Dyspepsia is a word of Greek origin meaning indigestion or difficulty in digestion. Any gastrointestinal symptom associated with taking of food is called dyspepsia. It is one of the most common ailments today and results from dietetic errors.
The stomach, which is the most used organ of the body, resembles a pear shaped pouch. It forms part of the digestive tract which is a tube coiled in loops, nearly 28 feet long. It varies in size and position depending on how much food it contains. An overloaded stomach prevents the diaphragm from functioning properly. It may also press on the heart.
Abdominal pain, a feeling of over-fullness after eating, heartburn loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting and flatulence or gas are the usual symptoms of dyspepsia. Vomiting usually produces relief. What is vomited is intensely sour to the taste. Other symptoms are a foul taste in the mouth, coated tongue and bad breath. At times a sensation of strangling in the throat is experienced. IN most cases of indigestion, the patient suffers from constipation which adds to the acidity of the system.
The main causes for dyspepsia are overeating, eating wrong food combinations, eating too rapidly and neglecting proper mastication and salivation of food. Overeating or frequent eating produces a feverish state in the system and overtaxes the digestive organs. It produces excessive acid and causes the gastric mucous membrane to become congested. Hyperacidity is the common result. Over-eating makes the work of the stomach, liver, kidneys and bowels harder. When this food putrefies, its poisons are absorbed back into the blood and consequently, the whole system is poisoned.
Many persons, who gulp their food to stress and hurry, suffer from this ailment. When food is swallowed in large chunks, the stomach has to work harder and more hydrochloric acid is secreted. Eating too fast also causes one to swallow air. These bad habits force some of the digestive fluid into the oesophagus, causing burning, a stinging sensation or a sour taste, giving an illusion of stomach acid.
Certain foods, especially if they are not properly cooked, cause dyspepsia. Some people react unfavourably to certain foods like beans, cabbage, onions, cucumber, radishes and sea-foods. Fried foods as well as rich and spicy foods often cause abdominal discomfort and gas or aggravate the existing condition. Excessive smoking and intake of alcohol can also cause stomach upset. Con- stipation may interfere with the normal flow through the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in gas and abdominal pain. The habit of eating and drinking together is another cause of indigestion as taking liquids with meals dilutes the digestive juices and diminishes their potency. Insomnia, emotions such as jealousy, fear and anger and lack of exercise are among the other causes of this ailment.
The only effective treatment for dyspepsia is a thorough cleansing of the digestive tract and adoption of sensible dietary habits thereafter, along with change in style of living. The best way to commence the treatment is to adopt an all-fruit diet for about five days. In this regimen, the patient should take three meals a day of fresh juicy fruits such as apples, pears, grapes, oranges, grape-fruits, pineapples, peaches and melons. Dried, stewed or tinned fruits, however, should not be taken. No other foodstuff should be added to the fruit meals, otherwise the value of the treatment will be lost.
In case of severe dyspepsia, it will be advisable to fast for two or three days before adopting an all-fruit diet. After the all-fruit diet, the patient may take a restricted diet of easily digestible foods, consisting of lightly cooked vegetables, juicy fruits and butter-milk for about ten days. He may, then gradually embark upon a well- balanced diet as outlined in Chapter 1 ( Diet in Health and disease.).
Further short periods of two or three days on the all- fruit diet at monthly or two monthly intervals may be necessary in certain cases, depending on the progress.
Spices and condiments such as pepper, mustard, vinegar or pickles, which make food more palatable and lead to over-eating, must be avoided. Alcohol, tobacco, strong tea and coffee, highly seasoned meats, over- boiled milk, pulses, potato, rice, cheese, refined, processed, stale and tinned foods should all be avoided. Curds and cottage cheese may be used freely.
A home remedy for chronic dyspepsia is to chew about one gram of ginger with powder of rock salt before meals. For flatulence and gas, garlic is an excellent remedy. It neutralises putrefactive toxins and kills unhealthy bacteria. It also eliminates gas and helps digestion.
B vitamins are also beneficial in case of dyspepsia. B1 or thiamine is especially useful for the digestion of starches. But it should be ensured that the whole B complex group in some form is added to prevent imbalance which may be caused if only one B factor is given.
The sufferer from dyspepsia must always follow the under-mentioned rules regarding eating :
- Never eat and drink together. Water or other liquids should be taken half an hour before and one hour after a meal. Milk, butter-milk, and vegetables soups are , however, foods and can be taken with meals.
- Never hurry through a meal Ear very slowly and chew your food as thoroughly as possible.
- Never fill the stomach completely. Always leave the table with a feeling that you could eat more.
- Never sit down to a meal feeling worried, tired, excited or in a bad temper as such feelings temporarily paralyse the manufacture of digestive juices including hydrochloric acid.
- Do not eat if appetite is lacking. Miss a meal or two, if necessary, until real appetite returns.
- Never boil vegetables, always steam them.
- Do not mix too many foods at the same meal. Never eat raw vegetables and raw fruits together as they require a different set of enzymes. Take protein and starchy foods separate as far as possible.