Indigestion (also known as dyspepsia) is used to describe pain and discomfort in your stomach or upper chest which can often be triggered by eating or drinking.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

Summary

As well as stomach pain and heartburn, indigestion symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Flatulence and burping
  • Feeling overly-full after eating
  • Bringing up a bitter-tasting fluid (acid reflux)

Most people have bouts of indigestion from time to time, especially pregnant women.

Usually, you can relieve symptoms on your own. However, if you often get indigestion and it’s very painful, it could be a sign you have an underlying medical condition.

Causes of indigestion

Indigestion or dyspepsia often occurs after eating too much or too fast. Indigestion can also be caused, or made worse, by:

  • Certain medicines
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Eating fatty or fried foods
  • Stress and/or tiredness
  • A problem with your digestive system
  • Coeliac disease

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Conditions related to indigestion

However, frequent indigestion can be a sign of an underlying condition, including:

Getting a diagnosis for indigestion

See your GP if indigestion is causing you problems, such as frequent, very painful indigestion symptoms – especially if you’re over 55.

Your GP will discuss your symptoms with you and may examine your abdomen.

Depending on your symptoms and their severity, your GP may refer you for tests, such as:

  • A stool sample or blood test
  • A breath test to check for H. Pylori, a bacterial infection which can cause stomach ulcers
  • A gastroscopy (endoscopy) to look at your digestive system for conditions such as a stomach ulcer or hiatus hernia

If the results are inconclusive, your GP may refer you for further tests or to a gastroenterologist, a consultant specialising in the digestive system.

Treatments for indigestion

Lifestyle

Certain lifestyle changes can provide indigestion relief. Try to:

  • Lose any excess weight
  • Avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol
  • Eat regular meals and have your evening meal at least three hours before bedtime
  • Avoid foods which trigger your indigestion - these might be rich foods, spicy foods or fried foods
  • Avoid stress - or find a way to relieve your stress

Medication

You may find that taking over-the-counter indigestion remedies brings relief, such as antacids.

Your GP can also prescribe stronger antacids or:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) – to reduce how much acid your stomach produces
  • H2 receptor antagonists – to reduce your stomach’s acidity level

If you’re taking a medicine which can cause indigestion, your GP may change your medication or alter the dosage.

Other medications and treatment options are available if your indigestion is found to be due to an underlying cause, such as a stomach ulcer or GORD.

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