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Indigestion – The Discomfort of Sour Stomach


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

Indigestion
with its symptoms like pain, bloating, burping… not only is bad for
health, but also makes you uncomfortable especially in communication
with other people. This post will tells your more about Indigestion. You may also visit and read more posts about health on Johns Hopkins Health Alerts which provides cutting-edge information on healthy living after 50 in an easy-to-read format, completely FREE of charge.

If you suffer from indigestion, you’re not alone. Indigestion accounts for roughly 70% of all gastrointestinal complaints.

Every
year Americans spend millions of dollars on medications for dyspepsia,
a catchall term for an assortment of upper abdominal symptoms —
including pain, bloating, and burping — commonly referred to as
indigestion. At any given time, about one fourth of American adults
suffer from some degree of indigestion. Indeed, indigestion accounts
for 5% of all office visits to primary care doctors and up to 70% of
all gastrointestinal complaints. Women are more vulnerable to
indigestion than men, but older adults are often spared. The prevalence
of indigestion appears to remain stable or even decline with age.

Although
effective treatment for indigestion is available, only about one fourth
of those with persistent symptoms of indigestion see a doctor for help.
About 40% of those who do seek assistance for indigestion are worried
that they may have a life-threatening disorder — in particular,
stomach or esophageal cancer. In reality, such malignancies are the
culprit in fewer than 3% of cases.

Indigestion is far more
likely to be caused by one of a host of other, less serious problems.
Nevertheless, these conditions should still be treated — sometimes to
prevent complications, sometimes simply to relieve discomfort and
improve the quality of life. Fortunately, the proper medications —
often combined with lifestyle measures — are usually helpful.

Searching for the causes of indigestion

The
hallmark of indigestion is persistent or recurrent pain or discomfort
in the mid- to upper abdomen. Other symptoms of indigestion include
bloating, a premature feeling of fullness after meals (early satiety),
and excessive burping. Nausea and heartburn (a burning sensation just
under the breastbone that sometimes radiates to the neck) may be
present, but recurrent vomiting and nutritional problems are not
typical.

Many underlying causes can prompt these symptoms of
indigestion. Among the most common are gastroesophageal reflux disease
(GERD) and stomach ulcers. GERD is characterized by upper abdominal
pain and heartburn. Stomach ulcers cause periodic episodes of upper
abdominal pain that get worse with hunger and improve after eating or
taking antacids. Nighttime pain is often so severe that sufferers waken
frequently.

Dismotility disorders, such as esophageal spasms or
weak esophageal contractions (achalasia), are another possibility.
These neurologic problems are characterized by peristaltic impairment,
malfunction of the involuntary muscle contractions that push food down
the esophagus into the stomach. Symptoms include generalized upper
abdominal pain that is usually aggravated by food and accompanied by
other symptoms such as bloating, early satiety, loss of appetite,
nausea, retching, and occasionally vomiting. Finally, indigestion is a
potential side effect of many medications. Among the more likely
culprits are aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, theophylline, digitalis,
corticosteroids, iron, niacin, chemotherapy drugs, and certain
narcotics. No matter what the cause of indigestion, stress and other
psychological factors can clearly trigger or worsen symptoms.

When to see a doctor for indigestion

Antacids
and histamine (H2) blockers are the two most effective over-the-counter
medications for indigestion. But they are appropriate only for
occasional episodes. Antacids such as calcium carbonate (Tums and
others) and magnesium salts (Mylanta and others) neutralize stomach
acid, which can cause inflammation in the stomach and the esophagus,
resulting in abdominal discomfort or heartburn. Antacids are intended
for quick symptom relief.

H2 blockers such as cimetidine
(Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), and ranitidine
(Zantac) suppress the production of stomach acids so that irritated
tissues have a chance to heal. When these medications are effective,
there is no reason to see a doctor. But recurrent or persistent
symptoms require medical attention. Be specific about your symptoms.
Describe the location and quality of the pain. Explain whether it is
sharp or dull, concentrated or diffuse, burning or stabbing. Note
whether you feel better after eating or when you are hungry; if
over-the-counter medications help; if you feel very full after eating a
small meal; and if you are plagued by bloating, nausea, or burping.
Diagnostic studies include endoscopy (direct examination of the
esophagus using a flexible, illuminated tube), certain imaging studies,
blood work, and testing for Helicobacter pylori (the bacterium
responsible for most stomach ulcers).

Therapeutic options for indigestion

Proper
treatment of indigestion usually brings significant relief and prevents
complications, such as Barrett’s esophagus (cellular changes due to
persistant irritation that may lead to cancer) from GERD, and
perforation of the stomach wall from stomach ulcers. If either of these
disorders is suspected, a trial of therapy may be recommended based on
symptoms alone. Prescription-strength H2 blockers or proton pump
inhibitors (a potent type of acid suppressor) such as omeprazole
(Prilosec) are useful for GERD. Also essential are lifestyle measures
— such as not eating near bedtime (because lying down encourages
partially digested food and stomach acid to flow backward from the
stomach into the esophagus) and avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic
beverages (which may irritate the stomach and esophageal lining).

If
symptoms persist despite GERD treatment, a stomach ulcer is often
suspected. H. pylori causes about 90% of all stomach ulcers; NSAID use
is responsible for most of the remainder. If H. pylori is thought to be
the cause, antibiotic therapy can cure it. However, many people harbor
H. pylori, and yet this is not the cause of their indigestion symptoms.
In such cases, antibiotic therapy is not helpful. If NSAIDs or other
medications are implicated, it is necessary to stop using the offending
drug. Other alternatives, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for
short-term, over-the-counter pain relief, are usually available — but
consult your doctor before adjusting any prescription medications.

When the cause of indigestion is elusive

In
at least 25% of cases, no underlying cause of indigestion can be found.
Yet, certain abnormalities are prevalent in these patients. In about
one third, solids leave the stomach more slowly than normal, a
condition called impaired gastric emptying. In some, the amount of food
the stomach can comfortably hold may be limited, a condition called
postprandial accommodation impairment. Finally, the stomach may be
unusually sensitive to stimulation, a condition called gastric
hypersensitivity. Exactly what causes these abnormalities, how they
contribute to dyspepsia, and whether or how they should be treated is
unknown.

When symptoms persist and the known causes of
indigestion have been ruled out, the lifestyle measures used for GERD
are sometimes effective. Some people find that keeping a diary of
symptoms, foods, and emotions helps them identify and control factors
that trigger symptoms of indigestion. If symptoms continue, antianxiety
medications, dismotility drugs, or antidepressants (especially
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be helpful.

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Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal
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