Is it indigestion or something else? Find out about causes, symptoms and treatment for this common digestive disorder.
Indigestion — also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach — is discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion describes certain symptoms, such as abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness soon after you start eating, rather than a specific disease. Indigestion can also be a symptom of various digestive diseases.
Although indigestion is common, each person may experience indigestion in a slightly different way. Symptoms of indigestion may be felt occasionally or as often as daily.
Indigestion may often be relieved with lifestyle changes and medications.
The major organs in your digestive system are the liver, stomach, gallbladder, colon and small intestine.
If you have indigestion, you may have:
Less frequent signs and symptoms include vomiting and belching.
Sometimes people with indigestion also experience heartburn. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back during or after eating.
Mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about. Consult your doctor if discomfort persists for more than two weeks.
Contact your doctor right away if pain is severe or accompanied by:
Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
Indigestion has many possible causes. Often, indigestion is related to lifestyle and may be triggered by food, drink or medication. Common causes of indigestion include:
A condition known as functional or nonulcer dyspepsia, which is related to irritable bowel syndrome, is a very common cause of indigestion.
Sometimes indigestion is caused by other conditions, including:
Although indigestion doesn't usually have serious complications, it can affect your quality of life by making you feel uncomfortable and causing you to eat less. You might miss work or school because of your symptoms.
Your doctor is likely to start with a health history and a thorough physical exam. Those evaluations may be sufficient if your indigestion is mild and you're not experiencing certain symptoms, such as weight loss and repeated vomiting.
But if your indigestion began suddenly, and you are experiencing severe symptoms or are older than age 55, your doctor may recommend:
Lifestyle changes may help ease indigestion. Your doctor may recommend:
If your indigestion persists, medications may help. Over-the-counter antacids are generally the first choice. Other options include:
Mild indigestion can often be helped with lifestyle changes, including:
Alternative and complementary treatments have been used for many years to ease indigestion, although their effectiveness varies among different individuals. These treatments include:
Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements to be sure you're taking a safe dose and that the supplement won't adversely interact with any other medications you're taking.
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor, or you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in digestive diseases (gastroenterologist). Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
Be ready to answer questions your doctor may ask: