The foundation to treating indigestion should always start with nutrition. If this doesn’t bring relief then you can start to look into other options.
The best place to start is to remove foods that may have an inflammatory or reactive component for you. Across all plains of evidence the most common are refined sugar, wheat, dairy, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol and nightshades.
I am sure if you suffer from indigestion you have probably caught yourself saying something like, ‘I notice I get indigestion if I eat …..(fill in the gap).’ So this certainly is an indication that food can provocative this.
WHY? Just to geek out a little.
You might have already heard of histamines. When people have seasonal allergies, they have high levels of histamine and find relief when they take an antihistamine. Well, Allergens and inflammatory foods cause your body to release histamines. Histamines actually signal your stomach to produce acid. So, by reducing allergens/ intolerances, you can lower histamine and improve indigestion.
So, when we look at removing inflammatory foods and allergens there are a few approaches:
BUT most will eliminate the most common triggers of refined sugar, wheat, dairy, spicy food, nightshades.
Food Elimination Diet (read our other blog post on food intolerances/ sensitivities/ allergies).
You could follow a paleo approach and see if this improves your symptoms
A low FODMAP diet may also be helpful (recommended under the guidance of a practitioner)
Listen to your body – which foods work for you or not
A low histamine diet could be really helpful as well – reserve this for later on down the road once you’ve tried the others.
It is common, that if you start at the top (and most simplest) i.e. food elimination diet Then you will find your indigestion symptoms will go away. Why? You have simply cut out the foods that are causing inflammation and altering stomach acid levels.
This is when the bacteria in our GI tract are unbalanced. I.e more of an overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria/ pathogens/ fungi.
In any case, it is more an issue of re-establishing a healthy level of good bacteria rather than focusing on strict eradication of the bad.
To avoid unnecessary testing, there are a few questions to ask first.
How healthy your Digestive system is?
How healthy your immune system is?
There are many lifestyle factors that you can first implement in both triggers to improve your digestive and immune system and therefore improve your micro biome environment!
i.e. nutrition (as above), reducing stress/ inflammation, sleep, movement etc.
You could then go down the testing route for two most common triggers of dysbiosis, which are:
There is a little speculation over the specifics of these two. The treatment of these can improve indigestion.
The THIRD THING is then addressing stomach acid
LOW STOMACH ACID
As we see above the symptoms of both are SO similar… but there are a few things that would put you at an increased risk of both.
Any of the following factors increases the likelihood that you have low stomach acid:
You have an autoimmune disease e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Thyroid Disease any stomach autoimmunity.
Anemia (malabsorption of iron and B vitamins)
Age (as a general rule, the older you are the less stomach acid production)
Chronic use of painkillers, antibiotics or other stomach irritants.
HIGH STOMACH ACID
High stomach acid is typically caused by two things:
High stomach acid typically leads to the development of stomach ulcers (which have all the same symptoms of Too much stomach acid).
To go into how to specifically Increase stomach acid is beyond the scope of this blog (i.e I would be here forever). So the best approach is to first go back to #1 that I have recommended above and then #2 (which both really are quite similar). And if nothing improves then I would recommend seeing your health practitioner and they can go down the rabbit hole of HCl supplementation.
To decrease stomach acid, the most effective way is to address food and dysbiosis as above!