Indigestion (dyspepsia) is characterized by discomfort in the upper abdomen. It is a condition rather than a disease, and it can occur at any time. It does not necessarily happen after eating or drinking. Although not life-threatening in itself, indigestion can be a sign of more serious issues including a digestive condition or other problems.
Doctors consider all symptoms and medical history when determining a course of treatment for indigestion including possible underlying causes.
Most cases of indigestion clear up on their own, either with or without antacids or other over-the-counter medications. If they persist for longer than two weeks, a professional medical exam is advised.
Seek medical attention if
Chest pain that circulates to the jaw, neck, or arm that worsens when physically active, unusual sweating and shortness of breath either with or without indigestion is a medical emergency. Those experiencing these symptoms should obtain immediate medical attention.
Indigestion can be caused by many different things, including eating too fast or overeating. Greasy, spicy foods – and foods high in fat – also cause indigestion, as well as drinking too much alcohol, smoking, drinking too much caffeine, eating too much chocolate, and consuming too many carbonated beverages. Generalized anxiety disorder and some antibiotics such as iron supplements and pain relievers can also cause indigestion.
Digestive conditions can also be the cause of indigestion. Some of those conditions include intestinal blockage, chronic and acute gastritis, constipation, reduced blood flow in the intestine (intestinal ischemia), congestive heart failure, gallbladder disease, peptic ulcers, celiac disease, stomach cancer, cirrhosis, pregnancy, ovarian cancer, pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis), chronic cholecystitis, and gallstones.
Indigestion that is not caused by an underlying condition may be fairly simple to remedy. In other cases, the cause of indigestion must be addressed to solve or better control the problem.
Prevent indigestion by limiting your intake of processed, fatty and spicy foods, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and alcohol. Make sure you’re eating slowly and chewing your food completely before swallowing it. Also, chew with your mouth closed and don’t eat while talking because it can cause you to swallow air, which leads to indigestion or worsens it. You can also try drinking your beverage after your meal instead of during it. Only take NSAIDs and aspirin or other pain relievers with meals, rather than on an empty stomach.
Exercising regularly is encouraged, as it helps to promote better digestion, but waiting an hour after you eat is recommended. Keep your stress to a minimum by creating a calm environment during your meals. Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation or deep breathing can help you accomplish this. Getting plenty of sleep and spending time doing the things you love doing are also great ways to help avoid triggering indigestion.
Try eating smaller meals frequently throughout the day, especially if you’re pregnant. Pregnancy tends to welcome indigestion, so it’s important that you’re as comfortable as possible to avoid getting it. Also, refrain from eating late at night.