Indigestion – Herbal Remedies To Cure It!
Quick: Where’s your stomach? If you think it’s somewhere in the vicinity of your navel, you’re a bit too far south. Underneath your navel are your intestines. Your stomach actually sits considerably higher beneath your rib cage, slightly to the left of your breastbone.
The point of this brief anatomy lesson: What most people call a stomachache has nothing to do with the stomach. It’s really abdominal distress, or indigestion.
In and of itself, indigestion is seldom serious. It usually comes on after meals as a sharp or aching pain in the area of your navel. Perhaps you ate something that didn’t agree with you. Many people get indigestion after eating dairy products-a tip-off that they may be lactose-intolerant-or after eating greasy, fatty foods. Then again, maybe it’s not what you ate but how much or how fast you ate. Overeating and rushing through meals contribute to abdominal distress.
Other factors may raise your risk of developing indigestion, says Alan Gaby, M.D. You’re more vulnerable to abdominal distress when you’re under emotional stress, taking certain medications (especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), drinking, smoking-even wearing too-tight clothes, which increases pressure on your abdomen.
In addition, some people are prone to indigestion because they don’t produce enough stomach acid or pancreatic secretions. Antacid commercials imply that excess stomach acid is a major public health problem. “But probably more significant health problems, including indigestion, are caused by a deficiency of stomach acid,” says Joseph Pizzorno Jr., N.D. A deficiency of pancreatic enzymes can cause similar problems, he says. As you grow older, your body loses its ability to manufacture these digestive juices-one reason why indigestion tends to increase with age.
No matter what has caused your indigestion, you have plenty of options for relief. Here’s what can help.
- Enjoy a relaxing repast. “Mealtime should be a time of relaxation, not stress,” says Alan P. Brauer, M.D. So sit down while you eat. Play mellowing music if you want. Most important, eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Wolfing down your meal is a surefire setup for indigestion.
- Graze, don’t gorge. Instead of the standard three square meals a day, try eating four or five smaller, snack-size meals, suggests Anne Simons, M.D. By eating less in one sitting, you reduce your odds of developing indigestion.
- Phase out high-fat foods. Compared with other foods, those that are high in fat are harder to digest. Switching to a low-fat diet can help’ prevent indigestion.
- Ply yourself with pineapple. Pineapple is rich in bromelain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. (That’s why you can’t add pineapple to gelatin. The bromelain breaks down the protein that makes gelatin gel.) “Fresh or canned, pineapple is a sweet dessert that helps digestion,” says James A. Duke, Ph.D.
- Wash down your meals with water. Sipping water as you eat often helps prevent indigestion, Dr. Brauer of Best-home-remedies.com says, It lubricates your food’s passage through your intestines. And if you take a sip every few bites, it slows your eating.
Get bromelain in a bottle. If you’re not a fan of pineapple, you can get bromelain in pill form. Naturopaths recommend taking 250 to 500 milligrams of the enzyme with meals.
Appease your abdomen. Ever feel as though your digestive tract has a mind of its own? In fact, it does.
Research by Michael D. Gershon, M.D., professor and chairperson in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, has shown that the human body actually has two brains. You know about the one in your head. The other, called the enteric nervous system, lines your digestive tract. It contains in excess of 100 million nerve cells-more than your spinal cord. “No wonder even minor emotional upsets can trigger abdominal distress;” says Martin L. Rossman, M.D.
According to William E. Whitehead, Ph.D., professor of medical psychology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, any relaxation therapy can calm the nervous system tissue in your digestive tract and help relieve indigestion. Practice the ones that appeal to you: deep breathing, meditation, visualization, massage, aromatherapy, exercise, tai chi, or yoga.
Squeeze your knees. For indigestion, Stephen Nezezon, M.D., of the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, recommends an exercise called the knee squeeze. Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, your legs straight, and your toes slightly pointed. Slowly inhale as you raise your right knee to your chest. Embrace your knee with your hands. Hold this position for a few seconds. Then exhale as you release and straighten your right leg. Repeat the sequence, this time using your left leg. Do the exercise three times per leg.
- Try an old standby. Antacids help relieve indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid. Among the available brands are Tums, Rolaids, DiGel, Maalox, Mylanta, AlkaSeltzer, and Bromo-Seltzer. Whichever product you choose, take it according to the package directions.
- Check out the H2 blockers. Once available only by prescription, H2 blockers-sold under the brand names Tagamet, Zantac, and Pepcid AC-are now sold over the counter. They’re usually recommended for heartburn, but they sometimes help relieve abdominal distress. They work by reducing stomach acid secretion. If you decide to try an H2 blocker, take it according to the package directions.
Inhale soothing scents. The herbs used to treat indigestion are effective because of the aromatic oils they contain. Aroma therapists discard the plant material and work entirely with these oils. For indigestion, Kathy Keville and Mindy Green, coauthors of Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, recommend caraway, cardamom, celery, chamomile, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, and peppermint essential oils.
To use an essential oil, place a few chips of rock salt in a small capped vial. Add a drop or two of the essential oil of your choice. The rock salt quickly absorbs the oil, so the oil doesn’t spill. Whenever you feel indigestion coming on, uncap the vial and take a whiff.
Try a different kind of medicine. Homeopaths recommend several highly diluted medicines for indigestion, says homeopath Dana Ullman. They include Calcarea carbonica, Nux vomica, and Pulsatilla. Which of these medicines works best for you depends on your individual symptoms. For a recommendation, consult a homeopath.