Indigestion

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?

Some characteristic symptoms of indigestion are:

Symptoms of indigestion usually increase in times of stress, and decrease in times of relaxation.

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

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.

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:

Other ways to treat indigestion:

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:

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:

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.

References

 

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health/ or www.clevelandclinicflorida.org. This document was last reviewed on:

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