What is indigestion?

Indigestion, also called upset stomach, is an uncomfortable or burning feeling in the upper part of your belly. Besides pain you may have nausea, bloating, belching, and sometimes vomiting. Indigestion is common, but it is rarely a serious health problem.

What is the cause?

Usually indigestion happens because you ate too much or too fast, or you ate when you were feeling stressed or very tired. It can also happen if you eat too late in the day, or if you eat and then lie down. Some medicines, foods, or alcohol may cause indigestion or make it worse. Sometimes indigestion is caused by an infection or other disease.

How is it treated?

Most of the time you don’t need to see your healthcare provider for treatment. Here are some things you can do to relieve indigestion:

  • Instead of 2 or 3 large meals, try eating smaller meals, more often.
  • Avoid the foods and drinks that seem to bother your stomach. Foods and drinks that are more likely to cause indigestion are high-fat or spicy foods, wine, carbonated drinks, and drinks with caffeine.
  • Allow enough time for eating so you can chew your food carefully and not feel rushed.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should avoid aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, or naproxen. They may cause stomach bleeding and other problems.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking can increase stomach acid. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
  • Do not exercise or bend over on a full stomach.
  • Avoid clothes with tight waistbands.
  • Try to avoid stressful situations before or during meals.

If you have indigestion just once in a while, you may try treating it with antacids. You can get them as liquids or pills without a prescription at drug or grocery stores. Take them as directed on the package.

If you have indigestion nearly every day for 2 weeks, see your healthcare provider. You may need medical tests to see if there is a more serious cause for the problem.

Most of the time indigestion is not caused by anything serious. However, a heart attack can sometimes cause symptoms like indigestion. Signs of a heart attack may be one or more of the following:

  • Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Trouble breathing
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
  • Pain that does not go away after taking your nitroglycerin as directed (if your provider has prescribed nitroglycerin for angina)

Along with these symptoms, you may also feel very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach. In severe cases, sudden death may occur.

Call 911 for emergency help right away if you have symptoms of a heart attack. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Immediate emergency care improves your chances of survival and may help avoid damage to your heart.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2014-10-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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