Home remedies such as over-the-counter medications, herbs, relaxation and light physical activity can help to relieve an episode of indigestion and bloating. Although uncomfortable, these symptoms -- an upset stomach and gassiness -- are relatively minor and often respond to simple remedies. You may also need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle to help prevent future attacks. If your symptoms get worse or occur more frequently, you may have a more serious condition that requires medical attention.
While your first instinct might be to curl up in bed until you feel better, lying down may actually increase your symptoms. Sitting up straight or walking around will improve your indigestion and help to pass the gas that is making you feel bloated. Avoid strenuous exercise or bending over, however, as these activities can make the indigestion worse. Taking a few deep breaths and calming down may also be helpful, as stress can increase the production of acid within the stomach and make your symptoms worse.
Over-the-counter medications such as bismuth subsalicylate suspension (Pepto-Bismol) can provide short-term relief of indigestion and bloating. Do not combine bismuth subsalicylate, though, with garlic, ginger, ginseng or gingko because the interaction can prevent your blood from clotting properly. You can try taking an antacid for the indigestion 1 hour after meals and before bedtime, but the effects will only last for a short time. Medicines containing a combination of simethicone and an antacid -- such as Mylanta Gas -- can relieve both the indigestion and gas symptoms. Avoid taking painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen because these medications can irritate the stomach and increase the risk of bleeding.
Many people report that herbal remedies help to relieve indigestion and bloating. Ginger is useful in treating many digestive system issues, including indigestion and bloating, and it may even protect against stomach ulcers. Tea made of fresh chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm may help to relax digestive tract muscles and assist with passing gas. A review published in the September 2002 issue of "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics" concluded that caraway and peppermint seem to be effective for indigestion with or without bloating. However, few scientific studies support claims of success with most herbal remedies. If you want to try any herbal remedy, be sure to tell your doctor, as some herbs can interfere with the action and effectiveness of medications you are taking.
It is often difficult to determine the cause of indigestion and bloating, but making some changes in your lifestyle may help prevent future attacks. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and chewing more slowly can help reduce the air that gets into the stomach. Reducing the fat in your diet or eliminating foods that trigger your symptoms may also help. Losing weight and reducing or stopping such habits as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages are beneficial to your general health and may also relieve unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Indigestion and gas-related symptoms are not always caused by the digestive system. A heart attack may sometimes produce atypical symptoms, including indigestion, jaw pain or back pain. Women are more likely than men to have atypical symptoms. Seek immediate medical attention if your indigestion does not respond to treatment or if it is accompanied by other potential heart attack symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, dizziness, weakness, nausea or vomiting or a cold sweat.
If you have indigestion and bloating plus difficulty swallowing, weight loss, vomiting or dark or bloody stools, these can indicate a serious condition, such as an ulcer or cancer. If any of these other symptoms are present, see your doctor to determine the cause and begin appropriate treatment.
- Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Herbal Medicinal Products for Non-ulcer Dyspepsia
- The Merck Manual Professional Edition: Dyspepsia
- Gastrointestinal Health, 3rd ed.; Steven R. Peikin, M.D.
- American Family Physician: Update on the Evaluation and Management of Functional Dyspepsia
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Bloating and Functional Gastro-Intestinal Disorders: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?
- Williams' Essentials of Nutrition and Diet Therapy, Revised; Eleanor Schlenker and Sara Long Roth
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: Gas: Beat the Bloat
- ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology: Functional Abdominal Bloating With Distention
- Food & Function: A Review of the Gastroprotective Effects of Ginger (Zingiber Officinale Roscoe)