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Indigestion: Background and Management Using Homeopathy.

Indigestion literally means impaired digestion and most people at some time in their lives will experience it. At any one time, it affects 15% of the population. (1) The symptoms commonly associated with indigestion include abdominal distension, dyspepsia (sometimes used as a synonym for indigestion), eructation and flatulence. Indigestion itself is usually uncomplicated or 'functional', but may indicate the presence of problems such as gastroparesis, inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, food allergy, intestinal ischemia, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), gastritis, cholecystitis, cholelithiasis, heart disease or diabetes. There may also be an association with parathyroid, pancreatic, thyroid or kidney disease, helicobacter infection, peptic ulcer or cancer. It's for the latter reason that unexplained indigestion of rapid onset, particularly in those over 55 years of age, should be investigated as a matter of priority. (2)

Indigestion has also been linked to gastro-intestinal dysbiosis, anxiety, depression, food sensitivity, digestive enzyme dysfunction, alterations of gastric transit time, obesity, hiatus hernia, overeating, eating too quickly, the use of some medicines, exposure to dietary nitrates, and pregnancy. For some people suffering from indigestion, it may be aggravated by anxiety, smoking, eating too quickly, consuming alcohol or coffee, or the use of garlic, onions or fatty foods.

The medical treatment of functional indigestion often involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (which can also cause indigestion) or proton pump inhibitors. Antacids, H2 receptor antagonists and prokinetic agents have had a long history of use in this area but have been found to be ineffective. (3)

There is some published evidence for the use of artichoke leaf, ginger, greater celandine, licorice, peppermint, and turmeric as herbal medicines in the management of functional indigestion, as well as caraway seeds. A 2002 systematic review found the combination of peppermint and caraway particularly useful. (4) Anecdotally, dietary modification, lifestyle modification and the use of digestive enzymes have been found to be of some use in this area. Clearly, any intervention should first address the underlying cause of the indigestion.

Regardless of the cause of the problem, homeopathic treatment has a long history of successful use with people suffering from indigestion, and what follows are brief discussions of some of the more commonly prescribed medicines from this modality.

Antimonium crudum

Indigestion in this case is often accompanied by a thickly coated white tongue as well as dyspepsia, eructation that tastes of previously eaten food, and abdominal distension. Symptoms may arise from overeating. There is often a loss of appetite or a desire for acid or sour foods and a thirst for cold water. Nausea or vomiting may be present and the sufferer may appear to be irritable or anxious. Symptoms may be worse in the evenings, from overeating, from fatty foods and better from sitting up, eructation and flatulence.

Anacardium orientale

A good indicator here is indigestion with stomach pain that's worse with an empty stomach and better from eating. Dyspepsia, an offensive halitosis and nausea are often also present. Symptoms are worse before a bowel movement and better from passing stools.

Argentum nitricum

Arg nit can be useful where a peptic ulcer is responsible for indigestion.

Nausea and vomiting of mucus may be noted as well as a painful and inflamed tongue tip, eructation and painful abdominal distension. A craving for sweets is usually present here but sweets often cause diarrhoea. Symptoms are worse at night and from sweets, and better from cold, eructation and flatulence.

Arsenicum album

Many of the symptoms seen in the Arsenicum presentation are burning in character and the indigestion in this instance is commonly associated with a burning dyspepsia which is relieved by hot applications. The sufferer may also have experienced feeling cold and weak, and may have experienced offensive diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. The person may appear anxious and restless and though thirsty, only consumes small sips of liquid. A reduction in appetite may be noted to the extent that the sufferer can't tolerate the sight or smell of food and has a particular dislike for cold drinks. Symptoms are worse between midnight and 3 a.m., from cold, acid foods or melons, and better from warmth, from warm drinks and from having the head elevated.

Bryonia

Those who suffer from indigestion soon after eating, and where the indigestion is aggravated by motion or pressure, often do well with this medicine. A white coating on the tongue, a yellow tint to the skin and a history of liver disorders may be noted and the sufferer may complain of constipation, lethargy, a dry mouth, hypogeusia and a bitter taste in the mouth, and may appear to be irritable. There may be a desire for large amounts of cold water. Nausea and a faintness on rising from a sitting position may be experienced. Symptoms are worse from warm drinks, from motion, from touch, from moving the head, during warm weather and better from rest, strong pressure and cold.

Calcarea carbonica

Calc carb is frequently thought of for ailments experienced by people of a fair or chalky complexion who are overweight and sweaty, particularly around the head. The indigestion experienced here may occur with sour eructation and vomiting, an increase in appetite, as well as abdominal distension and a strong desire for cold drinks. Symptoms are worse from pressure, cold, exertion, starchy foods and milk and better for dry weather.

Carbo vegetabilis

Abdominal distension, eructation, delayed digestion, offensive flatulence, dyspepsia and indigestion may point the prescriber in the direction of Carbo veg. Cramping pain that causes the sufferer to bend forward, and an aversion to milk and fatty foods, and generally slow digestion, may be found here. Symptoms are worse in the evening, from fatty foods, wine or spirits and in cold air, and better after eructation and from sitting up.

Chamomilia

Those who respond to this medicine will frequently be over-sensitive to pain, restless, and suffer from halitosis as well as indigestion accompanied by post-prandial bloating. The sufferer may complain of acid reflux and regurgitation of food. Symptoms are worse from anger, eructation, coffee and in the evening, and better from the local application of heat and passive movements.

Cinchona officinalis

This medicine is also known as China. The need for it may be recognised by the presence of indigestion with sour eructations, flatulence, and abdominal distension not relieved by eructation or the passage of flatus. Typically the digestion here is slow to the extent that digested food appears to ferment. There may be an increase in appetite and a history of diarrhoea or vomiting. Symptoms are worse from milk, tea, from the slightest touch and after eating, and better from motion and from bending double.

Graphites

The indigestion in this case may be associated with offensive flatus, dyspepsia, abdominal distension and stomach pain. Symptoms are worse at night and from cold, and better from eating, consuming hot drinks, eructation and walking.

Ignatia

Indigestion sufferers who are inclined to be emotionally labile, crave acid foods and suffer from nocturnal stomach pain and flatulence, may respond well to Ignatia. Nausea and vomiting may be seen here. Symptoms are worse from emotion, from coffee and after eating, and better while eating, from a change in position, and pressure.

Lycopodium

The need for Lycopodium may be indicated by indigestion and abdominal distension that occurs soon after beginning to eat, as well as flatulent dyspepsia. The sufferer may begin a meal with a strong appetite but is soon too full to continue and frequently feels sleepy after eating. Digestion is slow, a burning eructation that rises to the pharynx may be experienced and there's often a marked desire for sweets. Symptoms are worse in the late afternoon, from cabbage, beans, onions and peas, and better from warm drinks, motion, and in cool air.

Natrum carbonicum

Indigestion associated with flatulence, eructation, bloating immediately after a meal, and a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, are common pointers to this medicine. A spike in appetite at around 5am and a desire for sweet food as well as generally weak digestion, may also be noted here. Symptoms are worse from mental exertion, from heat, from drinking cold water or milk, and are better from motion.

Nux vomica

Nux is one of the medicines more commonly prescribed for those who suffer from indigestion. In this instance, indigestion often appears at around 1-2 hours after eating, particularly where the sufferer appears to be irritable, complains of dyspepsia, abdominal distension, bitter or sour eructations. There may be a strong desire for stimulants and fatty foods, a strong thirst and a sour taste in the mouth and the posterior portion of the tongue may be coated. The sufferer may be prone to overeating or drinking to excess, may be chilly, and may experience nausea after eating and a desire to vomit, but have difficulty in satisfying this urge. This person may also have difficulty in satisfying the urges to belch or pass stools. A general sensitivity to noise and light may be noted and the abdomen may be sensitive to pressure. Symptoms are worse from alcohol and stimulants, in the morning, from mental exertion or after a meal, and are better after passing stool or from a short sleep.

Phosphorus

Indigestion that's associated with vomiting soon after eating or drinking, sour post-prandial eructation, a sour taste in the mouth, and an increased appetite soon after eating, often indicate the potential effectiveness of a prescription of Phosphorus. Symptoms are worse from physical or mental exertion, after salty or warm food or drink, and better from cold food or sleep.

Pulsatilla

The symptoms associated with this medicine include indigestion with frequent eructations that taste of the food recently consumed, abdominal distension, flatulence, dyspepsia, a bitter taste in the mouth, hypogeusia, thirstlessness, gastric reflux and a thick, white, rough coating of the tongue. These issues may be brought on by emotional trauma. Symptoms are worse from heat, from rest, from the consumption of fruit, pastry, rich or fatty foods, and worse in the evening. Symptoms are better in the open air, from motion and from cold food and drinks.

Sulphur

The need for this may be indicated by the presence of indigestion with flatulent dyspepsia, offensive eructations, a strong desire for sweets and either a diminished or increased appetite. Symptoms are worse at around 1 lam, from the consumption of milk, from the warmth of a bed, and from standing, and better from warm, dry weather.

REFERENCES

(1.) Saad RJ, Chey WD. Review article: current and emerging therapies for functional dyspepsia. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 2006, 24, 3, 475-92.

(2.) https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG17, viewed 5 April 2018.

(3.) Monkemuller K, Malfertheiner P. Drug treatmnt of functional dyspepsia. World J. Gastroenterol, 2006, 12, 17, 2694-700.

(4.) Melzer J, Rosch W, Reichling J, et al. Brignoli R, Saller R. Meta-analysis: phytotherapy of functional dyspepsia with the herbal drug preparation STW 5 (Iberogast). Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 2004, 20, 11-12, 1279-87.

Robert Medhurst BNat ND DHom
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Title Annotation:ARTICLE
Author:Medhurst, Robert
Publication:Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
Date:Dec 22, 2018
Words:1814
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