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Causes of Acid Indigestion

written by: BStone • edited by: lrohner • updated: 1/15/2011

Experiencing indigestion is not only uncomfortable but it is a sign of digestive issues. Learn about the causes of acid indigestion so you can avoid further irritation.

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    What Is Acid Indigestion?

    Acid indigestion is a condition in which stomach acids are too free-flowing. Both the lining of the stomach and the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine, are vulnerable to irritation and damage from the imbalance of acids. While indigestion may seem to be nothing more than a painful, burning sensation, over time it can lead to more serious health problems such as the formation of an ulcer. Experiencing symptoms of acid indigestion may also be a sign of a greater problem, such as an ulcer, gallbladder disease, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

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    Causes

    Indigestion can be caused by a range of factors. Some are controllable and some are not. The presence of ulcers, GERD, stomach cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome can all lead to indigestion. In fact, acid indigestion can also be a symptom of these conditions.

    Something as simple as the way that you eat can cause problems. Swallowing air with food because of chewing with the mouth open or gulping down food too quickly is a potential cause. Drinking while eating can also contribute to acid indigestion. This is because liquids can dilute the enzymes that are needed to breakdown food, making the digestive process less efficient.

    What you eat can cause indigestion. The following are irritating to the digestive tract:

    • Caffeinecoffee 
    • Vinegar
    • Spicy foods
    • Greasy food
    • Sodas
    • Sugary foods
    • Refined products
    • Red meat
    • Hard cheeses

    Lifestyle choices such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can aggravate symptoms. The regular use of some medications is another factor. Aspirin, oral contraceptives, some antibiotics, and steroid medications all can have a negative impact. Stress in general, but more specifically, feeling stressed, nervous, or excited when you eat can cause acid indigestion as well. An upset nervous system disturbs the normal contraction of stomach and intestinal muscles. A lack of beneficial bacteria can be a problem also. Without enough friendly bacteria, regular bacteria are able to thrive. Combining these microbes with undigested foods can lead to toxins which can damage mucous membranes.

    Ultimately, anything that inhibits the digestive process can lead to indigestion. If food is easily broken down, then there is no reason for the stomach and duodenum to be negatively affected. If digestion is not efficient because of a lack of digestive enzymes, too many difficult-to-digest foods or simply low hydrochloric acid (HCL) levels, the food has the chance to ferment. This causes the formation of stomach acids which do not help digestion, but rather cause digestive issues such as gas and bloating.

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    The Importance of Seeking Digestive Balance and Health

    Indigestion is at best a burning sensation in the stomach. At worst it is a sign of a greater health problem with the digestive tract, or a sign that you may be on the road to having more serious problems. Understanding the causes of acid indigestion is important for turning your digestive health around. Simply making efforts to eat correctly and improving diet can help. Managing stress and making healthy lifestyle choices is another step in the right direction. Because this condition can be a symptom of a greater problem and can be a cause of other digestive issues it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing signs of acid indigestion.

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    References

    "Biochemistry: Acid Indigestion: Myth & Mysteries." (Time Magazine) <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,876100-1,00.html>

    Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition" (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

    Balch, Phyllis A. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

    WebMD <http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/indigestion>

    photo by The Culinary Geek