Dyspepsia (Gr. ill, anddigestion), or Indigestion, a designation under which are commonly grouped all those functional disorders of the stomach which are independent of organic disease, and are not symptomatic of disease of other parts of the economy. Its characteristic symptoms, as given by Cullen, are "want of appetite, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, eructations, and pain; more or fewer of these symptoms concurring, together sometimes with constipation." Many circumstances must concur to render digestion easy and perfect. The mind should be free from any harassing care or anxiety; otherwise not only the appetite is impaired, but the food is digested with difficulty. The food should be thoroughly masticated and insalivated. After recovery from wasting diseases, a larger quantity of food is required and will be digested than at ordinary times. It should be suited to the digestive capacity of the stomach; if the quantity be too large or the quality too rich, a sense of fulness and weight in the region of the stomach, nausea, heartburn, and eructation of acid and gaseous matters follow; with these symptoms the tongue becomes furred, there is some feverishness, and there is more or less headache; if vomiting occurs, and the ejecta contain bile, the sufferer in ordinary phrase is said to have had a bilious attack.
The food should be taken at proper intervals, which are not always the same for all persons; before a second meal is taken, the previous one should be completely digested, and the stomach should have a period of repose. The food ought not only to be of a character which will permit its easy digestion by the stomach and small intestines, but it should also afford a residuum bulky and stimulating enough to maintain a regular action of the bowels. When constipation is induced by neglect, indolent habits, or too concentrated a diet, the stomach is apt to suffer, and dyspeptic symptoms follow. To all these causes of dyspepsia must be added the abuse of fermented and distilled liquors. - When dyspepsia has been induced by any one of the above mentioned causes, its cure is to be sought in the removal of the cause; but this alone will often be found tedious or inefficient. In one class of cases a certain degree of inflammation of the gastric mucous membrane seems to be produced. The presence of food excites pain, which continues so long as the food remains in the stomach; carminatives or stimulants, so far from affording relief, aggravate the distress. In some cases the diet must be of the blandest and most unstimulating kind, and the amount of food rigidly limited.
Restricting the patient to milk, diluted with an equal part of lime water, is sometimes attended by great benefit, and farinaceous articles are preferable to meat. In another and the larger class of cases, neither inflammation nor irritation is present, but the powers of the stomach seem enfeebled; here stimulants relieve the distress, and cause at least a temporary improvement. In such cases a meat diet agrees better than an exclusively farinaceous one, and the patient is benefited by bitter tonics, as Colombo, gentian, or quassia. Certain remedies are adapted to the relief of particular symptoms; acidity is relieved by the use of alkalies and the alkaline earths; pain, by bismuth and hydrocyanic acid; flatulence, by carminatives; and constipation, when it cannot be obviated by diet and attention, may call forth the use of some of the purgative mineral waters, or of small doses of aloes in combination with nux vomica. It is in these cases that travel, combining relaxation with mental excitement and exercise, is particularly serviceable.