Living with
Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

What is indigestion?

Indigestion is medically known as dyspepsia. You may also refer to indigestion as an upset stomach when you have persistent or recurrent discomfort or pain in your upper abdomen. Some people may also refer to indigestion as heartburn, although these are not the same. You can read more about heartburn here.

 

Dyspepsia is not a disease, but rather it may be a symptom of an underlying digestive condition, like gastroesophageal reflux or peptic ulcer disease.

However, indigestion that has no apparent underlying digestive cause is also common and may be prevented or relieved with lifestyle changes or antacid medications.

How do you know you have indigestion?

Indigestion is a very common experience; however, people may feel different discomfort, like:

  • Pain or a burning sensation in your upper abdomen or chest below your breastbone
  • Bloating and feeling full before you finish your meal or feeling uncomfortably full after a meal
  • Passing gas or belching (burping)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Acidic taste in your mouth
  • Gurgling or growling stomach.

Sometimes, you may confuse these discomforts, especially the abdominal or chest pain, with heartburn. You can view the symptoms of heartburn here, as they are different from indigestion.

 

When to see your doctor:

Mild indigestion is common and is usually nothing to worry about. However, it is suggested that you see your doctor or healthcare provider if you experience any of the above for longer than two weeks. Also, seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath, with sweating and/or a sudden pain in your chest that may radiate to your arm, neck or jaw – these symptoms may indicate you are experiencing a heart attack.
  • Significant and unintentional weight loss or loss of appetite.
  • Ongoing or excessive vomiting or vomiting of blood.
  • Black or bloody stools.
  • Trouble swallowing that is worsening.
  • Indications of anaemia, like pallor, weakness and fatigue.

 

What causes indigestion?

Your doctor may not be able to identify the cause of your indigestion. Indigestion with no obvious cause is known as functional or non-ulcer indigestion.

Indigestion triggered by common lifestyle factors is common. Such factors can include:

  • Overeating, especially certain foods that are hard to process, like spicy foods, foods high in fat or oily foods, very acidic foods and foods high in insoluble fibre
  • Eating too quickly
  • Consuming too much caffeine
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Consuming fizzy, carbonated beverages
  • Smoking
  • Anxiety or being under high amounts of stress
  • Not getting enough sleep.

However, digestive problems can also cause indigestion. These can include:

  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), particularly caused by H. pylori infection
  • Acid reflux/gastroesophageal reflux
  • Peptic ulcer disease (PUD)
  • Coeliac disease
  • Gallstones
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Gastroparesis (when the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract do not work properly to move food through the tract)
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Stomach cancer
  • An intestinal blockage
  • Reduced blood flow in the intestine (intestinal ischemia), usually caused by atherosclerosis in the arteries supplying the gastrointestinal tract.

Living and managing

It is a good idea that you avoid the triggers in your lifestyle that may be causing you to suffer indigestion.
You should probably follow the following lifestyle tips:

  • Eating a healthy diet: Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that is low in fat.
    You may also want to try eating smaller meals and taking more your time over meals, eating more slowly.
    Depending on what food triggers you have, you may want to try avoid eating lots of highly acidic foods like citrus fruits or tomatoes.
    You can learn more about healthy eating habits and get healthy and delicious easy-to-prepare meal ideas from Cooking from the Heart.
  • Stop smoking: Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.
  • Reducing or avoiding alcohol consumption or how much coffee or other caffeinated beverages you drink.
  • Find ways to manage your stress levels and make sure to get enough sleep.

What treatment is available for indigestion?

If your indigestion persists, talk to your doctor about using antacids.

Your doctor may also suggest prescribing you other medications that reduce stomach acid, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Sources

American Family Physician. (2010) Dyspepsia: What Is It and What to do About It? Am Fam Physician. 15;82(12):1459-1460. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1215/p1459.html

 

Cho-Dorado M. (2017) What to know about indigestion. MedicalNewsToday. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163484#treatments

FamilyDoctor.org. (2018) Dyspepsia (Indigestion). American Association of Family Physicians. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://familydoctor.org/condition/indigestion-dyspepsia/

 

WebMD. (n.d.) Indigestion. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/indigestion-overview#1

 

Mayo Clinic staff. (n.d.) Diseases & Condition: Indigestion. Mayo Clinic. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/indigestion/symptoms-causes/syc-20352211

 

Mayo Clinic staff. (n.d.) Diagnosis and Treatment: Indigestion. Accessed June 2020. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/indigestion/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352215

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Sources

American Family Physician. (2010) Dyspepsia: What Is It and What to do About It? Am Fam Physician. 15;82(12):1459-1460. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1215/p1459.html

 

Cho-Dorado M. (2017) What to know about indigestion. MedicalNewsToday. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163484#treatments

FamilyDoctor.org. (2018) Dyspepsia (Indigestion). American Association of Family Physicians. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://familydoctor.org/condition/indigestion-dyspepsia/

 

WebMD. (n.d.) Indigestion. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/indigestion-overview#1

 

Mayo Clinic staff. (n.d.) Diseases & Condition: Indigestion. Mayo Clinic. Accessed June 2020. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/indigestion/symptoms-causes/syc-20352211

 

Mayo Clinic staff. (n.d.) Diagnosis and Treatment: Indigestion. Accessed June 2020. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/indigestion/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352215