Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a mild discomfort in the upper belly or abdomen. It often occurs during or right after eating. It may feel like:
- Heat, burning, or pain in the area between the navel and the lower part of the breastbone
- Unpleasant fullness that starts soon after a meal begins or when the meal is over
Bloating and nausea are less common symptoms.
Indigestion is NOT the same as heartburn.
Most of the time, indigestion is not a sign of a serious health problem unless it occurs with other symptoms. These may include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Weight loss
Rarely, the discomfort of a heart attack is mistaken for indigestion.
Indigestion may be triggered by:
- Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
- Eating too much (overeating)
- Eating too fast
- Eating high-fiber foods
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Stress or being nervous
Other causes of indigestion are:
- Gastritis (when the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed or swollen)
- Swelling of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Ulcers (stomach or intestinal ulcer)
- Use of certain medicines such as antibiotics, aspirin, and over-the-counter pain medicines (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen)
Changing the way you eat may help your symptoms. Steps you can take include:
- Allow enough time for meals.
- Avoid arguments during meals.
- Avoid excitement or exercise right after a meal.
- Chew food carefully and completely.
- Relax and get rest if indigestion is caused by stress.
Avoid aspirin and other NSAIDs. If you must take them, do so on a full stomach.
Antacids may relieve indigestion.
Medicines you can buy without a prescription, such as ranitidine (Zantac) and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC) can relieve symptoms. Your health care provider may also prescribe these medicines in higher doses or for longer periods of time.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Get medical help right away if your symptoms include jaw pain, chest pain, back pain, heavy sweating, anxiety, or a feeling of impending doom. These are possible heart attack symptoms.
Call your provider if:
- Your indigestion symptoms change noticeably.
- Your symptoms last longer than a few days.
- You have unexplained weight loss.
- You have sudden, severe abdominal pain.
- You have trouble swallowing.
- You have yellow coloring of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
- You vomit blood or pass blood in the stool.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will do a physical exam on the stomach area and digestive tract. You will be asked questions about your symptoms.
You may have some tests, including:
- Blood tests
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (upper endoscopy)
- Ultrasound test of the abdomen
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.