An introduction to IBS and indigestion
If you suffer from IBS you will be at greater risk of experiencing indigestion and other symptoms associated with the condition, such as acid reflux.
Periodic bouts of indigestion, especially after a few over-indulging meals, is normal. However, when symptoms start occurring on a more frequent basis, we should be looking for a cause. One cause of indigestion to consider is IBS.
Why does IBS cause indigestion?
Indigestion basically means ‘bad digestion’ and symptoms arise from the upper end of the digestive tract.
The link between IBS and indigestion is still not clear. Both symptoms share a number symptoms including flatulence, bloating and pain or discomfort. But the common cause in both conditions for these symptoms is still not clearly understood.
A deficiency or malfunction of digestive enzymes may have a role. Decreased stomach acid (known as hypochlorhydria) is a commonly misdiagnosed condition. As people age, production of stomach acid naturally declines. Contrary to logic, this decrease in stomach acid can actually lead to an increase in acid reflux as it affects the digestive process by interfering with the normal breakdown of food in the stomach.
It is likely an imbalance in the stomach can give rise to IBS symptoms. If food hasn’t been digested properly, this will most likely aggravate an irritable gut.
Interestingly stress has links with both indigestion (affects stomach acid production) and IBS (brain-gut axis), so may also be having a part to play.
If the first part of the digestive tract isn’t functioning correctly, it will have a natural impact on the bits that follow. Whether this is a causal effect (sending partially undigested food through to the other parts of the gut) or that both parts result from a common functional problem, is yet to be completely understood.
Nevertheless, psychological factors cannot be ruled out as there is a strong gut-brain relationship. Stress, anxiety, panic attacks and depression all have links with both IBS and indigestion.
In extreme cases, acid reflux may develop into Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD or GERD). This is a chronic condition sometimes also known as functional dyspepsia, which requires a visit to your doctor in order to have the diagnosis confirmed.
What can I try at home for indigestion?
There are a few simple steps you can take at home to help manage your indigestion linked with IBS:
- Chew your food: If the efficient breakdown of food in your stomach is an issue, chewing your food as much as possible in your mouth is essential. The larger surface area of food fragments left after a good chew means that what you have eaten will be more effectively attacked by digestive enzymes. This also allows the enzyme known as salivary amylase, produced in your mouth, to work efficiently to break down the carbohydrates eaten. Read our blog to get the low down on the host of benefits that come from chewing!
- Relax as you eat: Eating on the go isn’t good for digestion. If peripheral muscles in your arms and legs are moving, blood flow redirects to these parts of the body, taking the focus off the gut resulting in your digestive process suffering
- Don’t drink water with your meal: This will dilute the digestive enzymes secreted in your mouth and stomach. Separate water from food by at least 20 minutes to allow the digestive juices to do their job at the concentration they work best at.
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How can herbal remedies help me?
There are a number of herbal remedies which can help with indigestion.
- Bitter herbs: Use bitter stomach or digestive herbs 5-10 minutes before a meal to your support digestion. These stimulate the release of gastric juices and enzymes, helping to ensure proper breakdown of food in the stomach. Bitter herbs are best taken in liquid form – and it does taste bitter!
- Digestisan: Digestisan is a combination of a number of bitter herbs and helps to improve the digestive process, avoiding symptoms such as bloating, feelings of fullness, indigestion and acid reflux.
How can my doctor help?
If changes to your lifestyle and natural remedies have not helped you, seek further advice from your doctor. Medication for indigestion such as antacids, H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole may be prescribed.
In some cases, these drugs can be prone to side effects and long-term use has to be considered carefully. Read our blog article: Hard to stomach to find out more.