Exactly What Causes Indigestion?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
“I shouldn’t have had that fourth taco.”
Those types of statements are usually muttered when we’ve eaten something that makes us uncomfortably full, or gives us indigestion. The burning sensation you feel in the middle of your chest, creeping up toward your throat, can make you regret anything you’ve recently eaten.
Fellow heartburn sufferer, there are solutions. Let’s learn about what indigestion is, what causes it, and what you can do to get relief.
What Is Indigestion?
Acid reflux is a condition you can experience if the digestive acids in your stomach flow back into your esophageal tube (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). It can happen occasionally or regularly.
People who experience acid reflux regularly (more than twice a week) may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms of Indigestion
You’re likely well acquainted with the symptoms of indigestion. They can range from mild to severe and include:
- Pain in the chest (usually central, near the breastbone) and throat;
- Bloating and/or bulging at the top of the breastbone;
- Gurgling sounds in the chest
- Burning sensations
If you have indigestion regularly, the lining of your esophagus becomes irritated by continual exposure to the stomach acid. Over time, you may experience symptoms of indigestion constantly, not just after you eat a meal.
What’s Actually Happening in the Body
What’s causing that fourth taco to give you so much discomfort? It’s a little valve at the bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This sphincter works with the muscles of the esophagus to help pull food down into the stomach.
As food passes down the esophagus, the LES relaxes to allow the food to pass.
When you are done eating, the sphincter should close. When it doesn’t, you experience acid reflux. The cause of indigestion is the relaxation or weakening of the LES at the wrong times.
What causes this sphincter to weaken can be difficult to pinpoint.
What Causes Indigestion
Spicy food, fatty food, laying down too soon after eating; these can all exacerbate indigestion and make you feel symptoms like heartburn, pain, and nausea. However, the real cause of indigestion is the weakening of the LES. What causes that muscle to weaken and relax?
Hiatal hernias occur when a portion of the stomach moves above the diaphragm into the area of the chest. Because the diaphragm separates the chest (where the esophagus is located) from the stomach, any interference with it can cause a potential problem that results in indigestion.
Not all people who have a hiatal hernia will have indigestion, but having a hiatal hernia places you at higher risk of developing indigestion.
The LES may relax after you’ve finished eating a meal. This is normal, but if you’ve eaten a meal that is too large, your stomach may distend, which applies pressure on the sphincter. If your LES is already weakened, it may not be able to sustain the pressure, and indigestion will occur.
Even if your LES is strong, eating too much on a regular basis can cause increased indigestion, which can inflame and weaken the LES.
If you already have frequent heartburn, you probably know that consuming alcohol can bring on a bout of indigestion. While it is unclear how alcohol is related to indigestion, researchers believe that consumption of alcohol precipitates the erosion of the LES, and exacerbates the symptoms you will experience if you have acid reflux.
Caffeine could be causing your reflux symptoms to be worse. Caffeine changes the acidity levels of the acid in your stomach, which can cause your indigestion symptoms to feel more uncomfortable.
Caffeine can also cause your LES to relax, allowing more stomach acid to enter your esophagus. If you already suffer from indigestion, avoiding caffeine could help you experience fewer symptoms.
Lack of Sleep
Researchers have recently discovered a connection between poor sleep quality and the development of indigestion. While some symptoms of indigestion can increase with sleep due to lying in a prone position, it’s now known that many who have sleep issues also experience increased acid reflux symptoms, or develop new symptoms.
Being overweight can cause indigestion and make indigestion symptoms worse. Excess weight places pressure on your abdomen, which can squeeze the stomach and force stomach acid into the esophagus.
Obesity can cause acid to repeatedly irritate the LES, which can deteriorate it over time. Additionally, obesity is also a cause of poor sleep patterns, which could double your chances of experiencing indigestion.
If you’re a smoker looking for another reason to quit, add indigestion to your list. The nicotine in your cigarettes and vapes relaxes your LES, allowing stomach acid to flow into the esophagus. If you haven’t developed indigestion from smoking, the chances are higher that you will if you continue to use tobacco products.
Some medications can cause irritation to the lining of your esophagus, which can cause indigestion. Frequent use of NSAID pain relievers can cause esophageal irritation which can make your LES more susceptible to weakening.
Additionally, many medications can cause heartburn pain to become worse. If you already have indigestion, speak to your doctor about which medications you should avoid to better manage your indigestion symptoms.
Looking for more than a bottle of chalky antacids to help you deal with indigestion? Here are some of your options.
There are prescription medications available to help with indigestion. Most of these medications treat the symptoms you experience from acid reflux, not the actual cause. They essentially work to control levels of stomach acid and alleviate the pain you experience when you have indigestion.
Some prescription medications can help the contents of the stomach empty faster, which can eliminate acid from entering the esophagus. These medications usually carry some unwanted side effects.
Antacids are usually every heartburn sufferer’s first go-to solution when they experience symptoms. Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach. Most of the time, using antacids is safe, but their effectiveness is short-term. If you constantly suffer from indigestion, you may grow weary of chewing chalky tablets day after day.
For some, indigestion may be avoided by making lifestyle changes. Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine consumption, discontinuing smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting adequate sleep can all help you experience fewer symptoms and lower your risk of developing indigestion.
Essential Fatty Acids
Want a little help? A growing body of research indicates that an unassuming little fatty acid, called pentadecanoic acid, can help support your overall health at the cellular level, support a weight loss journey, and even help you get better sleep.†*
Essential fatty acids can also work to support your metabolism, and a healthy metabolic system can help combat issues like obesity that can make indigestion worse. Pentadecanoic acid can also support healthy cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood glucose, all of which can contribute to symptoms of indigestion and issues with weight management. The Fatty15 supplement has your fatty acid needs covered so that you can take care of yourself and experience relief from the inside out.
Pentadecanoic Acid and Heartburn
As we get older, our cells begin to break down. Cell walls become flimsy, leaving our cells open to external stressors. Mitochondrial function begins to decline.
When our cellular health begins to decline, we experience age-related illness, and can develop problems like insulin resistance, unhealthy cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess weight, mood and sleep issues, and even unbalanced immunity.
Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid that digs deep into cells to fortify them, keeping them stronger and helping them stay strong as you age.†*
C15:0 helps your cells by:†*
- Strengthening cell walls. Your cell membranes may be getting flimsy with age, but C15:0 helps keep them strong.
- Boosting mitochondrial function. The mitochondria of your cells fuel them with energy to carry out cellular function. C15:0 helps increase mitochondrial function by 45%, which means your cells can continue functioning like they did when you were younger.
C15:0 also supports sleep, mood, immunity, metabolism, and appetite by binding to special receptors found in the body called PPARs that regulate these processes.†* By helping keep your body supported at a cellular level, C15:0 can help you experience fewer symptoms from indigestion, and keep the cells of your esophagus strong and protected.†*
You can’t get enough C15:0 from eating food alone; it’s only found in trace amounts in some fish and whole dairy products. As such, you need a supplement.
Fatty15 is the only supplement to offer you FA15™ , the only pure powder and vegan-friendly version of C15:0.
Less Reflux, the Fatty Way
Lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the amount of indigestion you experience, but taking a once-a-day supplement to help support your cells? That can help with indigestion and your overall wellness.
For the best way to support your cells and give them a fighting chance as they age, Fatty15 can help.†*
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) - Symptoms and causes|Mayo Clinic
Mini-review: Is alcohol consumption associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease?|NCBI
Can Lack of Sleep Cause Heartburn - Sleep Disorders & GERD Symptoms | Michigan Medicine
Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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