Indigestion is one of the most common ailments of the digestive system, affecting about 1 in 4 persons at some time. The discomfort or pain might come and go, but it’s usually there most of the time. People can get indigestion at any age and it affects both men and women.

What Is indigestion?

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach, is general term that describes discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a disease, but rather some symptoms you experience, including abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness soon after you start eating. Although indigestion is common, each person may experience it in a slightly different way. Symptoms of indigestion may be felt occasionally or as often as daily.

Indigestion can be a symptom of another digestive disease. Indigestion that isn’t caused by an underlying disease may be eased with lifestyle changes and medication.

Indigestion may be:

. Occasional - happening once in a while

. Chronic- happening regularly for a few weeks or months

. Functional-having chronic symptoms without specific cause

Indigestion is not always related to eating. Sometimes digestive tract diseases such as peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, and stomach cancer cause chronic indigestion. However, most often it is hard to know the exact cause of chronic indigestion.

Chronic indigestion without a health problem or digestive tract disease that could explain symptoms is called functional dyspepsia or non-ulcer dyspepsia.

Who is at risk for indigestion?

People of all ages and of both sexes are affected by indigestion. A person’s risk increases with:

. Excess alcohol and caffeine consumption

. Eating too much or too fast, eating spicy, fatty or greasy foods, foods containing lots of acid

. Use of drugs that may irritate the stomach, such as aspirin

. Conditions where there is an abnormality in the digestive tract such as an ulcer

. Excessive stressful conditions

. Smoking

. Emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression

Symptoms of indigestion

People with indigestion may have one or more of the following symptoms:

. Early fullness during a meal. You haven’t eaten much of your meal, but you already feel full and may not be able to finish eating.

. Uncomfortable fullness after a meal. Fullness lasts longer than it should.

. Discomfort in the upper abdomen. You feel a mild to severe pain in the area between the bottom of your breastbone and your navel.

. Burning in the upper abdomen. You feel an uncomfortable heat or burning sensation between the bottom of your breastbone and your navel.

. Bloating in the upper abdomen. You feel an uncomfortable sensation of tightness.

. Nausea. You feel as though you want to vomit.

Less frequent symptoms include vomiting and belching.

Sometimes along with indigestion people experience heartburn, but heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back during or after eating.

When to seek medical care

Mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about but you should seek medical attention if discomfort persists for more than two weeks.

It strongly recommended to call your health care provider right away if pain is severe or if any of these symptoms:

. Unintentional weight loss or loss of appetite

. Repeated vomiting or vomiting with blood

. Black, tarry stools

. Trouble swallowing that gets progressively worse

. Fatigue or weakness, which may indicate anemia

Seek immediate medical care if you have:

. Shortness of breath, sweating or chest pain radiating to the jaw, neck or arm

. Chest pain on exertion or with stress

Causes of indigestion

Indigestion has many possible causes. Often, indigestion is related to lifestyle and may be triggered by food, drink or medication. The most common causes include:


. Ulcers


. Stomach cancer(rare)

. Gastroparesis- which is a condition where the stomach doesn’t empty properly

. Stomach infections

. Irritable bowel syndrome

. Chronic pancreatitis

. Thyroid disease

. Pregnancy


. Aspirin and other painkillers, such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen

. Estrogen and oral contraceptives

. Steroid medications

. Certain antibiotics

. Thyroid medicines


. Eating too much, too fast, fatty foods or stress-eating

. Excessive alcohol consumption

. Cigarette smoking

. Stress and fatigue

Indigestion is not cause by excess stomach acid. Swallowing too much air while eating may increase the symptoms of belching and bloating, which are often associated with indigestion.

Treatment of indigestion

Lifestyle changes may help ease indigestion. You doctor may recommend the following:

. Avoiding foods that trigger indigestion

. Eating five or six small meals a day instead of three large meals

. Reducing or eliminating the use of alcohol and caffeine

. Avoiding certain pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium

. Finding alternatives for medications that trigger indigestion

. Controlling stress and anxiety

If your indigestion persists, medications may help. Over-the-counter antacids are generally the first choice. Other options are:

.Antacids- doctors often first recommend antacids , over-the-counter medicines that neutralize acids in your stomach.

. Antibiotics- to treat a helicobacter pylori infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacteria

.H2 blockers- they are medicines that decrease the amount of acid your stomach produces. H2 blockers provide short-term or on -demand relief for many people with indigestion.

. Proton pump inhibitors(PPIs)- are the most effective in treating indigestion if you also have heartburn.

. Prokinetics- which may be helpful if your stomach empties slowly and they help empty the stomach faster

Preventing indigestion

In addition to making changes in what you eat and drink, you can help prevent indigestion by making lifestyle changes such as

. Avoiding exercise right after eating

. Chewing food carefully and completely

. Losing weight

. Not eating late-night snacks

. Not taking a lot of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

. Quitting smoking

. Trying to reduce stress in daily life

. Waiting 2 to 3 hours after eating before you lie down


The above article serves only as reference. Kindly refer to your primary care provider for complete consultation and treatment.

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