Indigestion is painful and can really dampen your spirit. Fortunately, it can also be treated. Skip a trip to the pharmacy and read on to discover how you can relieve your upset stomach the natural way.

If you are like millions, you experience indigestion, or an upset stomach, from time to time. Indigestion alone is usually not a sign of a serious health problem, but it can significantly affect your quality of life if left untreated. Pharmacy shelves are lined with over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help, but sometimes we prefer to treat our ailments at home. Thankfully, there are a number of effective natural remedies you can use to prevent and alleviate an unsettled stomach to get you back to feeling good again.

What are typical symptoms of indigestion?

Indigestion usually feels like burning, pain, or bloating in the area between the bottom of the breastbone and navel. Early fullness, discomfort, or nausea during or after a meal are also common symptoms. In many cases, symptoms go away on their own after a few hours but sometimes they are chronic.

What triggers indigestion?

Indigestion is most often caused by what we eat, what we drink, and the medications we take. Identifying and avoiding these triggers is critical but can be quite tricky because they are not always obvious. Ultimately you will need to get to the bottom of how your lifestyle is contributing as the first step to feeling better.

The powerful brain-gut connection

Have you ever suddenly felt nauseous when faced with something scary? Maybe you had that familiar “butterflies in my stomach” feeling before speaking in front of a large crowd. It is pretty clear that our gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to our emotions, and feelings like sadness, joy, anxiety, and anger can swiftly trigger digestive symptoms. Recent research shows that our digestive tract communicates back and forth with our brain. This important link has even inspired experts to regard the gut as our “second brain.” But this connection appears to be a two-way street. While it was believed for decades that anxiety and depression caused irritation in the gut, evidence now shows that in some cases gastrointestinal discomfort actually causes emotional stress.

Tips for treating indigestion naturally

The discomfort of indigestion can really hamper your well-being, but you do not need to accept it as just a part of life. There are many effective treatments available to ease your pain, starting with simply changing your lifestyle. If you are looking for ways to relieve your symptoms medicine-free, follow these tips below:

Þ   Pinpoint your triggers. Preventing indigestion in the first place is the first line of defense. Start by keeping a food diary and jot down what, and when, you eat and drink and observe any symptoms to pin down potential triggers to avoid. Common triggers are eating too much or too quickly, eating spicy, greasy, or fatty foods, and eating acidic foods like oranges and tomatoes. Drinking too much alcohol and caffeinated or carbonated beverages can also cause indigestion, as can taking certain antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medicines.

Þ   Change how you eat. Aside from avoiding known triggers, prevent overeating by breaking your foods down into smaller, lighter meals. Chew your food slowly and completely with your mouth closed to avoid swallowing air, which can contribute to indigestion. Also, ditch the late-night snacking. Eating within 3 hours of bedtime is linked to acid reflux, so time your meals and snacks to also avoid other symptoms.

Þ   Boost your “good” bacteria. Probiotics contain the helpful bacteria that naturally live in our gut. Research is not conclusive, but some believe that symptoms arise when too many harmful bacteria are present. Probiotics may help by eliminating harmful bacteria and restoring balance. Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha contain live and active cultures of “good” bacteria. Common probiotic supplements contain Lactobacillus sp., Bifidobacterium sp., Streptococcus thermophilus, and Saccharomyces boulardii bacteria. As always, consult with your health care provider to ensure which probiotics, if any, are the safest choice for you.

Þ   Practice “mindful eating.” Our digestive system mirrors our state of mind and when we improve our emotional stress, our capacity to digest often improves as well. Mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, and increased awareness of cues and emotions linking stressful events to digestive symptoms can help promote relaxation, instill positive eating habits, and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort.