We’ve all experienced the discomfort that comes with indigestion at some point or the other. It can cause bloating, a burning feeling in your upper stomach, and even a heartburn. You can get indigestion from eating fatty foods, being stressed, smoking, and so on. Sometimes an underlying condition like a bacterial infection (by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (a condition where stomach acid leaks into your food pipe causing heartburn or “acid indigestion”) may be responsible.1 2
Thankfully, there is a range of simple remedies that may ease you of the discomfort caused due to indigestion:
1. Practice Helpful Habits
Some lifestyle changes may be able to help improve the symptoms of indigestion:
Cigarette smoke may be to blame for your upset tummy. The chemicals present in cigarette smoke can cause the relaxation of the muscle between your food pipe and stomach leading to acid reflux. Quitting smoking can be helpful in easing this condition.
Alcohol induces your stomach to produce excess acid which can aggravate the stomach lining. So drinking excessively can increase your chances of suffering from indigestion.
Shedding those extra pounds can be helpful in reducing indigestion if you’re overweight.3 Extra weight can also put pressure on your stomach and push its contents into your food pipe causing heartburn.4 But remember that combining a lower calorie but balanced diet and exercise may be the best way to lose weight. Avoid crash diets which can be harmful.
Elevate Your Head At Night
Elevate your head and shoulders with a couple of extra pillows when you go to bed so that stomach acid doesn’t move into your food pipe while you sleep. You can even try special wedge-shaped cushions from medical supply companies that will help you do this.5
2. Eat Smart
- Have smaller, more frequent meals rather than 3 large meals a day. Also, remember to eat slowly and chew food properly.
- Fatty, spicy, and rich foods can worsen indigestion, as can caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and cola. So try to avoid these.
- If you’re prone to indigestion at night, try to avoid eating 3 or 4 hours before you sleep. Lying down on a full stomach increases the chances of acid reflux.
3. Try Natural Remedies
Many common substances found in your kitchen can help you tackle indigestion:
How To Make Ginger Tea: Steep 1.5 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger in 1.5 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste.
Ginger has been traditionally used to treat indigestion over the years. Here’s how it might work. Research shows that consuming ginger before your meals can quicken emptying of the stomach.6 A delay in emptying of the stomach is thought to play a role in the symptoms of indigestion.7
How To Consume: If you’re bothered by indigestion, try sipping a little ginger tea before your meals.
How To Make Fennel Tea: Boil 2 to 3 gms of crushed seeds in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes with the lid on. Cool, strain, and drink up.
The volatile oil of fennel contains a beneficial compound known as anethole which can inhibit smooth muscle spasms. This is thought to give fennel the ability to relieve bloating and cramps in the gastrointestinal tract.
How To Consume: It’s recommended that you drink 3 cups of fennel tea a day to combat indigestion.8
How To Make Caraway Tea: Steep half a teaspoon of crushed caraway seeds in hot water to make a tea.
Caraway seeds have been traditionally used to tackle indigestion. They belong to a group of herbs known as carminatives which are known to ease bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort.
How To Consume: Having caraway tea thrice a day may help you deal with indigestion.9
How To Make Turmeric Tea: Boil 4 cups of water, add a teaspoon of turmeric powder, simmer for around 10 minutes, and your tea’s ready! Strain, add a dash of honey for sweetness and enjoy.
Turmeric, the yellow spice added to curries, might not just be a flavor booster. It can soothe your tummy too. One study found that when people suffering from indigestion consumed 500 mg of turmeric four times a day for a week, after meals and before bedtime, 87% of them experienced an improvement in their symptoms. 10
How To Consume: You can add this spice to your food or even try your hand at some turmeric tea.
The common banana might be able to help you tackle indigestion. One study found that 75% participants suffering from indigestion who were given banana powder for 8 weeks experienced partial or complete relief.11 Bananas can increase the mucous lining of the stomach thereby protecting it. A flavonoid known as leucocyanidin present in bananas is thought to make it a natural antacid.12
How To Consume: Peel and enjoy a ripe banana to be rid of indigestion.
Another common remedy for indigestion is honey, and this old-timer is backed by science. Studies show that manuka honey works against the Helicobacter pylori bacteria which is implicated in many cases of indigestion.13
How To Consume: Take a spoonful of honey on its own or try a teaspoon of ginger juice and honey for relief.14
Here’s a surprising candidate that can help with indigestion – red pepper! A study which was conducted on people suffering from indigestion and not gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or irritable bowel syndrome found that symptoms like bloating, pain, and nausea significantly improved when they took red pepper powder. The participants took 1 capsule containing 0.5 gm of red pepper powder 15 minutes before breakfast, 2 capsules before lunch, and another 2 before dinner for 5 weeks. It is hypothesized that capsaicin present in red pepper powder can desensitize nerves that carry sensations of pain (gastric nociceptive C-fibres).
How To Consume: You can sprinkle red pepper powder over a salad or even yogurt for an interesting take. In fact, raita which is commonly consumed in India combines yogurt with spices like red pepper powder and roasted cumin powder.15
4. Perform Breathing Exercises
Stress has been known to exacerbate indigestion. Breathing exercises can be helpful in relieving stress and calming you down.
How To Do: Try this simple exercise. Sit or stand comfortably with your feet firmly planted about hip width apart. Now breath in through your nose as deeply as is comfortable, letting your breath flow into your belly. Then, without pausing breathe out gently through your mouth. Do this exercise for 3 to 5 minutes.16
5. Go For Yoga
Yoga involves several asanas that are considered to be beneficial for indigestion:
The Hero Pose (Virasana)
- Kneel on the floor with your thighs at right angles to the floor, the top of your feet flat on the ground, and your inner knees touching.
- Slide your feet apart so that they’re a little wider than your hips, pull the flesh on your calf muscles backward, and rest your buttocks between your feet.
- Relax in this pose for 5 to 10 minutes.
Wind Releasing Pose (Pawanamukta Asana)
- Lie down.
- Bend a knee and bring it to your stomach with both hands. Press your knee into your stomach making sure you keep your other leg straight.
- Repeat with the other leg. Do this cycle 5 times.
- Then repeat the exercise with both legs bent at the knee.
Caution: This pose is to be done on an empty stomach in the morning or evening.
Upward Stretched Leg Pose (Urdhava Prasarita Pada Asana)
- Lie down and raise a leg straight up.
- Now pull that leg towards your body with a strap.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Repeat the cycle 5 times.
Caution: This pose too is meant to be done on an empty stomach.17
|↑1||Indigestion. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2, ↑3||Indigestion. National Health Service.|
|↑4||8 ways to quell the fire of heartburn. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑5||8 ways to quell the fire of heartburn. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑6||Hu, Ming-Luen, Christophan K. Rayner, Keng-Liang Wu, Seng-Kee Chuah, Wei-Chen Tai, Yeh-Pin Chou, Yi-Chun Chiu, King-Wah Chiu, and Tsung-Hui Hu. “Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia.” World J Gastroenterol 17, no. 1 (2011): 105-10.|
|↑7||Camilleri, Michael. “Does delayed gastric emptying really cause symptoms in functional dyspepsia?.” Gut 55, no. 7 (2006): 909-910.|
|↑8||Fennel. University of Michigan.|
|↑9||Caraway. University of Michigan.|
|↑10||Thamlikitkul, V. I. S. A. N. U., N. Bunyapraphatsara, T. Dechatiwongse, S. Theerapong, C. Chantrakul, T. Thanaveerasuwan, S. Nimitnon et al. “Randomized double blind study of Curcuma domestica Val. for dyspepsia.” J Med Assoc Thai 72, no. 11 (1989): 613-620.|
|↑11||Arora, Anil, and M. P. Sharma. “Use of banana in non-ulcer dyspepsia.” The Lancet 335, no. 8689 (1990): 612-613.|
|↑12||10 benefits of eating a banana. Philippine Council For Health, Research And Development.|
|↑13||Al Somal, N., K. E. Coley, P. C. Molan, and B. M. Hancock. “Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 87, no. 1 (1994): 9-12.|
|↑14||Davidson, John. The Miracle of Honey. JD-Biz Corp Publishing, 2013.|
|↑15||Bortolotti, M., G. Coccia, G. Grossi, and M. Miglioli. “The treatment of functional dyspepsia with red pepper.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 16, no. 6 (2002): 1075-1082.|
|↑16||Breathing exercise for stress. National Health Service.|
|↑17||Pande-Bhargava, Navodita. Yoga: The Oriental Healing. Partridge Publishing, 2014.|