What is Indigestion?

The term indigestion is often used by patients to describe heartburn and/or upper abdominal pain as well as a feelng of gassiness, swallowing, feelings of pressures or heaviness after eating, sensations of bloating after eating, stomach or abdominal pains or cramps, or fullness in the abdomen. The medical terms used to describe indigestion include functional dyspepsia,(FD) non-ulcer dyspepsia (NUD), and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).

Treatment of Indigestion:

The dominant treatment of indigestion is the use of antiacids and acid-blocker drugs. Acid-blocker drugs are divided into two general groups. One drug group is the older histamine-recepteor antagonist drugs such as Zantac, Tagamet,and Pepcid AC. The other is the newer and more potent group of drugs called proton-pump inhibitors (PPI), which includes Nexium, Prilosec, Protonic, Prevacid,and Aciphex.

Use of anti-acids therapy, especially the newer drugs, is associated with an increase risk of osteoporosis, heart arrhythmias, intestinal infections,bacterial pneumonia, and multiple nutrient deficiencies. Most seriously, these drugs may increase the development of various gastrointestinal cancers. In regard to nutrient deficiencies, because the body uses gastric acids to release many nutrients from foods, people taking these acid-blocking drugs run the risk of multiple deficiencies. In particular, critical nutrients such as vitamin B 12 magnesium, and iron are generally low in patients on long term use of proton-pump inhibitors.

Indigestion – The Stomach’s Optimal PH Range:

The stomach’s optimal pH range is 1.5 to 2.5, with hydrochloric acid being the primary stomach acid. The use of antacids and acid-blocker drugs will typically raise the the pH above 3.5. This increase effectively inhibits the action of pepsin, an enzyme involved in protein digestion that can be irritating to the stomach. Although raising the pH can reduce symptoms, it must be pointed out that hydrochloric acid and pepsin are important factors in protein digestion. If their secretion is insufficient or their action inhibited, proper protein digestion and mineral disassociation will not occur.

In addition, the change in pH can adversely affect the gut’s microbial flora, including promoting overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori, which has been linked to several stomach disorders.Therefore, it is important to use antiacids wisely and sparingly. In addition, many nutrition-oriented physicians believe that it is not too much acid but rather a lack of acid that is the problem. Typically, in addressing indigestion, naturopathic physicians use measures to enhance rather than inhibit digestion. Commonly used digestive aids included hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzyme preparation, and enteric-coated peppermint oil products.

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