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Indigestion: 5 major causes

Indigestion is a common digestive ailment faced by people of all ages. Also known as dyspepsia, indigestion happens when the stomach acid causes irritation on the stomach wall lining, and is also forced back upwards into the oesophagus, through a process known as acid reflux.

Let’s take a look at what triggers indigestion in the first place:

1. Abnormal functioning of muscles and nerves

Studies point towards the involvement of muscles of gastrointestinal organs and the nerves that run through the tract. An intricate system of nerves connects the different gastric organs with the spinal cord and brain. Any abnormal activity within the nerves in the gastric organs, the brain or the spinal cord can cause acid reflux and indigestion.

2. Disease and conditions

Certain disease conditions are also responsible for causing indigestion. These include gastric ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), infections of the stomach, gastroparesis, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid disease, and chronic pancreatitis, and in rare cases, stomach cancer. Other conditions that can manifest indigestion include anxiety, depression and menstrual cycles in women.

3. Medication

Indigestion is a common side effect of certain medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin. Children below the age of 16 and people with a previous history of stomach problems like ulcer should not take painkillers like aspirin.

Other medicines that can cause indigestion are oestrogen and related contraceptives, steroids, thyroid medication and certain antibiotics. On the other hand, medication for widening blood vessels (like nitrate) can relax the oesophageal sphincter and allow stomach acid to flow back into the stomach.

4. Lifestyle

Eating habits like eating in excess, eating at a fast pace, consuming foods rich in fats or stress eating can cause indigestion.

Drinking alcohol and smoking can upset stomach and lead to indigestion, making the person feel nauseous or a burning sensation at the back of the throat.

Fatigue and stress are also believed to increase the risk of indigestion. Further, overweight or obese people are more prone to indigestion due to an already increased pressure inside the stomach that can force the oesophageal sphincter to open post a meal, causing dyspepsia.

5. Bacteria in small intestine

Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine is believed to be another cause of indigestion. Though studies are not conclusive, bacterial infection and overgrowth could be responsible for indigestion in some cases since the symptoms of both are similar. It can be tested through hydrogen breath test and treated with antibiotics.

Sources:

“Causes of indigestion,” NHS.uk, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Indigestion/Pages/causes.aspx

“Dyspepsia,” MedicineNet.com, Jay W. Marks, http://www.medicinenet.com/dyspepsia/page4.htm#what_causes_dyspepsia_indigestion

“Indigestion,” MayoClinic.com, Mayo Clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/indigestion/basics/causes/con-20034440

“Indigestion,” MedlinePlus, NLM, NIH, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003260.htm
“Indigestion,”WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/indigestion

 Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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