usually short-lived. Still, there are ways to make its life span even shorter.
Just say no to food. Your stomach should be able to handle anything. If your dyspepsia is from eating too much at a meal, it will go away quickly if you just stop eating. Let your stomach rest.
Drink ginger ale. If you want something to drink, ginger ale or herbal teas usually won’t make your symptoms any worse. Beverages containing caffeine, however, produce more acid.
Slip your stomach into something more comfortable. When your stomach’s irritated it puts out more acid, so you need a bugger between all that acid and your stomach. Antacids containing magnesium work well but can cause diarrhea, so if diarrhea is also a problem, take an antacid that contains aluminum hydroxide, like Gelusil.
Eat light. A common cause of indigestion is fatty food. You may find that your dyspepsia vanishes when you cut back on meat and greasy foods in your diet. In fact, most of the time dyspepsia can be controlled by diet.
Be ready for “restaurant syndrome.” This is a face-reality tip. There are all kinds of enticing dishes at the ethnic restaurants cropping up in our melting pot of a nation. But while your palate is experiencing the wide world of food and loving it, your American meat-and-potatoes stomach does the only thing it knows how to do in the presence of unaccustomed food: Pour on the acid. Be prepared when you eat ethnic: Keep a supply of antacids in the medicine chest.