Q. I’M due to go out for a large meal at my Christmas party but I often get indigestion at such occasions. What can I do to reduce this?
A. This is a very common problem, especially over the festive period when people tend to over indulge more so that at any other time of the year.
Many people find after eating a large meal that they suffer from indigestion. Symptoms can include feeling full and bloated, heartburn, nausea, belching, pain or discomfort in the upper part of the chest. The symptoms of indigestion are often described as ‘heartburn’, which you may experience as a burning pain behind your breastbone. This is usually caused by a process known as acid reflux, where acid from your stomach escapes and is forced back up into your oesophagus. Although eating a large meal is a common cause of indigestion, it may also be caused by drinking excess alcohol, smoking, drugs such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines, pregnancy, stress or being overweight. In most cases, there is no underlying medical reason for indigestion.
However, indigestion can also be caused in other ways, and it can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, particularly if you experience recurrent bouts.
If you are going for a large meal, to reduce the symptoms of indigestion you could try the following:
n Stop eating when you feel full even if this means leaving food on your plate or skipping a course
n Sip your drinks, if thirsty drink water and go easy on the alcohol
n Avoid smoking if possible – if you do smoke maybe consider giving it up in the new year?
n Avoid fizzy drinks including sparkling wine as the gas in them can over expand the stomach leaving you feeling bloated
n Don’t wear anything tight around your waist such as a belt
n Allow two to three hours between eating and bedtime
n Try sleeping in a more upright position by propping yourself up on a pillow
If you are still unfortunate enough to suffer from indigestion after trying the above you can treat it with simple over the counter remedies available from your local pharmacy. Simple antacids such as Rennies can be effective and work quickly. The effect of an antacid only lasts for a few hours at a time, so you may need to take more than one dose.
If heartburn is a problem it could be worth trying an alginate such as Gaviscon. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid leaks back up into your oesophagus and irritates its lining. Alginates form a foam barrier that floats on the surface of your stomach contents, keeping stomach acid in your stomach and away from your oesophagus.
Most people will not need to seek medical advice for their indigestion. However, it is important to see your GP if you have recurring indigestion and especially if you have experienced it for the first time over the age of 40. Likewise if your indigestion leads to persistent vomiting or vomit containing blood, or if you have lost a lot of weight unintentionally it would be best to see your GP. This is because your symptoms could be a sign of an underlying health condition and it is best to get checked over.
Gordons Chemists is the largest independently owned retail pharmacy chain in Northern Ireland. Established in 1980, Gordons now has 49 pharmacies here and also nine in Scotland.
Products described are available at most pharmacies and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.