From heartburn to bloating, to constipation and stomach cramps, the symptoms of indigestion are varied, but each is a reminder that your digestive system is having trouble coping with the amount or type of food it is being asked to process. Small changes not just to what you eat but also how you eat, can make a huge difference.
Foods for healthy digestion
Some foods are more problematic than others: red meat and fatty cuts of meat are hard to digest, so swap these for lean cuts of turkey, chicken or fish.
Make sure you’re getting enough fibre. Soluble fibre, found in oat bran, legumes, nuts and seeds, absorbs water and helps to bulk your stool, whereas insoluble fibre, think fresh veggies and wholegrains, helps to keep everything moving.
When increasing your fibre intake, it’s important to also drink enough water so as to avoid becoming constipated. A high-fibre diet has been linked to a reduced risk of digestive conditions, including acid reflux, haemorrhoids and IBS .
Common indigestion triggers
Cheese is also very hard to digest, so worth avoiding for a while to see whether this helps to improve indigestion. You should also reduce your intake of sugary foods, cakes, biscuits and rich desserts, which can cause indigestion.
Spicy foods, coffee, tea and alcohol are also common indigestion triggers, as is salt. Cut down on sodium-based salt especially and if you simply can’t go without, opt for a healthier low sodium or herbal salt alternative. Herbamare®, made from sea salt and organically grown vegetables, garden herbs and iodine-rich kelp, is one of our favourite low salt alternatives.
Chew your food
As obvious as it may sound, so few do! Chewing not only breaks your meal down into a manageable size, it also alerts the stomach to the imminent arrival of food. If you don’t chew, your stomach won’t have produced the digestive enzymes it needs to break food down, resulting in chaos, confusion and acid indigestion.
For a helping hand with digestive enzymes a prebiotic supplement like Molkosan Fruit taken half an hour before each meal can help.
For bloating and indigestion associated with feelings of fullness and wind try Digestisan from A. Vogel. It contains Cynara (Artichoke), Dandelion and Boldo to help stimulate digestive enzymes, and Peppermint to help reduce the symptoms of colic and wind. Dilute 15 to 20 drops three times a day in a little water.
Ginger is also recognised by many as a digestive tonic and can help to maintain digestive function. Try drinking some ginger tea with or before your meal to help stimulate digestion.
Help with heartburn
If heartburn is a problem, sleeping in a more upright position propped up on a pillow may help. Heartburn is actually the leading cause of sleep disturbance among the over 40s. It occurs often as a result of indigestion and acid reflux and is the pain you experience as the acidic contents of your stomach make contact with your oesophagus.
Unlike your stomach, your oesophagus doesn’t have a protective mucous layer and if the contents of your stomach make it into your oesophagus, for example when you lay down to go to sleep, the acidic nature of your gastric juice can make you quite uncomfortable. Eating a light evening meal at least 3 hours before bedtime can reduce the likelihood of this happening.
For the symptoms of heartburn associated with indigestion and acid reflux, try Silicol gel. It lines the digestive system and can help with the symptoms of digestive disorders such as heartburn, acid reflux, stomach ache and nausea. Drink plenty of water when you take Silicol gel and do tell your GP if symptoms haven’t cleared up after a few days.
Relief from constipation
If you are constipated drink plenty of water throughout the day (not with your meal as this will dilute your stomach acid, and not in coffee and tea, as they can make things worse), and for a real blast to get things moving again, a spoonful of flax seeds stirred into yoghurt should help.