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What Is Indigestion (Dyspepsia)?


Dyspepsia, or indigestion, is a common and treatable condition that can have several symptoms. Discover more about the causes of this condition, how it’s diagnosed, and the treatment options that are available.

Indigestion Symptoms

The symptoms of dyspepsia may or may not occur together. You may also experience different symptoms after consuming certain foods. Some common indigestions symptoms can include:

  • Pain in your chest or upper abdomen after eating
  • Abdominal bloating or pain
  • Nausea
  • Early feeling of fullness during meals
  • Gas and constipation

Some people experience additional symptoms such as belching, excessive gas, and a burning feeling in the esophagus or stomach. Other symptoms are considered to be serious and include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Having trouble swallowing
  • Noticing that vomit looks like coffee grounds or is bloody
  • Black stools

What Causes Indigestion?

Indigestion has a range of causes, including eating too fast or too much. Indigestion risk increases with the consumption of foods that are high in fat, greasy, or spicy, but it can also be the result of excess alcohol consumption, smoking, and stress. Along with these, indigestion can also be caused by:

Medications that irritate the stomach and digestive systems; these include NSAIDs like ibuprofen and antibiotics.
Medical conditions affecting the digestive system, such as abnormalities with the bile duct or pancreas.
Diseases including gastric cancer, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Food intolerances like an inability to digest gluten and lactose.
Habits like smoking or alcohol and caffeine consumption.

Indigestion vs. Acid Reflux

Although closely related, indigestion and acid reflux are diagnosed and treated as separate gastrointestinal issues. The symptoms of the two conditions can also differ.

Indigestion symptoms are commonly experienced in the abdominal area, while the symptoms of acid reflux are experienced in the chest and esophageal regions. Heartburn is often experienced simultaneously with acid reflux.

Where indigestion can be caused by foods, diseases, habits, or medications, acid reflux can be caused by a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. The LES is a muscle that tightens after you swallow food or drink. If it is not functioning as it should, stomach acid will be able to enter your esophagus and cause acid reflux.

Frequent reflux episodes occurring twice or more weekly may indicate GERD, a more serious form of acid reflux that can damage the esophagus.

How Is Dyspepsia Diagnosed?

Team of doctors performing endoscopy in hospital examining stomach of patient

Your provider will often ask you several questions regarding your health and daily habits before diagnosing you with dyspepsia to rule out other conditions. They will ask you questions about what and how you eat and review your health chart as well as your medical history. Your doctor will also want to know about the severity and frequency of any symptoms you are experiencing.

They may also conduct an exam and order abdominal x-rays. Samples of your stool, breath, and blood may also be collected. Other testing, such as an upper GI endoscopy, may also be ordered. This particular test involves looking at your esophagus and sampling tissue.

Indigestion Treatment

In many cases, dyspepsia resolves itself without medical intervention. If you experience indigestion regularly, you may benefit from the following treatment options:

Lifestyle Changes

If the cause of your dyspepsia is dietary, making different food choices can be enough to resolve your discomfort. Avoid spicy, greasy, or carbonated foods and beverages, and monitor your symptoms.

Those with indigestion caused by stress may benefit from adding meditation, deep breathing, or yoga practices to their lifestyle. Being in nature, walking, or engaging in a relaxing hobby can also reduce stress.

People who smoke may consider cessation or quitting, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and eating more slowly.

Home Treatments

You can treat your indigestion at home with over-the-counter dyspepsia and heartburn medications available at your local pharmacy.

Acupuncture, reflexology, and herbal treatments can be effective for indigestion. A small amount of peppermint extract (available in the baking aisle of your local grocery store or ordered online) taken orally can relieve an upset stomach. Ginger root powder or chews can help to resolve the nausea that can sometimes accompany dyspepsia.

It’s important to note that peppermint and ginger may trigger heartburn. For this reason, they may not be appropriate for those who experience frequent heartburn.

Pharmaceutical Interventions

If over-the-counter medications, lifestyle changes, or natural products are not effective at treating your indigestion, your doctor may prescribe proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor antagonists, or prokinetic products.

However, these medications do have a range of side effects, which include dizziness, backache, depression, and diarrhea, which can be mild to severe in intensity.

Are You Experiencing Chronic Indigestion?

Young Asian pretty woman suffering from indigestion

Some people experience indigestion regardless of the foods they eat, medications they take, or lifestyle changes they make. The symptoms of chronic indigestion can negatively affect your quality of life and, if left untreated, may result in the development of more serious complications, such as GERD, which causes damage to the intestinal tract.

Are you suffering from mild, moderate, or severe gastrointestinal symptoms? Gastroenterology at Crystal Run Healthcare uses the most advanced technology and procedures to provide expert insight.

Our academically trained gastroenterologists offer effective treatments for all gastrointestinal issues, including dyspepsia, acid reflux Barret’s esophagus, and GERD. At Crystal Run, our gastroenterologists perform Upper Endoscopy procedures in our advanced Crystal Run Ambulatory Surgery Center and onsite Endoscopy Suites. Endoscopy is, an effective tool for diagnosing and monitoring reflux and dysplasia disorders. With offices in Middletown, Monroe, Warwick, and Newburgh, our gastroenterologists are always close to home. Visit us online or call for more information: 845-703-6999.