What is indigestion?
Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a pain, general discomfort, or burning feeling in your upper belly (abdomen). It’s common in adults. Indigestion is not the same as heartburn. Heartburn is when stomach acid goes out of your stomach and back into your food pipe (esophagus). Indigestion may be linked to stomach acid. You can have symptoms of indigestion and heartburn at the same time.
What causes indigestion?
Indigestion can be caused by health problems, lifestyle issues, or medicines.
Health problems or diseases include:
Sores or ulcers in your stomach or small intestine
Redness and swelling or inflammation in your stomach (gastritis)
Acid flowing from your stomach into your esophagus (GERD)
Bacterial infection in your stomach (H. pylori)
Inflammation of your gallbladder (cholecystitis)
Lumps of solid material (gallstones) in your gallbladder
Swelling of your pancreas (pancreatitis)
Food moving too slowly out of your stomach (gastroparesis)
Lifestyle issues include:
Having too much caffeine
Drinking too much alcohol
Eating too fast
Eating too much
Eating spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
Eating high-fiber foods
Feeling very stressed
Bacteria-fighting medicines (antibiotics)
Aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medicines (NSAIDs)
Some medicines for osteoporosis (bisphosphonates)
Certain medicines, such as iron and potassium tablets
What are the symptoms of indigestion?
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
Feeling full too soon while eating
Feeling pain, burning, and discomfort in your upper belly or abdomen
Burping and loud stomach gurgling
Having an upset stomach or vomiting
The symptoms of indigestion may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
How is indigestion diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will look at your past health and give you a physical exam.
To make sure other health problems aren’t causing indigestion, you may have tests. These may include:
Stool or breath tests. These are done to check for a stomach bacteria (H. pylori).
X-rays of your stomach and small intestine
Ultrasound of your gallbladder or belly (abdomen)
Stomach emptying scan
How is indigestion treated?
You will need to not have foods or medicines that cause indigestion. It is also helpful to stay away from stressful situations.
Your symptoms may feel better if you:
Take medicines that weaken or offset stomach acid (antacids)
Your healthcare provider may suggest you take medicines to:
Help your stomach move food more quickly into your small intestine
Decrease the amount of acid in your stomach
Kill bacteria (antibiotics) if tests show you have the H. pylori bacteria in your stomach
Help calm the gut’s nervous system
What can I do to prevent indigestion?
There are many things you can do to try to prevent indigestion.
Making changes in your diet and eating habits can help. These include:
Eating several small, low-fat meals each day instead of 3 large meals
Eating slowly and giving yourself enough time for meals
Limiting spicy, fatty, greasy, or high-fiber foods
Chewing your food well
Limiting or not having any coffee, soda, or alcohol
Don’t use medicines that hurt your stomach unless they are medically necessary. These include aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medicines (NSAIDs).
Other lifestyle changes that may keep indigestion from happening include:
Getting enough rest
Finding ways to lower your emotional and physical stress, such as meditation or yoga
Exercising before a meal or waiting at least 1 hour after eating
Stopping or limiting how much alcohol you drink
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Indigestion can be a sign of a serious health problem. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have indigestion and any of these symptoms:
Blood in vomit
Weight loss or not feeling hungry
Bloody, black, or tarry stools. This may mean you have blood in your stool.
Sudden sharp pain in your belly (abdomen)
Pain that spreads to your jaw, neck, or arm
Difficult, painful swallowing
Yellow coloring of your eyes or skin (jaundice)
Also call your healthcare provider if you have indigestion that lasts longer than 2 weeks.
Key points about indigestion
It’s a discomfort, painful, or burning feeling in your upper belly (abdomen).
It’s not the same thing as heartburn. But you can have both.
It may be caused by health problems, such as ulcers.
It may also be caused by lifestyle and eating habits.
You should not have foods or medicines that cause indigestion. It’s also helpful to stop smoking and limit or stop alcohol use.
Try to stay away from stressful situations. Regular exercise, meditation, or yoga can also help decrease stress.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.
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