It is typically described as experiencing an overly full, bloated feeling either during or after a meal, as well as having a pain in the upper stomach area.
Indigestion can affect people of any age and it ranges from experiencing it every once in a while to every day.
It occurs when stomach acid mixes with the mucosa, or sensitive lining, of the digestive system.
The acid breaks down the mucosa, causing inflammation and irritation.
When one experiences indigestion, it is often a sign of an underlying problem.
Some of the underlying issues that can cause indigestion include:
- Stomach infections
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Gastroparesis, a condition in which the stomach does not fully empty (often experienced by people with diabetes)
- Pancreatitis, a condition in which the pancreas is inflamed
- Thyroid disease
- Pregnancy, often in the second half of pregnancy due to hormonal changes and the pressure the growing baby puts on the stomach
- Stomach cancer, only in very rare cases
However, in some instances there are no underlying causes and indigestion is a standalone condition. This is typically referred to as functional dyspepsia.
Besides any underlying issues, there are also a number of lifestyle factors that can increase the severity of indigestion when it does occur.
These factors include:
- Eating too large a meal
- Eating too fast
- Drinking alcohol
- Excessive caffeine
- Consuming high-fat foods
- Consuming spicy foods
As mentioned above, taking medication can sometimes increase the likelihood of experiencing indigestion as well as increase the severity of it.
Several medications list indigestion specifically as a possible side effect.
These medications include:
- Steroid medications
- Estrogen and birth control pills
- Thyroid medications
Regardless of the reasons why one is experiencing indigestion, the symptoms are the same for everyone. Most people describe it as having an upset stomach but that includes a wide range of more specific symptoms.
While commonly lumped together, acid reflux often times accompanies indigestion but is a separate condition and should not be considered a symptom.
Symptoms of indigestion include:
- Feeling of fullness during a meal, often felt soon after starting with one unable to finish the meal
- Feeling of fullness after a meal, often feels as though food is in the stomach for too long
- Pain in the upper stomach area
- Belching or passing gas, which can be made worse when excess air is swallowed while eating
- A burning sensation in the stomach
- Growling stomach
- An acidic taste in one’s mouth
Most of the time, indigestion will resolve itself after a few hours. However, if it does not or it occurs frequently, treatment may be required. There are many natural ways to reduce or eliminate the occurrence of indigestion, most involving dietary and lifestyle changes.
The most efficient way is to change the way in which one is eating. This involves eating smaller meals and eating slower.
It also requires one to chew properly, which means chewing with one’s mouth closed and refraining from talking while chewing. This will minimize the amount of air that is swallowed while eating, which can help prevent indigestion.
Other dietary changes that can reduce or eliminate indigestion include:
- Drink beverages before or after a meal instead of during it
- Avoid spicy foods
- Avoid foods with high acidity such as citrus and tomatoes
- Avoid alcohol
- Minimize caffeinated beverages
Lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce indigestion symptoms include:
- Avoid late-night eating, ideally waiting at least 3 hours after eating before going to bed
- Relax one’s body after eating to assist the digestive process
- Quit smoking
- Refrain from exercising immediately after eating
- Reduce the stress one is experiencing
In some cases, medication is recommended for indigestion relief. The most common medication for indigestion relief is antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Rolaids, Mylanta and Maalox.
Other medications more rarely used are H2 receptor antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, antibiotics and prokinetics.
Learn how you can get rid of indigestion quickly…
When to Seek Medical Attention
For those experiencing indigestion, there are a wide range of treatment options. Most of the treatments include lifestyle and dietary changes that can be made at home without the assistance of a doctor.
However, there are some symptoms that are red flags for more serious issues and should never be ignored. If one is experiencing indigestion along with any of the below symptoms, it is recommended that they seek medical attention immediately.
These symptoms include:
- Vomiting, with blood in the vomit
- Sudden weight loss
- Bloody stools
- Severe pain in the upper right stomach area
- Loss of appetite
- Symptoms lasting longer than 2 weeks
It should also be noted that a heart attack can mimic the feeling of indigestion but will be accompanied by shortness of breath, pain in one’s jaw, neck or arm and sweating. One should always seek immediate medical attention if experiencing these symptoms.
Since the symptoms of indigestion are broad and can also be indicative of other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose properly. If you seek medical attention, a doctor will most likely rule out any underlying conditions first as they can be more dangerous and require additional treatment.
There are a number of tests and procedures that one’s doctor may require, including:
- Blood tests
- X-rays of the stomach or small intestine
- Breath and/or stool testing
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Endoscopy, which uses a thin tube with a camera and light on it to look inside one’s stomach
Indigestion is a common condition that is experienced by many individuals; however it can also be a sign of something more serious. The information provided here is meant to be informative but does not represent medical advice. One should consult a medical professional to discuss the best course of treatment.