Indigestion Symptoms & Treatment
Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, is a common condition and affects people of all ages. It is characterized by gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms that typically occur together, including:
- A burning pain in your upper abdomen
- Feeling full while eating a meal
- Feeling overly full after eating a meal
Dyspepsia may happen once in a while for some while others experience regular, or chronic episodes of indigestion for a few weeks or months.
Indigestion is not the same as heartburn or GERD. However, indigestion may be a sign of certain digestive tract diseases or conditions, including GERD.
Indigestion can occur for many reasons. Cigarette smoking and the consumption of certain foods, medications, and alcohol can contribute to dyspepsia. Indigestion can be a symptom of stress. Some cases of dyspepsia resolve without treatment. Indigestion may be relieved with medications, lifestyle changes, and by treating any underlying medical conditions.
Dyspepsia can occur for many reasons:
- Eating too fast
- Eating too much
- Eating or drinking certain foods or beverages (spicy, fatty, or greasy foods; coffee or caffeine; carbonated drinks)
- Drinking alcohol
- Certain medications (antibiotics, steroids, thyroid medications, aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Anxiety and stress
In some cases, indigestion may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition including GERD, peptic ulcer disease, H. pylori bacterial infection, irritable bowel disease, gastroparesis, stomach cancer, and inflammation of the stomach, gallbladder, or pancreas.
Symptoms of indigestion typically include:
- A burning feeling in your stomach or upper abdomen
- Feeling full while eating and uncomfortably full after eating
- Gas and bloating
- Stomach growling
Your doctor will first review your medical history and conduct a physical examination. Be sure to tell her about your symptoms.
Your doctor may order blood tests and imaging tests to diagnose diseases and conditions that may be causing your indigestion. Blood tests, stool tests, and urea breath tests can diagnose H. pylori infection, which can cause peptic ulcers.
Your doctor may perform an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy to diagnose GERD, peptic ulcers, gastritis, or stomach cancer. Imaging tests such as X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound may be used to diagnose other conditions.
Sometimes indigestion resolves without treatment from a doctor. Some cases respond to over-the-counter medications such as antacids, H2 blockers (Zantac®, Tagamet®, Pepcid AC®), or proton pump inhibitors (PPI) (Prilosec®, Prevacid®, Nexium®).
Your doctor can also prescribe medications to treat dyspepsia or an underlying medical condition such as H. pylori. To prevent indigestion, you can avoid the foods and drinks that cause it or make lifestyle changes such as:
- Chew your food completely
- Don’t exercise right after eating
- Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Stop smoking
- Minimize stress
- Don’t eat late at night
- Wait 2 to 3 hours after eating before you lie down
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