Indigestion

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Indigestion is a vague feeling of abdominal discomfort -- possibly including a feeling of fullness, belching, bloating, and nausea.

Considerations Return to top

Indigestion is rarely a serious health problem, unless it is accompanied by other symptoms.

Indigestion is a common problem. It may be triggered by eating particular foods or drinking wine or carbonated drinks. It may also be caused by eating too fast or overeating. Some people may find that spicy foods, high-fiber foods, fatty foods, or too much caffeine can all aggravate this problem. Symptoms may be worsened by anxiety and depression.

Rarely, the discomfort of a heart attack is mistaken for indigestion.

Indigestion can be a chronic symptom of a bowel disease like nonulcer dyspepsia.

Common Causes

  • Overeating
  • Eating too fast
  • Significant caffeine intake
  • Eating fatty or greasy foods
  • Overindulgence in alcohol
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Emotional trauma or nervousness
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
  • Acute or chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • Acute or chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Duodenal ulcer
  • Gastric ulcer
  • Drugs such as antibiotics, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Home Care

Allow time for leisurely meals. Chew food carefully and thoroughly. Avoid conflicts during meals. Avoid excitement or exercise immediately after a meal. Avoid chewing gum -- it may cause air swallowing. A calm environment and rest may help relieve stress-related dyspepsia.

Avoid aspirin and NSAIDs (use acetaminophen instead). If you must take them, do so on a full stomach.

Call your health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms last longer than a few days
  • The pattern of indigestion symptoms changes noticeably
  • You have sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • You have unexplained weight loss
  • You vomit blood or pass blood in the stool
  • You have jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes)
  • Symptoms include jaw pain, chest pain, back pain, profuse sweating, anxiety, or a feeling of impending doom (possible heart attack symptoms)

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