What Causes Indigestion?

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Indigestion is extremely common and most people will experience it at some point which leads many to wonder, what causes indigestion? Find out here.

Woman with stomach painIndigestion, also called dyspepsia, is a very common condition that most people will experience at some point in their lives. In most cases it tends to not be too serious and can be treated at home, with some simple lifestyle changes paired with over-the-counter medications. However, the cause of indigestion can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying digestive condition.

Keep reading to find out what causes indigestion, when you should see a doctor and how it’s treated.

What causes indigestion?

Indigestion occurs when the acid in your stomach irritates the lining of your stomach or throat, resulting in an unpleasant burning sensation or pain. Usually, the cause is related to lifestyle choices, particularly food, drinks and certain medications, the most common causes being:

• Overeating
• Eating too quickly
• Consuming too many fatty, greasy or spicy foods
• Drinking too much caffeine
• Chocolate
• Too many fizzy drinks
• Smoking
• Anxiety disorders
• Antibiotics
• Pain relief
• Iron supplements

In some instances, digestive conditions can cause indigestion, such as:

• Peptic ulcers
• Celiac disease
• Gastritis
• Gallstones
• Constipation
• Pancreatitis
• Stomach cancer
• Intestinal blockages
• Intestinal ischemia

However, if there’s no apparent cause to your indigestion, this is called functional or nonulcer dyspepsia.

Indigestion symptoms

The symptoms of indigestion will usually come on after eating or drinking and may include:

Man feeling sick• Heartburn
• Feeling full or bloated
• Feeling sick
• Burping
• Passing wind
• Bringing up food or bitter tasting liquids

The above symptoms can be experienced once every so often or can be so frequent as to occur after every meal.

When to see a doctor

Usually when the cause of indigestion is down to lifestyle factors, there’s nothing to worry about, but it’s a good idea to see a pharmacist if the problem persists for more than two weeks. Your pharmacist can recommend medicines such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors to reduce the acid in your stomach, therefore reducing your symptoms.

If the pain you’re experiencing with your indigestion is severe and paired with the following symptoms, book an appointment with your GP right away:

Woman with tummy pains• Weight loss
• Lack of appetite
• Consistent vomiting
• Vomiting blood
• Black, tarry stools
• Difficulty swallowing
• Lethargy and weakness

You should go to a healthcare professional right away if you’re experiencing shortness of breath, sweating or chest pain that radiates to the jaw, neck or arm or chest pain on stress or exertion.

Diagnosing indigestion

Generally, just taking your health history and carrying out a physical is enough for your GP to diagnose mild indigestion if you’re not experiencing any symptoms of concern.

However, if your indigestion came on suddenly or you seem to be experiencing severe symptoms, your GP may carry out tests to check for anaemia or metabolic disorders, breath and stool tests to look for H. pylori (bacteria linked to peptic ulcers), an endoscopy to examine the upper digestive tract and an X-ray or CT scan to check for any obstructions.

Treating indigestion

The treatment will depend on the cause of indigestion, but when its lifestyle related, the following changes may be recommended by your healthcare professional:

• Avoiding fatty, greasy or spicy foods
• Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day
• Cutting down on alcohol, caffeine and/or fizzy drinks
• Stress relief techniques to reduce stress and anxiety
• Avoiding certain pain relief medications
• Switching medication

As mentioned previously, your pharmacist can recommend over-the-counter antacids and proton pump inhibitors, but if these don’t seem to help you may be prescribed other medications to reduce symptoms including: H-2 receptor antagonists (H2Ras) to reduce stomach acid; prokinetics to strengthen the lower oesophageal sphincter and help the stomach empty its contents faster; antibiotics to treat H. pylori bacteria if the cause of indigestion is peptic ulcers or antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to decrease sensations of pain.

Now you know what causes indigestion! Want to find out some simple remedies to help your indigestion? Read our guide, next.



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