Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Indigestion, also known as upset stomach or
dyspepsia, is a painful or burning feeling in the upper abdomen, often
accompanied by nausea, abdominal bloating, belching, and sometimes vomiting.
Indigestion might be caused by a
disease or an ulcer in the digestive tract, but for most 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 indigestion—is caused by a
problem in how food moves through the digestive tract.
To diagnose indigestion, the doctor
first rules out other 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 closely at the inside of the
Avoiding the foods and
situations that seem to cause indigestion is the most successful way to treat
it. Excess stomach acid does not cause or result from indigestion, so antacids
are not an appropriate treatment, although some people report that they do help.
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
To treat indigestion
caused by a functional problem in the digestive tract, the doctor may prescribe
medicine that affects stomach movement.
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.