Poor digestion is not a disease, but a set of symptoms commonly occurring during meals or drinks, or shortly thereafter. Poor digestion can be caused by various disorders, which are usually not serious, though the cause often cannot be determined.
Symptoms are different in different people, and the description of those symptoms may be different. While someone says that he, for example, has a heartburn, other will mention a pain in the chest. One will talk about burping, the other about hiccuping. Generally speaking, the symptoms of bad digestion are the following: general feeling of discomfort or bloated stomacht; sharp or dull chest pain; heartburn, nausea or regurgitation of acid liquid in the mouth; burping or flatulence (farting). It is possible to have several symptoms at once.
However, poor digestion is, in most cases, characterized by a common feature: it is, in a certain way, associated with food or drink (although in some cases bad symptoms of digestion can also cause inhaling air while eating or chewing gum). Tight clothing may also increase the discomfort of poor digestion.
Poor digestion is practically a general discomfort. Some people feel the symptoms (one or several) as they eat a certain food, such as cabbage, beans, onions, cucumbers or pork, or after drinking a carbonated beverage such as soda or tonic. Some people have problems with poor digestion if they eat too fast, or after a particularly fat, spicy or abundant meal. In some people, poor digestion occurs whenever they are anxious, upset or gloomy. Especially prone to poor digestion are pregnant women, as well as passionate smokers, people who suffer from constipation, obese people and older people.
Poor digestion is unpleasant, sometimes even painful, but not a dangerous condition. Many people occasionally suffer from poor digestion during their entire life without additional complications. You probably know how your stomach “behaves” in a given situation, so you are going to apply “your own medicines”, or try to prevent it by avoiding the food or drink that can cause poor digestion in your case. You may sometime ignore the dangers of unwanted meals or beverages (bad for you) simply because this temporary enjoyment will be more important than discomfort that will follow immediately. This is acceptable because you will not be exposed to any serious danger. However, you need to be careful about changes of the symptoms. There is always the possibility that a more serious disease – such as hiatus hernia, gallstones, duodenal ulcer and, althrough rarely, stomach cancer – has caused this change of symptoms.
What to do?
Monitor the symptoms and apply recommended self-help measures. If the symptoms change – for example, if the feeling of nausea after a meal passes into vomiting, if a poor digestion is botherign you every day and not occasionally as before, and especially if you lose weight or appetite – contact your doctor immediately. If your doctor suspects that a disease may be causing “new” symptoms, you will be sent to a diagnostic scan, which usually involves X-ray of stomach and barium test. It may also be necessary to have additional tests, such as X-ray of the bladder, blood and stool analysis and endoscopy.
Self-help: think about your poor digestion. Does it usually occur after a particular meal? If you can, avoid eating it in the future. Does it occur if you eat something late in the evening or if you drink an alcohol after a meal? Try to adjust the eating habits and drink to the peculiarities of your stomach. In addition, the possibility of poor digestion may be reduced by some general measures. Do not smoke.
Make sure you never lose your nerves and do not get upset during meals. Do not swallow food as fast as you can or eat while standing. Try to relax for half an hour after a meal. Various commercially available anti-gastric agents (antacids) can help some people who have poor digestion. If you take them, follow the instructions printed on the label. (If you are pregnant, talk to a doctor who will tell you which antacid is suitable for pregnant women; some antacids cause problems with vitamin absorption and should not be taken during pregnancy.)
Professional help: the first thing doctor will do is to try to find out if the cause of bad digestion is not a disease. The more precise you describe your symptoms, as well as their connection to certain foods and drinks, will make it easier for a doctor to find a probable cause. You should mention any changes in your symptoms and conditions, if there were any. Your doctor will probably ask if you have recently been exposed to emotional stress or tensions or changes in your lifestyle.
If a physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests cannot detect any serious illness, your doctor will probably suggest changes in a diet, beverages and sleep that should alleviate your symptoms. If your doctor thinks that a stress or tension is contributing to your poor digestion, he will prescribe you a soothing substance.