Treating indigestion at home
Indigestion treatment can be different for each person. If it is only mild or infrequent, you may not need to see a doctor, as lifestyle and dietary changes could be all that is needed.
Lifestyle changes could include:
- Losing weight - being overweight could be the reason for your indigestion, so losing weight slowly and safely could be the solution. Speak to your doctor if you need advice on how to do this.
- Avoid trigger foods - rich, fatty or spicy foods can lead to indigestion in some people, so avoiding these may help. Keeping a food diary can help you identify which foods cause your indigestion.
- Reduce alcohol intake - excessive alcohol can cause the stomach to produce too much acid. Drinking less should help reduce the instances of indigestion you experience.
- Don’t eat before bed – try not eating for at least three hours before going to bed, particularly if you suffer from indigestion when lying down. This allows time for your body to process the food properly.
- Stop smoking - the chemicals in cigarette smoke can make the muscles between the stomach and oesophagus relax, allowing stomach acid to move up into the oesophagus.
- Reducing stress – this, along with anxiety, can have adverse effects on your digestive system. Tackling the cause of the stress should help with the indigestion.
Medication to treat indigestion
In some cases, over-the-counter indigestion medication may help treat the problem:
Antacids are a quick way to reduce the burning sensation and other symptoms of indigestion. They work by neutralising the acid that is in your stomach, to stop any irritation temporarily.
Alginate medication is used to treat acid reflux (that causing the burning sensation in your chest) by creating a barrier in your stomach to keep the acid away from the oesophagus.
If you get indigestion a lot, it may not respond to these types of medication and an alternative course of treatment may be prescribed by a doctor. The treatment will largely depend on the cause of the indigestion, and further tests may be needed to identify the exact cause.
What happens if indigestion is left untreated?
Ignoring indigestion symptoms and not treating it for an extended period of time can lead to further complications.
Regular or consistent indigestion can lead to scarring of the oesophagus, resulting in an esophageal stricture - a tightening or narrowing of the oesophagus and surgery is usually needed to fix the problem.
Similar complications can arise from irritation of the stomach lining over a long time.
Peritonitis is another complication, caused by long-term indigestion breaking down and infecting your intestinal tract, usually through a tear or damage due to excessive stomach acid. It will usually be treated either by surgery or you may be given medication to treat the infection.
Indigestion may seem like a minor issue, and while symptoms will often go away on their own, you should consult a doctor if the problem persists or is particularly severe. Our doctors will be able to discuss the possible causes of your indigestion with you, and this will help them determine the right type of treatment.