Also known as dyspepsia, indigestion is marked by a feeling of abdominal discomfort after a meal. Key symptoms include pain or a burning sensation in the upper abdomen.
Causes of Indigestion
Indigestion often stems from overeating, eating too quickly, or consuming an excess of greasy or spicy foods. Certain emotional issues, such as stress or anxiety, can also trigger indigestion.
Indigestion may be particularly common among individuals with the following conditions:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Peptic ulcers
- Abnormality of the pancreas or bile ducts
- Stomach cancer
People taking antibiotics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prone to indigestion.
Although research on natural treatments for indigestion is limited, practitioners of alternative medicine may recommend sipping ginger or peppermint tea to calm the digestive system after a meal.
Studies suggest that these other natural remedies may also provide indigestion relief:
Artichoke Leaf Extract
Common in Mediterranean countries, artichoke is high in antioxidants and antimicrobial properties. It’s been used to prevent liver damage, reduce cholesterol, and ease dyspepsia.
Specifically, a 2015 study monitored men and women 17 to 80 years old who had upper abdominal pain or discomfort in the form of bloating or nausea for at least three months. After consuming a supplement blend of ginger and artichoke leaf extract for two weeks, only the group who received the blend experienced a decrease in symptoms. At four weeks, researchers found that the treatment reduced indigestion in more than 60% of cases. They theorized that the artichoke leaf extract’s antispasmodic properties and its ability to increase bile acid secretion both promote gastrointestinal transit, which helps ease bloating and fullness.
Peppermint Oil and Caraway Oil
Studies have shown that supplements containing a combination of enteric-coated peppermint oil and caraway oil may help reduce indigestion symptoms. This formula is thought to relax the stomach muscles, as well as help food pass through the stomach more quickly.
While abdominal discomfort following a meal is the hallmark of indigestion, other symptoms may include:
- Mild to severe pain or burning in the epigastric area (located between the lower end of the chest bone and the navel)
Since indigestion may signal a more serious condition in some cases, it’s important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms such as:
- Frequent vomiting
- Painful swallowing
- Bloody or black stool
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- New or worsened heartburn
- Indigestion accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, or pain that radiates to your jaw, neck, or arm
Using Natural Remedies
Due to the limited research, it’s too soon to recommend any natural remedy as a treatment for indigestion. It’s also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you’re considering using alternative medicine in the treatment of indigestion, make sure to consult your physician first.
Simply slowing down while you eat may help reduce your risk of indigestion. Other prevention strategies include limiting your intake of coffee and carbonated beverages, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and yoga, and eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than two or three larger meals.
Standard treatments for indigestion include antacids or medications that decrease acid production or help the stomach move food more quickly into the small intestine.