Wednesday, 21 February 2018
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Christmas & New Year 2017

Ask The Pharmacist: Indigestion

Community Pharmacist Richard Dunn says, "‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry… unless of course you have indigestion!"

Overindulgence over the festive season is fairly common and can sometimes lead to indigestion, however it is rare in children and if suspected they should be seen by their GP to investigate further.
Symptoms of indigestion can include feeling full and bloated, heartburn, nausea, belching, pain or discomfort in the upper part of the chest. The symptoms of indigestion are often described as 'heartburn', which you may experience as a burning pain behind your breastbone. Although eating a large meal is a common cause of indigestion, it may also be caused by drinking excess alcohol, smoking, drugs such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines, pregnancy, stress or being overweight. In most cases, there is no underlying medical reason for indigestion.

However, indigestion can also be caused in other ways and it can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, particularly if you experience recurrent bouts.
Most people will not need to seek medical advice for their indigestion. However, it is important to speak with your pharmacist or see your GP if you have recurring indigestion and especially if you have experienced it for the first time over the age of 40. Likewise if your indigestion leads to persistent vomiting or vomit containing blood, or if you have lost a lot of weight unintentionally it would be best to see your GP as it could be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires attention.

Indigestion can often be treated with simple over the counter remedies available from your local pharmacy. Simple antacids such as Rennies™ or Remegel™ can be effective and work quickly. The effect of an antacid only lasts for a few hours at a time, so you may need to take more than one dose. If heartburn is a problem it could be worth trying an alginate such as Gaviscon™. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid leaks back up into your oesophagus (throat) and irritates its lining. Alginates form a foam barrier that floats on the surface of your stomach contents, keeping stomach acid in your stomach and away from your oesophagus.

There are also newer treatments available which work by reducing acid production in the stomach and which can be very effective. They can only be sold for use in adults and you should speak to your pharmacist before purchasing. Such products include Nexium Control™ and Zantac™ tablets.
Have a great indigestion-free Christmas!

Richard Dunn is a community pharmacist with Gordons Chemists.

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