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Indigestion

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Definition

Indigestion is discomfort in the upper abdomen or chest. It is often linked to nausea, belching, or bloating.

Locations of Indigestion Symptoms
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Causes

The exact cause is not known. Most often, the condition is linked to a number of unhealthy lifestyle factors. These factors can result in poor digestion.

Risk Factors

The following lifestyle factors increase your chances of indigestion:

  • Overeating
  • Eating too quickly or at irregular intervals
  • Eating greasy, high-fat, or spicy foods
  • Drinking caffeine, alcohol, or soft drinks in excess
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Smoking
  • Psychological stress

Symptoms

Indigestion is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pain or burning sensation in the upper abdomen or chest
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Belching or regurgitation

When Should I Call My Doctor?

It is common to have indigestion occasionally. If the episodes worsen or happen more frequently, make an appointment to see your doctor. If you have indigestion, important reasons to call your doctor include:

  • Having trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting with most episodes
  • Experiencing weight loss
  • Having a family history of cancer

When Should I Call for Medical Help Immediately?

Call for medical help or go to the emergency room right away if you have:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool or dark black stool
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Indigestion is diagnosed mainly on the symptoms listed above.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

Your bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

The rate at which the stomach empties may need to be evaluated. This can be done with a gastric emptying study.

Treatment

Your doctor will suggest a plan based on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options may include the following:

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may advise you to:

  • Reduce your intake of fatty and spicy foods.
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
  • Reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages.
  • If you smoke, quit .
  • Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • If stress is related to your symptoms, find ways to manage stress.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Exercise regularly .

Medications

Medications your doctor may recommend include:

  • Antacids—to help neutralize stomach acid
  • Acid suppression agents
  • Prokinetic agents—to help the stomach empty its contents more quickly
  • Antibiotics—to treat a bacterial infection if tests confirm that you have this infection

Prevention

To prevent indigestion:

  • Avoid overeating.
  • Eat slowly and regularly.
  • Avoid greasy, high-fat foods.
  • Limit spicy foods.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Drink coffee, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages in moderation.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Peter Lucas, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2013 -
  • Update Date: 12/16/2013 -
  • The American College of Gastroenterology

    http://www.acg.gi.org

  • American Gastroenterological Association

    http://www.gastro.org

  • The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

    http://www.cag-acg.org

  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada

    http://www.cfpc.ca

  • Dyspepsia: treatment. American Academy of Family Physicians' FamilyDoctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dyspepsia/treatment.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed December 16, 2013.

  • Karamanolis G, Caenepeel P, Arts J, Tack J. Association of the predominant symptom with clinical characteristics and pathophysiological mechanisms in functional dyspepsia. Gastroenterology. 2006; 130:296

  • Mertz H, Fullerton S, Naliboff B, Mayer EA. Symptoms and visceral perception in severe functional organic dyspepsia. Gut. 1998; 42:814.

  • Tack J, Talley NJ, Camilleri M, et al. Functional gastroduodenal disorders. Gastroenterology. 2006; 130:466

  • 3/1/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Maalox Total Relief and Maalox liquid products: medication use errors. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm200672.htm. Published February 17, 2010. Accessed December 16, 2013.