Why Do We Get Indigestion?
Indigestion is caused when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of the digestive tract. The acid attacks the lining, breaking it down and causing irritation and inflammation that can lead to symptoms such as pain and swelling. Indigestion often occurs after eating and may also be triggered by smoking, drinking alcohol or taking certain medications. Women may also find they are more affected by the condition during pregnancy.
Indigestion affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, but usually the symptoms are mild and occur infrequently without causing lasting damage. Also called dyspepsia, indigestion refers to an uncomfortable pain in the stomach or chest that usually occurs after a person has been eating or drinking. Other symptoms of the condition include feeling full and bloated, feeling nauseous, belching and heartburn.
Indigestion is most often brought about by interference with a marvelous piece of engineering contained in 30 to 32 feet of continuous hollow tubing called the alimentary canal. In this system the food is broken down, churned, diluted, dissolved and chemically split into simpler compounds which can be absorbed into the blood.
The alimentary canal is formed of membrane which has to resist a chemistry that dissolves bone, gristle, animal and vegetable matter far tougher than the membrane itself. The stomach’s gastric juice, one of the chief agents in digestion, has a high concentration of hydrochloric acid. This can dissolve a hardboiled egg in a few minutes.
Why does it not dissolve the stomach? One reason seems to be that the stomach secretes not only acid but also ammonia, an equally powerful alkali which acts as a neutralizing agent. This powerful gastric juice can be hindered by many causes, with the result that we may get the pains we know as indigestion.
The alimentary canal makes its preparations for a meal well in advance. The sight and smell and even the thought of food set the salivary and gastric juices flowing, while the stomach blushes in anticipation as the glands begin working and the capillaries widen to bring in an extra blood supply for the activity of digestion.
But the prospect of an unappetizing meal or disagreeable company, and the emotions of worry, irritation, anger and fear may stop these preparations. They may even cause the stomach to turn pale. Indigestion is the result. We may also get indigestion if we eat too quickly without chewing our food or eat too many foods which are difficult to digest, thus overloading and disrupting the system.