Indigestion is also called dyspepsia or stomach upset. You use it to describe discomfort in your upper abdomen. Actually this is not a disease, but rather a symptom you experience, although the experience is not the same for everyone. Some people can just have a certain feeling of fullness after eating, whiles others can also have some abdominal pains.
Whatever the case may be, indigestion could mean that you have an underlying medical condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcer or a problem in your gall bladder. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing persistent indigestion for a protracted period of time which just doesn’t want to go.
What are the symptoms?
As stated earlier, indigestion or dyspepsia itself is a symptom. However, their some other symptoms that accompany indigestion which you may experience. They can include :
- A burning sensation in the stomach or upper abdomen.
- Having abdominal pains.
- A feeling of fullness (bloating).
- Belching and gas.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Acidic taste in your mouth.
- Stomach growls.
You should seek for immediate medical attention if your indigestion is accompanied by any these symptoms :
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble swallowing
- Ongoing vomiting
- Throwing up blood
- Sudden pain in chest, arm, neck, or jaw
- Cold sweats
- Thick, black, or bloody stool
Causes and Risk Factors
We have already established that indigestion or dyspepsia is mostly because there may be another underlying condition troubling you. However, there are still some particular lifestyle issues that can put you at risk of experiencing indigestion.
People who eat certain foods contain a lot of spice, fat, acid, or fiber are likely to complain of indigestion afterwards. Likewise, eating too late in the night just before going to bed predisposes you to indigestion. Lack of good sleep is something that may also give you an indigestion.
Drinking alcohol, or drinks that contain too much caffeine is another risk factor. So also is taking certain medicines that have indigestion as a side effect. Always check the labels of the drugs you take or ask your doctor about the side effects of the drugs you are taking. Having emotional problems like anxiety and depression could also bring about indigestion.
Problems in your GI tract or other health issues that can cause indigestion include:
- Acid reflux.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (a disorder that affects your intestines). Symptoms include stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
- A bacterial infection from Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) can cause indigestion.
- Gastroparesis. This is a condition whereby the muscles in your GI tract stop working properly, which slows down or stops the movement of food in your intestines.
- Peptic ulcer.
- Stomach cancer.
It is very important that you see a doctor if you or your child is experiencing regular indigestion or dyspepsia. The doctor will try to find out what might be causing the problem by asking a series of questions and performing some physical examination on your abdomen. He may also ask you to do some diagnostic tests to confirm any suspicions he may be having of a particular disease condition. They may include :
- Blood test in which your blood sample is taken to the lab for different analysis.
- Endoscopy, whereby a long thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted through your mouth into your stomach to see clear images of your stomach and intestinal linings.
- Tests to diagnose H. pylori infection because peptic ulcers are often caused by H. pylori.
- Liver function test.
- X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
- Abdominal ultrasound.
- Abdominal CT scan.
Whiles indigestion in itself may not have serious complications, it can still affect the quality of your life. You might miss work or school because of your symptoms. The underlying condition, however may have its own serious complications.
There are medications available to treat persistent indigestion. Your doctor can prescribe any of the following medications for you to take, even though most of them can be obtained over-the-counter :
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which can reduce stomach acid.
- H-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs), which can also reduce stomach acid.
- Prokinetics, which may be helpful if your stomach empties slowly.
- Antibiotics, if H. pylori bacteria are causing your indigestion.
- Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, which may ease the discomfort from indigestion by decreasing your sensation of pain.
In addition to these drugs, your doctor may recommend that you make some lifestyle adjustments which may include :
- Avoiding foods that trigger indigestion.
- Avoid eat very late at night before going to bed.
- 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 (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- Finding alternatives for medications that trigger indigestion.
- Controlling stress and anxiety.
How can I prevent indigestion?
Prevention is always better than cure. Consider doing the following if you want to keep indigestion at bay :
- Eat small meals so the stomach does not have to work as hard or as long.
- Don’t rush your food. Eat slowly.
- Avoid too much of foods that contain high amounts of acids, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
- Reduce or avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
- Learn healthy methods for managing stress, such as napping, hanging out with nature or spending time with friends.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking can irritate the lining of the stomach.
- Cut back on alcohol consumption, because alcohol can also irritate the stomach lining.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments, because they tend to compress the stomach, which can cause its contents to enter the esophagus.
- Don’t exercise with a full stomach. Rather, exercise before a meal or at least one hour after eating a meal.
- Don’t go to bed immediately after eating.
- Medicalnewstoday – what to know about dyspepsia
- Webmd – heartburn-gerd/indigestion-overview
- Mayoclinic – indigestion/diagnosis-treatment/
- Healthline – functional-dyspepsia#treatment