Red or processed meats
Red meats are particularly taxing on the stomach and digestive system; they are high in protein and often fat which means they require more effort to break down.
Contrary to popular belief, nowadays low stomach acid (rather than too much) could be at the root of the cause in many cases of indigestion, especially if you find that your symptoms flare up after eating meat. As we get older our stomach acid levels can drop and we know issues such as stress could also be having a significant influence.
We need sufficient acid to break down our food in the stomach so that it can progress through the rest of the digestive system. Changing levels of acid can cause delayed gastric emptying and may also influence the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) which separates the content of the stomach from the oesophasgus. Ultimately, this can give rise to symptoms such as indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn.
Not only meat, but also most processed and fried foods have excess fat in, which, if you have weak stomach acid, can be problematic as outlined above. Aim to eat fresh and cook your own meals when possible so you know that you aren’t consuming lots of excess fat that could upset your tum!
Much like with meat, dairy products may be particularly problematic if you have low stomach acid as they require more effort to break down. Dairy products are often high in fat which can also further delay gastric emptying.
As well as the high fat and heavy protein content, intolerance to dairy products may also be contributing to digestive upset in many cases. Although people can be sensitive to dairy for a number of different reasons, intolerance to the milk sugar lactose is the most common issue.
An enzyme called lactase is responsible for breaking lactose down into its simplest units so that it is ready for absorption. Insufficient lactase (an issue that can start as early as weaning but in many cases is thought to become progressively worse as we get older) means that lactose can’t be broken down and absorbed properly, which can contribute to a whole host of symptoms including indigestion, flatulence, bloating and irregular bowel movements.
Spicy foods can irritate the lining of both your stomach and oesophagus directly, but they may also weaken the LOS at the bottom of the oesophagus or alter the secretion of acid in the stomach which can all give rise to uncomfortable indigestion.
If you find you are sensitive to spicy foods, citrus fruits may also exacerbate your symptoms of indigestion. The acidic nature of these foods may influence the LOS or alter the secretion of digestive juices.
Chocolate is high in fat and may also have an influence on the LOS which can give rise to indigestion and discomfort.
If certain foods are able to relax the LOS then this means that your stomach is not fully closed off. As a result, the acidic contents are more likely to leak out and splash up into the oesophagus.
Don’t forget about the drinks
Fizzy drinks, alcohol and even tea may be exacerbating your symptoms of indigestion. Fizzy juice for example, can alter the internal pressure of the stomach which can cause the LOS to relax. Then, not to mention the caffeine content in many varieties which can also be problematic.
When it comes to alcohol, although some people find that a glass of wine after a busy day at work helps them relax, unfortunately it also relaxes the LOS between the oesophagus and stomach, making you more susceptible to indigestion! As well as this, alcohol acts as an irritant to the cells lining your oesophagus, making it more sensitive to stomach acid in the first place – this can easily turn into a vicious cycle!
Finally, what’s to be said about your favourite brew? Many people find that black tea aggravates indigestion but white tea or green tea does not affect them in this way. This is largely because black tea has higher levels of caffeine than its herbal counterparts, and also higher levels of tannins. Both of these components can irritate your stomach.
What’s really causing your symptoms?
Although certain foods may exacerbate the symptoms of indigestion, as described above, in many cases low stomach acid could be at the root of the problem. Stomach bitters can help to gently balance the secretions which may allow you to tolerate more foods again!
My top product picks for managing the symptoms of indigestion
Digestisan contains a combination of bitter herb extracts including artichoke and dandelion to help calm the stomach. Once your stomach is settled, it’s time to concentrate on the gut. Take Molkosan rich in L+ lactic acid to support the internal environment of the gut, and top up your numbers of good bacteria with Optibac’s ‘For Every Day’ probiotics.
Tune in tomorrow as we concentrate more on supporting your stomach!