Indigestion, also known as upset stomach or dyspepsia, is
discomfort or a burning feeling in the upper abdomen, often accompanied by
nausea, abdominal bloating, belching, and sometimes vomiting. Some people also
use the term indigestion to describe the symptom of heartburn.
Indigestion might be caused by a disease in the digestive tract such as ulcer or
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but for many people, it results from
eating too much, eating too quickly, eating high-fat foods, or eating during
stressful situations. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, using medications that
irritate the stomach lining, being tired, and having ongoing stress can also
cause indigestion or make it worse.
Some people have persistent indigestion that is not related to any of these
factors. This type of indigestion—called functional or nonulcer dyspepsia—may be
caused by a problem in the muscular squeezing action of the stomach (motility).
To diagnose indigestion, the doctor might perform tests for problems, like
ulcers. In the process of diagnosis, a person may have x rays of the stomach and
small intestine or undergo endoscopy, in which the doctor uses an instrument to
look at the inside of the stomach.
Avoiding the foods and situations that seem to cause indigestion in some cases
is the most successful way to treat it. Heartburn caused by acid reflux is
usually improved by treatment with antacids, H2-blockers, or proton pump
inhibitors. Smokers can help relieve their indigestion by quitting smoking, or
at least not smoking right before eating. Exercising with a full stomach may
cause indigestion, so scheduling exercise before a meal or at least an hour
afterward might help.
To treat indigestion caused by a functional problem in the digestive tract, the
doctor may prescribe medicine that affects stomach motility.
Because indigestion can be a sign of, or mimic, a more serious disease, people
should see a doctor if they have
vomiting, weight loss, or appetite loss
black tarry stools or blood in vomit
severe pain in the upper right abdomen
discomfort unrelated to eating
indigestion accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating,
or pain radiating to the jaw, neck, or arm
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