Indigestion — also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach — is a general term that describes discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms you experience, including bloating, belching and nausea. Although indigestion is common, how you experience indigestion may differ from other people. Symptoms of indigestion might be felt occasionally or as often as daily.
Fortunately, you may be able to prevent or treat the symptoms of indigestion.
Most people with indigestion have one or more of the following symptoms:
Less frequent symptoms that may come along with indigestion include:
Sometimes people with indigestion also experience heartburn, but heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back after or during eating.
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
There are many possible causes of indigestion. Some are related to lifestyle and what you're eating and drinking. Indigestion can also be caused by other digestive conditions.
Common causes include:
When a cause for indigestion can't be found after a thorough evaluation, a person may have functional dyspepsia. Functional dyspepsia is a type of indigestion that occurs because of an impairment in the stomach's ability to accept and digest food and then pass that food to the small intestine.
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. When indigestion is caused by an underlying condition, that condition could come with complications of its own.
Preparing for your appointment
If you have indigestion, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred directly to a gastroenterologist.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For indigestion, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
To investigate your signs and symptoms of indigestion, your doctor will likely:
To rule out other conditions that can cause indigestion, the doctor might order tests, including:
Treatments and drugs
If lifestyle changes — especially avoiding offending foods — don't help your indigestion, there also are over-the-counter and prescription medications that may help. Most are designed to reduce stomach acid or help move food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Types of indigestion medications include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Healthy lifestyle choices may help prevent mild indigestion.
Some people may find relief from indigestion through the following methods, although more research is needed to determine their effectiveness:
You may see herbal products that promise relief from indigestion. But remember, these products often haven't been proven effective and there's a risk that comes with taking herbs because they're not regulated.
Last Updated: 2011-04-28
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