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What treatments relieve and cure indigestion (dyspepsia)?
The treatment of indigestion is a difficult and unsatisfying topic because so few drugs have been studied and have been shown to be effective. Moreover, the drugs that have been shown to be effective have not been shown to be very effective. This difficult situation exists for many reasons including:
The lack of understanding of the physiologic processes (mechanisms) that cause indigestion has meant that treatment usually cannot be directed at the mechanisms. Instead, treatment usually is directed at the symptoms. For example, nausea is treated with medications that suppress nausea but do not affect the cause of the nausea. On the other hand, the psychotropic drugs (antidepressants) and psychological treatments (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) treat hypothetical causes of indigestion (for example, abnormal function of sensory nerves and the psyche) rather than causes or even the symptoms. Treatment for indigestion often is similar to that for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) even though the causes of IBS and indigestion are likely to be different.
It is important to educate patients with indigestion about their illness, particularly by reassuring them that the illness is not a serious threat to their physical health (though it may be to their emotional health). Patients need to understand the potential causes for the symptoms. Most importantly, they need to understand the medical approach to the problem and the reasons for each test or treatment. Education prepares patients for a potentially prolonged course of diagnosis and trials of treatment. Education also may prevent patients from falling prey to the charlatans who offer unproven and possibly dangerous treatments for indigestion. Many symptoms are tolerable if patients' anxieties about the seriousness of their symptoms can be relieved. It also helps patients deal with symptoms when they feel that everything that should be done to diagnose and treat, in fact, is being done. The truth is that psychologically healthy people can tolerate a good deal of discomfort and continue to lead happy and productive lives.
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