What Is Indigestion?


Indigestion is a general term that describes discomfort in your upper abdomen---an upset stomach. Indigestion is not a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms you experience, such as heartburn, bloating, belching and nausea. How you experience indigestion may differ from how someone else does. Common in children and adults, indigestion can be controlled in most cases but sometimes is a sign of a more serious problem.


  • There are many reasons for a person to develop indigestion. Diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, thyroid disease, ulcers and pancreatitis can lead to the condition. Painkillers like aspirin and other anti-inflammatory meds as well as certain antibiotics and steroidal medicines can contribute to indigestion. Lifestyle-related reasons consist of smoking, alcohol consumption, overeating, eating too rapidly, consuming foods high in fat, stress and fatigue. Pregnant women can experience indigestion because of hormonal changes.


  • The signs of indigestion are many and don't necessarily happen all at once. The burning feeling in the stomach or upper abdomen region is one. This is heartburn, but it can be indicative of other gastrointestinal maladies. Bloating, belching and gas, nausea, an acidic taste in your mouth, and a growling stomach are all indigestion symptoms.


  • Fewer than 10 percent of those with indigestion seek treatment for the condition. The symptoms of indigestion can be dealt with through medications but first your doctor will want to find the reason behind the ailment. Some of the things physicians look for are heartburn, where stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Peptic ulcers are sores in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine that can cause indigestion pain. Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining, often brought about by painkillers. Gallstones, solid deposits that form in the gallbladder, can be responsible for chronic bouts of indigestion. Stomach cancer can be a cause of indigestion but is a rare occurrence. Doctors will consider all these possibilities.


  • There are many ways to avoid indigestion. Try not to eat too fast or swallow air with your food. Drink fluids after meals and not during. Keep away from late-night snacks and spicy foods. Quit drinking and smoking. Eat smaller meals so the stomach doesn't have to exert itself. Make acidic foods like tomatoes and oranges off-limits. Cut down on caffeine intake and don't wear tight clothes that will restrict your stomach. Try to eliminate sources of stress and wait at least three hours before going to bed after you eat.


  • Many people will mistake heart attack symptoms for those of indigestion. The two conditions have similar signs and those who have had indigestion will assume that they are just experiencing another bout of it, especially if classic heart attack symptoms such as pain in the left arm and jaw do not occur. People can mistake the heart attack for heartburn and indigestion.

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