The digestive system plays an important role in keeping us healthy, and assures that every cell in the body is properly nourished. The gastrointestinal tract (GIT) is made up of the esophagus, stomach, the small and large intestines, and the rectum. In length the system measures about nine metres, beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus. The food is subjected to digestion by a variety of juices and enzymes, and churned up by a series of muscular and clenching motion, collectively known as peristalsis. This hard-working system is in constant use, and provides proper nourishment to every cell in the body. Unfortunately, we often make its job difficult by irregular eating habits, excessive fatty food, smoking, stress, and alcohol consumption. This throws the GIT into malfunction, and sometimes leading to long-term digestive disorders.
Dyspepsia is often described as indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fullness in the abdomen, burning feeling in the pit of the stomach, bloating, pain and irregular bowel habits. Prolonged dyspepsia can lead to stomach ulcers, gastritis, biliary tract disorders, metabolic diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Basic management of dyspepsia may be considered under the following main heads:
(i) Belching and Bloating: Belching is caused by swallowing air, drinking carbonated beverages, talking while eating, chewing gum, and smoking. Belched air is made up of nitrogen and oxygen. Bloating is caused by the swallowed which reaches the small and large intestines. Chemical changes occur and the intestines are distended by presence of the liberated gas. Rectal gas is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane.
(ii) Hyperchlorhydria: Antacids react with gastric hydrochloric acid to form salt and water. They are employed in the treatment of peptic ulcer and acid-peptic disease. Two classes of antacids are available:
(a) Systemic antacids, e.g., sodium bicarbonate; and (b) Buffer antacids,
e.g., magnesium hydroxide and trisilicate, and aluminium hydroxide.
H2-receptor antagonists like cimetidine, ranitidine and famotidine are employed to promote healing of peptic ulcers. Various other agents are also employed to treat gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Prokinetic agents like metoclopramide and cisapride promote gastrointestinal motility, and relieve symptoms of dyspepsia.
Detailed consideration of the agents mentioned above is beyond the scope of this write up.
Dyspepsia can be prevented by some regular lifestyle changes:
(1) Do not smoke or use tobacco products, or other addicting intoxicants;
(2) Avoid alcohol consumption; (iii) Avoid heavy meals or spicy food;
(3) Do not indulge in self-medication; (v) Avoid chronic stress and relax;
(4) Eat dinner two hours before going to bed.
These are some simple measures to effectively prevent development of dyspepsia.