1 What is Indigestion?
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia or stomach upset, is a condition in which there is discomfort in the abdomen. Symptoms include abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness at the beginning of a meal.
Symptoms may vary from individual to individual with some people experiencing symptoms occasionally and other on a daily basis. Indigestion can a sign of other diseases of the digestive tract.
Lifestyle changes and medication can ease the symptoms of indigestion.
The signs and symptoms of indigestion include:
Early fullness during a meal
Fullness that lasts longer than usual
Mild to severe pain in the area between the breastbone (sternum) and navel
Bloating in the upper part of the abdomen
Heartburn in some cases
Indigestion can be caused by several factors and can be triggered by food, drink or certain medications.
Common causes of indigestion include:
Overeating or eating too quickly
Fatty, greasy or spicy foods
Excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol, chocolate or carbonated beverages
Anxiety Certain antibiotics, pain killers and iron supplements
Digestive conditions that can cause indigestion include:
4 Making a Diagnosis
A thorough physical exam and a medical history are usually enough for the diagnosis of indigestion in mild cases.
In cases of severe indigestion, doctors may request further tests, such as:
Lab tests to check for thyroid problems or other metabolic disorders.
Breath and stool tests to check for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacteria associated with
peptic ulcer, that can also cause indigestion. Endoscopy to check for abnormalities in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A biopsy may also be taken for further lab analysis.
Imaging tests, such as X-ray or
CT scan to check for intestinal obstruction.
If the initial testing fails to provide a cause, the doctor may diagnose functional dyspepsia.
Over-the-counter antacids are the first choice in the treatment of indigestion. Other treatments include:
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI's) - which can reduce stomach acids, are usually given in patients who experience
heartburn. H-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) - which also reduce stomach acids.
Prokinetics - which help the stomach to empty slowly.
Antibiotics if H. pylori are the cause indigestion.
Antidepressants or anti-
anxiety medications, which may ease the discomfort from indigestion by decreasing the sensation of pain.
6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies
Alternative and complementary remedies for indigestion include:
Herbal tea with peppermint.
STW5 (iberogast), a liquid supplement that contains extracts of herbs including bitter candytuft, caraway, and licorice root. This remedy may work by reducing the production f stomach acid.
Artichoke leaf extract, which may stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and improve digestion.
Psychological treatment, including behavior modification, relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, and hypnotherapy.
Acupuncture which may block the pathways of the nerves which transmit pain sensations to the brain.
7 Lifestyle and Coping
Lifestyle changes that can relieve symptoms of mild cases of indigestion include:
Eating smaller, more frequent meals and chewing slowly and thoroughly.
Avoiding foods that can trigger indigestion, such as fatty and spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate and carbonated beverages.
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly to promote better digestion.
Avoiding certain drugs, such as pain killers which may irritate the stomach lining.
8 Risks and Complications
Indigestion doesn't cause serious complications. It can however, cause discomfort and loss of appetite.