Having Indigestion? See What You Need To Know About It.

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Symptoms of indigestion can include feeling sick, pain at the top of the abdomen (dyspepsia) or behind the breastbone (heartburn) and lots of burping.

Indigestion, also known as upset stomach or dyspepsia, is a painful or burning feeling in the upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a distinct condition, but it may be a sign of an underlying intestinal disorder such as peptic ulcer or gallbladder disease.

What are some of the symptoms of indigestion?

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Some characteristic symptoms of indigestion are:
  • Burning in the stomach or upper abdomen
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal or Belly pain
  • Bloating (full feeling)
  • Belching and gas
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Acidic taste in your mouth
  • “Growling” stomach
  • Diarrhea (sometimes).
  • Fullness during or after a meal
Symptoms of indigestion usually increase in times of stress, and decrease in times of relaxation. If you swallow too much air when you eat, that can make belching and bloating worse.

Who is at greater risk for having indigestion?

People of all ages and of both sexes are affected by indigestion. A person’s risk is increased with
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Use of drugs that may irritate the stomach
  • Other functional disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and
  • Emotional problems such as anxiety or depression.

What causes indigestion?

A disease or an ulcer in the digestive tract might cause indigestion. However, for most people, it is the result of eating too much, eating too fast, eating high-fat foods, or eating during stressful situations. Indigestion is not caused by excess stomach acid. Swallowing a great deal of air when eating may increase the symptoms of belching and bloating, which are often associated with indigestion. Some medications can also irritate the stomach lining and cause indigestion.
Being tired or stressed, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol or caffeinated beverages can cause indigestion or make it worse. These factors can also worsen underlying conditions that cause indigestion, such as hiatal hernias and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). Emotional stress or other psychological conditions may result in abdominal pain.
Sometimes people have persistent indigestion that is not related to any of these factors. This type of indigestion is called functional, or nonulcer, and is caused by a problem with how food moves through the digestive tract.

Causes


Men and women of all ages can get indigestion. It’s a common condition. But certain things make some people more prone to it. Causes include:
Diseases:
  • Ulcers
  • GERD
  • Stomach cancer. This is rare.
  • Gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach doesn’t empty properly. It often happens to people with diabetes.
  • Stomach infections
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pancreatitis, an inflamed pancreas
  • Thyroid disease

Other Causes of Indigestion

  • Eating too much, too fast, or when you’re stressed. High-fat foods can also add to the problem.
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Stress and fatigue

How is indigestion diagnosed?

Because indigestion is such a broad term, it is helpful to provide your physician with a precise description of the discomfort you are having. In describing the symptoms, try to define where in the abdomen the discomfort usually occurs. Simply reporting indigestion as pain in the stomach is not detailed enough for your physician to help identify and treat your problem.
To diagnose indigestion, your physician must first rule out any underlying conditions such as ulcers. You may have X-rays of the stomach or small intestine. Your physician may also use an instrument called an endoscope to look closely at the inside of the stomach. An endoscope is a flexible tube that contains a light and a camera to produce images of the stomach and intestines in a procedure called endoscopy. A gastroscopy is a similar procedure used to evaluate just the inside of the stomach.

How can indigestion be treated?

Because indigestion is a symptom rather than a disease, treatment usually depends upon the underlying condition that is causing the indigestion. Excess stomach acid does not cause indigestion, so using antacids will not help your indigestion.
Often, episodes of indigestion go away within hours without medical attention. However, if your symptoms become worse, you should consult a physician. Avoiding foods and situations that cause indigestion are the best ways to treat it. Changing the following eating habits that cause you to swallow too much air can help relieve indigestion:


Eating Habits to change

  • Chewing with your mouth open
  • Talking while chewing
  • Eating food too fast

Other ways to treat indigestion:

  • Drink fluids after meals rather than during.
  • Avoid eating late at night.
  • Try to relax after meals.
  • Avoid spicy foods, smoking, and alcoholic beverages.
  • Sometimes aspirin can irritate the stomach lining. If this occurs, switch to acetaminophen.
If indigestion is a functional, or nonulcer condition, your physician may prescribe medications that affect stomach function.

How can indigestion be prevented?

The best way to treat indigestion is to prevent it by avoiding the foods and situations that seem to cause indigestion. Keeping a food diary is helpful in identifying foods that cause indigestion. Here are some other suggestions:
  • Eat small meals so the stomach does not have to work as hard or as long.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid foods that contain high amounts of acids, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
  • Caffeine causes the stomach to produce more acid, so reduce or avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
  • If stress is a trigger for your indigestion, reevaluating your lifestyle may help to reduce stress. Learn new methods for managing stress, such as relaxation and biofeedback techniques.
  • Smokers should consider quitting smoking, or at least not smoking right before eating, as smoking can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Cut back on how much alcohol you drink, because alcohol can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments because they tend to squeeze the stomach, which can cause its contents to enter the esophagus.
  • Do not exercise with a full stomach. Rather, exercise before a meal or at least one hour after eating a meal.
  • Do not lie down right after eating.
  • Wait at least three hours after your last meal of the day before going to bed.
  • Sleep with your head elevated (at least six inches) above your feet and use pillows to prop yourself up. This will allow digestive juices to flow into the intestines rather than to the esophagus.

When should I call the doctor about indigestion?

Because indigestion can be a sign of a more serious health problem, call your physician if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • Vomiting or blood in vomit (the vomit may look like coffee grounds)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Black, tarry stools or visible blood in stools
  • Severe pain in upper right abdomen
  • Discomfort unrelated to eating
Symptoms similar to indigestion may be caused by heart attacks. If indigestion is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, or pain that moves to the jaw, neck, or arm, seek medical attention immediately.

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