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Stomach pain, a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, bloating, belching, an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, and nausea are some commonly reported symptoms of indigestion. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you’d probably like to prevent indigestion whenever possible.
Preventing Indigestion: Expert Tips
“To prevent indigestion, how you eat your food is sometimes more important than what you eat,” says Colleen D. Webb, MS, RDN, CLT, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. “I always tell my patients to chew food well, eat slowly, avoid overeating, avoid talking while eating, and maintain good posture during and after eating.
“Your body does not break down roughage (fiber) more than you chew it,” she adds. “Many healthy, fiber-rich foods, including raw vegetables, popcorn, and nuts, can contribute to indigestion if they’re not chewed thoroughly.”
Other lifestyle changes that can help prevent indigestion include smoking cessation, low-intensity physical activity after meals (such as a walk around your neighborhood), and stress management techniques, such as meditation and breathing exercises.
Check Your Food Choices
If lifestyle changes aren’t helping, look at your food and drink choices as possible causes of indigestion.
“Common culprits include high-fat foods, such as animal fats or fried foods, carbonated beverages, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, added sugars, and very spicy foods,” says Webb.
While heartburn can be a symptom of indigestion, Webb states, “Avoid long-term use of heartburn medications, such as proton-pump inhibitors and other acid-suppressing medications—the decrease in stomach acid may actually hinder digestion.”
Underlying Causes of Indigestion
If you still haven’t found relief, a gastrointestinal condition may be causing your indigestion. These conditions include small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), H. pylori bacteria, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis, and peptic ulcers. Food intolerances, allergies, and sensitivities also may give rise to indigestion.
“Indigestion may be a sign that something’s wrong, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms once a week or more, especially if you also experience weight loss, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, or a change in appetite,” states Webb. If you treat your indigestion with over-the-counter (OTC) antacids, Webb recommends discussing these treatments with your doctor. Even OTC medications have potential side effects and drug interactions. Also, these products are only treating a symptom, and they’re not resolving the underlying cause of your frequent indigestion.
SIMPLE STEPS TO REDUCE INDIGESTION
- Place your fork down on your plate between bites to encourage chewing thoroughly and eating more slowly.
- Eat at a table instead of in front of a TV or computer screen to practice good posture and prevent overeating, which is more likely to occur if you’re distracted from your meal.
- Replace fried foods with baked foods.
- Decrease your intake of caffeine by switching to decaffeinated coffee or tea.
- Replace carbonated beverages with water. A squeeze of lemon in your water can actually help digestion.