During the festive period, many people experience indigestion symptoms including heartburn.
But what exactly are these digestive issues, how can you treat them and is there a way to prevent them?
We answer all you need to know about indigestion and heartburn.
Are indigestion and heartburn the same thing?
Indigestion is a broad term that covers digestive symptoms such as bloating, nausea and pain in and around the stomach area.
These symptoms happen when acid from your stomach irritates your stomach lining and other parts of your digestive system. Heartburn is a symptom of indigestion and is often described as a burning sensation in the centre of the chest. It happens when acid from your stomach leaks back up your oesophagus (the pipe from the mouth to the stomach), irritating the cells that line it. This process is known as acid reflux.
How is indigestion treated?
The most commonly used medicines for treating occasional indigestion are antacids and alginates, both of which are available over the counter at pharmacies. Come in store and speak to a member of our healthcare team for them to recommend one that would work best for you.
Other medicines for long-term indigestion are available on prescription from your GP.
Always check with your pharmacist before taking antacids with other medicines, as they can prevent other medicines from being absorbed properly.
Some medicines can cause indigestion, so check with our Pharmacist if you’re experiencing indigestion and taking a rescription or over-the-counter medicine.
Other things that can cause indigestion include being overweight, peptic ulcers and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
How is heartburn treated?
Antacids and alginates are also used to relieve mild to moderate heartburn. Antacids help neutralise stomach acids, while alginates help protect the lining of the stomach and oesophagus from the effects of stomach acids.
What is GORD?
GORD is a common condition that causes symptoms including heartburn and an unpleasant taste in the back of the mouth.
It’s caused by acid reflux, and usually happens when the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus becomes weak. Other symptoms include bad breath, bloating, belching, nausea, vomiting and pain or difficulties when swallowing.
Antacids and alginates are among the main treatments for GORD, but your GP can prescribe stronger medicines if you need them, including medicines called proton-pump inhibitors and H2- receptor antagonists.
Can indigestion and heartburn be prevented?
Prevention is the best treatment for indigestion and heartburn. Try the following:
• Maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight puts pressure on your stomach and can cause acid reflux.
• Eat as healthily as possible and try to avoid festive foods that are very rich, spicy or high in fat. Try eating smaller meals in general, and most importantly try to avoid eating a big meal just before going to bed.
• Drink alcohol in moderation and make sure you’re drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated. Also cut down on tea, coffee and fizzy caffeinated drinks.
• If you smoke, think about giving up, as the chemicals in cigarette smoke may trigger acid reflux. Ask a member of your healthcare team for advice and support with quitting if you need it.
• Prop up your head and shoulders in bed to prevent acid rising