Indigestion: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, is a general term that describes discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a disease itself. It refers to a group of gastrointestinal symptoms that occur together. And it can be a sign of another digestive disease. This condition is so common that it happens to almost everyone, but each person may experience indigestion in a slightly different way. In the United States, indigestion affects 1 in 4 people each year.

Causes

A number of causes can lead to indigestion. In many cases, indigestion has association with lifestyle and what you eat or drink as well as medications. The most common causes include:

  • Overeating or eating too quickly
  • Fatty, greasy or spicy foods
  • Too much caffeine, alcohol, chocolate or carbonated beverages
  • Smoking
  • Anxiety
  • Certain antibiotics, pain relievers and iron supplements

Symptoms

If you have indigestion, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • pain, a burning feeling, or discomfort in your upper abdomen
  • feeling full too soon while eating a meal
  • feeling uncomfortably full after eating a meal
  • bloating
  • burping

Other possible symptoms may involve:

  • burping up food or liquid
  • loud growling or gurgling in your stomach
  • nausea
  • gas

Some digestive conditions may also contribute to indigestion, such as:

  • Inflammation of the stomach (gastritis)
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Celiac disease
  • Gallstones
  • Constipation
  • Pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis)
  • Stomach cancer
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Reduced blood flow in the intestine (intestinal ischemia)

If indigestion has no obvious cause, it is called functional or nonulcer dyspepsia.

Diagnosis

To diagnose indigestion, your doctor often starts with your medical history and a physical exam. If your condition is mild and there are no serious symptoms, these may be sufficient. However, some more tests may be needed if you experience quite severe indigestion. Tests include:

  • Laboratory tests, to check for anemia or metabolic disorders.
  • Breath and stool tests, to check for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
  • Endoscopy, to check for abnormalities in your upper digestive tract.
  • Imaging tests (X-ray or CT scan), to check for intestinal obstruction or another issue.

Treatment

Treatment for indigestion should depend on the cause of your indigestion. Options include lifestyle changes, medicine and psychological therapies.

Medicines

In addition to over-the-counter antacids, your doctor may recommend:

Lifestyle changes

You can improve your condition with lifestyle changes, such as

  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Avoiding triggers.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Managing stress.
  • Changing your medications.

Psychological therapies

If anxiety and depression cause your indigestion, a type of psychological therapy known as “talk therapy” will be helpful. Besides, meditation, relaxation exercises or counseling may also be recommended to help reduce your stress.


Keywords: indigestion; dyspepsia; upset stomach.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.