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Indigestion is a very common problem that can affect people at any age and at any time. Also known as dyspepsia, most people consider indigestion to be a disease. But the fact is that indigestion is actually a broad term that signifies a number of symptoms related to digestive issues. 

Usually, indigestion refers to the following symptoms of digestion-related problems:

These symptoms usually show up soon after a heavy meal, or during times of stress and anxiety. While indigestion is mostly symptomatic of bad eating habits, it can sometimes point towards an underlying digestive problem like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, etc. Indigestion is a problem that ails many Indians every day.

In most cases, indigestion is cured with the help of medications recommended by doctors. However, those who want to avoid the side-effects of medications often opt for easy home remedies which are natural, effective, handy and often quite cheaply available. Most of these remedies are backed by science and have proved to be effective against a multitude of problems apart from indigestion also.

Here are some of the most effective, natural home remedies for indigestion you can use:

  1. Ginger for indigestion
  2. Holy basil or tulsi for indigestion
  3. Cinnamon and Indian mint for indigestion
  4. Yoga for indigestion
  5. Fennel seeds or saunf for indigestion
  6. Lemon water for indigestion
  7. Apple cider vinegar for indigestion
  8. Turmeric for indigestion
  9. Carom seeds or ajwain for indigestion
  10. Herbal tea for indigestion
  11. Baking soda for indigestion

Ginger is a rhizome which is used extensively in cooking across Indian homes. The benefits of ginger are quite well-known. This brown and pungent ingredient is packed with organic compounds called terpenes and phenolic compounds like gingerol, paradol and shogaol, apart from being rich in amino acids, vitamins and phytosterols. All these nutrients make ginger a very effective remedy for indigestion, inflammation, etc.

You can make a simple ginger tea by boiling a few pieces of ginger in water for five minutes. Adding a quarter teaspoon of lemon juice or half a teaspoon of honey can also help. 

Note: Consuming too much ginger can cause gas and heartburn, so limit consumption to three or four grams a day at most.

Research shows that tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) has broad-spectrum anti-microbial properties. For this reason, drinking tulsi tea or chewing on raw tulsi leaves may reduce the symptoms of indigestion in the case of a mild stomach infection.

Tulsi is also said to reduce stress - which can be a trigger for conditions like IBS and mild diarrhoea. For this reason also, regular consumption of tulsi leaves can help to reduce the symptoms of indigestion.

According to Ayurveda, carminatives or gas-relieving herbs like cinnamon (dalchini), coriander (dhaniya), Indian mint or pudina (Mentha arvensis L.) reduce symptoms of indigestion like spasms in the intestinal tract.

Research shows that pudina has anti-spasmodic and antihelminthic (against worms) properties. It is also said to be an "anti-peptic ulcer agent".

Asanas like Pawanmuktasana (wind-relieving pose) help to relieve the symptoms of indigestion like gas massage the internal organs. Other asanas like the Dhanurasana (bow pose) stimulate the digestive system. Dhanurasana is said to relieve constipation.

There’s a good reason why most Indian restaurants still offer fennel seeds at the end of a meal. Like most plant seeds, fennel seeds are full of organic compounds, polyphenolic compounds and phytosterols that have antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects. These green seeds have estragole, anethole, fenchone and volatile oils that boost digestion by promoting the production of gastric enzymes.

You can have a handful of fennel seeds after a meal if you have indigestion symptoms. You can also prepare an easy fennel tea by crushing fennel seeds and boiling them in water for 5 minutes.

Note: Some people might have a reaction to fennel seeds, which usually manifests through nausea, vomiting, etc.

You might associate citrus fruits with their acidic flavour and assume that consuming them can trigger heartburn and worsen the symptoms of GERD. While this is true, having lemon water when suffering from indigestion is considered to be an effective home remedy. This is because lemon water has an alkaline effect on the gastrointestinal system and helps soothe the stomach as well as aiding digestion. Lemon is also a rich source of vitamin C, which is also known to aid digestion.

To make lemon water, boil water and pour it into a cup. Add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice into the water. Give it a good stir and drink up while it’s still warm. You can add honey for taste, too.

Note: Lemon water is a natural diuretic, which means drinking it will increase urination.

Just like lemon, you might associate apple cider vinegar with acidity and indigestion. But quite like lemon water, apple cider vinegar is known to be an effective home remedy for indigestion. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother (or the culture still intact) is known to promote the production of stomach acids, which in turn can boost digestion and manage indigestion.

Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm or lukewarm water and drink it to soothe the symptoms of indigestion.

Note: Do not consume apple cider vinegar raw. It can erode tooth enamel and cause nausea, throat burn and other issues.

This common Indian ingredient is now gaining fame across the world for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial benefits. Turmeric, apart from being packed with curcumin, is chock full of antioxidants and phytosterols. Raw turmeric especially is considered to be effective against indigestion and digestive disorders like GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. 

Make a simple turmeric tea by boiling a few pieces of raw turmeric in water. You can add some honey to reduce the pungency of the turmeric.

Note: Turmeric consumption can leave a yellow stain on the skin, teeth and tongue.

Brown, slightly pungent and bitter in taste, carom seeds or ajwain is another ingredient that is commonly found in Indian households and used extensively to promote digestion. Like most edible seeds, carom seeds are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phenolic compounds and phytosterols - all of which work to alleviate stomach pain, gas and other symptoms of indigestion.

You can chew on a handful of raw carom seeds to manage indigestion, but a simple carom seed tea is also effective. Just boil a handful of carom seeds in water for 5 minutes and drink up.

Note: Overconsumption of carom seeds can cause nausea and heartburn.

Herbal tea can be made with peppermint, chamomile or liquorice. Each of these ingredients is known to alleviate the symptoms of indigestion. Peppermint has an antispasmodic effect and can help to soothe nausea. Chamomile can reduce gastrointestinal acid and soothe the stomach. Liquorice root (mulethi) can reduce muscle spasms and inflammation in the stomach as well as the gastrointestinal tract. 

Herbal tea is easily available in the market. All you need to do is boil water and add the tea leaves. Let them stew for a minute, then strain the tea and consume it to alleviate the symptoms of indigestion.

Note: Herbal tea can have a diuretic effect and make you pee more often.

Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is probably the quickest, most effective way of removing symptoms of indigestion like gas, acidity, bloating, etc. Baking soda has an alkaline effect on stomach acids and works quite like over-the-counter antacids. Many companies make a safer variety of flavoured baking soda which is marketed especially for instant relief from indigestion.

Add half a teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water, mix well and drink up immediately to relieve the symptoms of indigestion.

Note: Excessive consumption of baking soda can cause diarrhea, irritability, nausea and vomiting.

References

  1. Babaeian, Mahmoud. et al. Herbal Remedies for Functional Dyspepsia and Traditional Iranian Medicine Perspective. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2015 Nov; 17(11): e20741. PMID: 26734483
  2. Bodagh, Mehrnaz Nikkhah. et al. Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials. Food Sci Nutr. 2019 Jan; 7(1): 96–108. PMID: 30680163
  3. Thavorn, Kednapa. et al. Efficacy of turmeric in the treatment of digestive disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Syst Rev. 2014; 3: 71. PMID: 24973984
  4. Quandt, Sara A. et al. Home Remedy Use Among African American and White Older Adults. J Natl Med Assoc. 2015 Jun; 107(2): 121–129. PMID: 26543255
  5. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Apple cider vinegar… for heartburn?.
  6. Mahboubi, Mohaddese. Foeniculum vulgare as Valuable Plant in Management of Women's Health. J Menopausal Med. 2019 Apr; 25(1): 1–14. PMID: 31080784
  7. Biswas N.N., Sahab S., Ali M.K. Antioxidant, antimicrobial, cytotoxic and analgesic activities of ethanolic extract of Mentha arvensis L.. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, October 2014; 4(10): 792-797.
  8. Choudhury R.P., Kumar A., Garg A.N. Analysis of Indian mint (Mentha spicata) for essential, trace and toxic elements and its antioxidant behaviour. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 7 June 2006; 41(3): 825-832.
  9. Saha D., Paul S., Hosen S.M.Z., Emran T.B. and Rahim Z.B. Role of Ayurvedic formulation in digestion. International Research Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, August 2012; 2(8): 187-192.
  10. Cohen M.M. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons . Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, October-December 2014; 5(4): 251–259. PMID: 25624701
  11. Pandey G. and Madhuri S. Pharmacological activities of Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi): A review. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, November–December 2010; 5(1): 61-66
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