Heartburn and indigestion are often confused for each other because they can be both present at the same time. However, heartburn is a specific symptom related to the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus, while indigestion refers to the broader process of a reduction in digestion and absorption of nutrients from foods. Heartburn can cause the characteristic burning sensation in the chest, often behind the breastbone. Indigestion can occur in digestive issues and conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and lactose intolerance. Symptoms of indigestion extend beyond reflux, and include feeling uncomfortably full of heavy (bloating), increased belching, nausea, and constipation or diarrhea.
Why does it happen?
Heartburn can occur when certain foods and lifestyle factors trigger an increase in acid production or acid movement into the esophagus. For example, lying down immediately after a meal can induce heartburn because stomach acid physically can slide up into the esophagus. Other foods and beverages, such as spicy foods and alcohol, can trigger an abrupt rise in acid. Indigestion is a process that can begin from insufficient chewing with enzymes in the mouth to molecules that an individual may have a sensitivity or allergy to, such as gluten in celiac disease, in the small intestine.
How do you manage/treat it?
Heartburn management begins by avoiding trigger foods, cigarette smoking, and aggravating positions. Demulcent herbs, such as DGL licorice and marshmallow root, can help soothe and protect irritated tissue, reducing reflux. Some individuals may require a prescription medication, such as a protein-pump inhibitor or H2 blocker, which reduces stomach acid production. Indigestion may require a greater evaluation to determine the cause. For some, indigestion can be simply relieved with bitters before a meal to add additional food breakdown support in the stomach, while others may require support from a gastroenterologist for treatment of chronic conditions, such as Ulcerative Colitis.
What 5 foods can help prevent and/or manage symptoms?
Ginger is quite the medicinal herb, that is both an antispasmodic (gas-reducing) to help relieve bloating and prevent nausea. It adds a refreshing flavor to soups and curries and is also easily enjoyed in tea.
The gelatin in bone broth protects and healths the mucosal lining of the digestive tract and helps aid in the digestion of nutrients. Bone broth is also a rich source of glutamine, an amino acid that's a preferred source of energy for the cells of the small bowel and other immune cells, and is shown to reduce intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability is a contributor to food sensitivities, since in simple terms, things are getting to places that they shouldn’t be.
Foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are rich sources of probiotics that help populate your gut with “good bugs,” fending off pathogens and protecting the gut lining.
This crunchy veggie provides a mild licorice flavor alongside inflammation reduction in the gut. By relaxing the stomach walls, fennel can help reduce acid reflux.
For those experiencing significant indigestion and disruptive symptoms, white rice may be friendly. White rice is simple to digest and while not as high in fiber as brown rice, can still firm up stool to prevent diarrhea while also encouraging a bowel movement to ease constipation. Congee is a rice porridge that can be comforting to those experiencing disruptive symptoms from most meals.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.