Your lifestyle is the envy of friends and work colleagues on social media. Regular lunches at name restaurants, business dinners on trips to far-flung destinations and champagne flutes and whisky tumblers raised to toast career successes. But maybe what’s missing from those status updates is the biliously high price you’re paying for living the high life. That’s because 20 per cent of us suffer from chronic indigestion and many more suffer sleepless nights after overindulging. The trick is to work out what’s giving you the burps, cramps or gurgles and know what to do about it.
It Probably *IS* Indigestion
The four most common symptoms of indigestion are: feeling sick, dyspepsia (twinges at the top of the abdomen), heartburn (fiery pains behind the breastbone) and belching more often than an etiquette-observant Bedouin. The worst thing about multiple bouts of indigestion is the worry that the problem is linked to something grimmer. Fear of cancer is the biggest cause of anxiety when men turn up at their GP’s office asking for an endoscopy test, where a tube is eased down the throat into the stomach for a thorough examination. But if there’s no dramatic weight loss, excessive vomiting even after small meals or problems swallowing, the problem is probably linked to over-indulgence.
Indigestion also isn’t called heartburn for nothing. The brain finds it tough to identify whether a pain in the chest is caused by a heart attack or difficulty coping with a rich meal washed down by too much alcohol. A heart attack usually starts as a pressure or pain on the left hand side of the chest, spreading through the neck and arm. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and sudden sweating. Indigestion begins in the upper abdomen and the discomfort intensifies behind the breastbone. If it starts when you are in bed, indigestion feels even worse because acid in the stomach refluxes into the oesophagus. Leading antacids such as Mylanta, Gaviscon and Zantac are the go-to remedies.
Taking too many analgesics, particularly ibuprofen, to get rid of headaches? Chronic indigestion can also be caused by inflammation of the oesophagus, stomach or upper gastrointestinal tract. Reduce your pill-popping habit to see if the strategy makes any difference. If it doesn’t, it’s time for a trip to the doctor for exploratory tests.
They may not help, though. Over 60 per cent of men suffer from indigestion because of a hypersensitive oesophagus and stomach. Known as functional dyspepsia, the problem can be treated with acid suppressant therapies which also help to keep that dreaded sour taste out of your mouth.
It’s a tradition in many countries, including Australia, the US and Germany, to stoke up on a high-fat meal to “soak up” excess alcohol. Excessive burping and a persistent pain one to two hours after consuming such a fry-up may actually be gallstones, rather than the stomach rebelling against a greasy overload. An ultrasound will give you the all clear or not.
If you want to continue enjoying the good life, the best way forward is to make smarter choices and be picky with indulgences. The worst mistake most guys make before a lavish feast is to “get into training” by skipping a meal. Don’t. If you don’t eat when you are hungry, you feel tired and cranky and too full afterwards because of the sudden onslaught on your digestive system.
The days are long gone when it was impossible to make a healthy choice and still enjoy a great restaurant meal. It’s also better to indulge in an expertly made dessert during a business lunch, rather than mindlessly gobbling down a packet of biscuits when you’re hunched over the computer working later in the day.
We all know that eating large meals close to bedtime, too much coffee and alcohol are indigestion triggers. But even those with cast-iron constitutions come unstuck if they don’t take their time when eating. Eating meals prison canteen-fast or on the run increases the risk of indigestion because it makes you swallow too much air.
Regular exercise and relaxation techniques may help, too, if stress causes you to binge eat. Don’t lie down straight after a big meal and let your belt out if need be. Pressure on the stomach can make food move up into your oesophagus. Lastly, if you’re drinking alcohol, stay hydrated as dehydration affects digestion.