What is Indigestion?

General description/overview

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.


  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating large quantities of food
  • Fats
  • Spices
  • Oils
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Stress and anxiety
  • An underlying condition

What are the Symptoms of Indigestion?

Doctors consider all symptoms and medical history when determining a course of treatment for indigestion including possible underlying causes.

Symptoms include

  • Unusual feeling of fullness
  • Feeling full for an extended period of time
  • Pain in the upper abdominal region
  • Sensation of burning in upper abdominal region
  • Heartburn
  • Unexplained nausea

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

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Black stools that may indicate bleeding
  • Worsening difficulty with swallowing
  • Lethargy that may indicate anemia

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.

How is Indigestion Treated?

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.

Treatment includes

  • Eating smaller meals more frequently
  • Controlling anxiety with or without medication and therapy
  • Alternate medications
  • Avoidance of NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium)
  • Avoidance of caffeine and alcohol
  • Antacids
  • Proton pump inhibitors to decrease stomach acid
  • H2R antagonists to decrease stomach acid
  • Prokinetics for slow digestion
  • Antibiotics if the cause of indigestion is found to be bacterial