Indigestion is a very common condition that most people experience at some point in their lives. Although it’s not usually serious and can be treated yourself, it can be disturbing to your daily life. In this article you will find the comprehensive Gaviscon guide to indigestion, including:
- What is indigestion?
- Symptoms of indigestion
- Causes of indigestion
- Treatment of indigestion
- When to see a doctor
What is indigestion?
Indigestion or ‘dyspepsia’ is a general term for stomach pain or discomfort. The term encompasses a range of digestive symptoms and is a common problem that affects many people, usually after eating or drinking. It is caused by acid breaking down the protective lining of the stomach wall, which leads to irritation and soreness.
Symptoms of indigestion
Indigestion usually occur immediately after eating, or later. Some of the most common symptoms of indigestion might include:1
- A ‘burning‘ feeling in the stomach or upper abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating, or a feeling of being full
- The need to burp, belch or fart a lot
- Nausea or vomiting
- Acidic taste in your mouth
- Loss of appetite
Causes of indigestion
Indigestion is the result of the stomach producing excess stomach acid which irritates your stomach lining.1 There are many reasons why you might get indigestion, but most are related to eating. Here are some of the most common causes of indigestion:
The way you eat
- Eating large meals can cause your stomach to produce too much acid. Physically 'overfilling' the stomach can create pressure and cause acid to escape
- Eating irregularly or too quickly can lead to not having enough time to regulate acid levels in the stomach
- Eating while on the run or just before bedtime can make it easier for acid to escape back up into the esophagus (food pipe)
The types of food you eat
- Fatty foods tend to stay in your stomach longer because fats are slower to digest
- Foods such as chocolate and mint may have a relaxant effect on the sphincter (ring of muscle) at the entrance to the stomach enabling acid to escape back up
- Spicy foods, onions and tomato products
The types of drinks you drink
- Caffeinated drinks and alcohol tend to increase acidity in your stomach
- Very hot drinks and citrus juices may also be triggers
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy
- The baby physically putting pressure on the woman's digestive tract
In some cases, indigestion might be triggered or made worse by other factors such as:
- Stress, depression, or anxiety
- Certain medications, such as those for heart problems, asthma and high blood pressure
- Being overweight can increase your risks of suffering from indigestion
- Wearing tight clothes which can put pressure on your stomach
- Smoking can encourage acid production and cause the sphincter to relax
Heartburn and indigestion tend to have similar triggers, and often one will be accompanied by the other.
How to relieve heartburn
Treatment for indigestion will depend on the cause of the problem and how severe symptoms are. Because indigestion is a result of the stomach producing excess stomach acid, neutralising this acid should help relieve symptoms.
In most cases you should be able to manage your indigestion by making a few simple diet and lifestyle changes. The following self-help tips can help to prevent/manage symptoms of indigestion:2
- Avoid or cut down on spicy, fatty or rich foods
- Eat a balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid or cut down on caffeinated and alcoholic beverages
- Drink fluids after meals, rather than during meals
- Avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime
- Get more rest
- Stop smoking
- Try losing weight if you’re overweight
- Avoid chewing with your mouth open, talking while chewing, or eating too fast (as this can cause you to swallow too much air and bring on indigestion)3
- Prop your head and shoulders up when you go to bed - this should help prevent stomach acid moving up into your esophagus while you’re sleeping
What is heartburn?Over-the-counter medication
If you are suffering from indigestion and are looking for quick relief, there are a number of OTC (Over-the-Counter) medications that can help relieve symptoms.
- Gaviscon Double Action starts to neutralize excess stomach acid in as fast as 5 minutes and starts forming a film over the contents of the stomach, which help prevent acid coming back up into the esophagus (food pipe). It is available in tablet and liquid sachet form. This provides relief for heartburn, too. These can be used during pregnancy.
Sodium Alginate + Sodium Bicarbonate + Calcium Carbonate is the generic name of Gaviscon Double Action.
If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
When to see a doctor<
From time to time, indigestion might be the indication of something more serious. Seek medical advice if you also experience:4
- Chronic indigestion
- Worsening or severe indigestion
- Unexplained weight loss
- Vomiting over a longer period of a couple of days
- Blood in your vomit or stools
- Pain in your right abdomen
- Have difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)
- A lump feeling in your stomach
- Acid reflux (as this may be an indication of Gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GORD)
- If you are feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious about something, speak to your doctor about coping techniques, or suitable treatment available (because stress and anxiety can contribute to indigestion)
- Indigestion is often accompanied by heartburn which may manifest itself like chest pains. If indigestion is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating or pain in the jaw, neck or arm, immediately seek medical help.
If you are seeing your doctor about your indigestion, be as specific as much as possible about the location of the pain or bloating that you feel. Indigestion is such a broad term. Therefore, the more specific you will be, the quicker and more accurate your doctor will likely be able to help and diagnose the condition that is causing it.
ASC Reference code: R013P101217G
Did you know?
- 73% of people will suffer from both heartburn and indigestion interchangeably.
- 1 in 5 people suffering from heartburn may experience symptoms every week.