Indigestion Symptoms, Causes, Diet, Treatments


With the wrong diet, no medicine can help. With the right diet, no medicine is necessary – Confucius. Indeed the famed Chinese philosopher most likely had indigestion in his mind when he had delivered that sermon. People usually suffer from indigestion by consuming unhealthy food that the stomach fails to digest. The result: uncomfortable feeling in the upper abdomen, pain, fullness, bloating and nausea. Some also suffer from GERD (Gastro esophageal Reflux Disease) along with indigestion, while doctors debate whether indigestion causes GERD or GERD causes indigestion, despite the fact that GERD is mostly caused due to failure of the esophageal sphincter valve.

What actually causes Indigestion

To be precise, indigestion has many causes that include disease conditions, side effect of certain medications as well as unhealthy lifestyle. Disease conditions include:

  • Ulcers
  • GERD
  • Gastroparesis (condition when the stomach fails to empty itself appropriately; mostly occurring in people with diabetes)
  • Stomach infection
  • IBS
  • Chronic Pancreatitis
  • Thyroid problem
  • Malignant growth in stomach (rather rare)
  • Pregnancy (Though not a disease condition)

Side effect of certain medications that include:

  • Aspirin and sundry other painkillers, such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen.
  • Estrogen and oral contraceptives
  • Steroid medications
  • Some antibiotics
  • Thyroid medications

Leading unhealthy lifestyle such as the following also causes chronic indigestion:

  • Gluttony
  • Consuming high-fat food or spicy food
  • Eating late-night dinner
  • Alcoholism
  • Chain smoking
  • Lack of physical exercise

Incidentally, some people have persistent indigestion that is unrelated to any of the above conditions and so are termed as Functional, or Non-ulcer dyspepsia.

How to prevent Indigestion

Even though we are well acquainted with the adage that proclaims “Prevention is better than cure”, very few of us are aware of what actually prevents indigestion. However, obeying the following rules will help prevent indigestion and its accompanying uneasiness and discomfort.

  • Instead of eating three heavy meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner), eat many smaller meals per day so that the digestive power of the stomach is not over stressed.
  • Stay away from food items that have given rise to indigestion in the past. Eat slowly; do not gulp.
  • Cut down or avoid foods/beverages that contain caffeine.
  • If stress triggers indigestion (according to past experience) learn how to manage stress that includes Yoga or Biofeedback technique.
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption.
  • Don’t go to bed immediately after dinner.

Treatment of Indigestion

When indigestion is caused by excessive stomach acid, ulcers, GERD, esophagitis, or gastritis, your doctor is likely to prescribe potent acid blockers for immediate relief that include:

  • Omeprazole
  • Lansoprazole
  • Rabeprazole
  • Pantoprazole
  • Esomeprazole

A grouping of antibiotics as well as acid blockers may be prescribed for longer periods if the underlying cause is related to Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). If, on the other hand, the underlying cause is found to be gastroparesis, pro-motility drug such as Metoclopramide is often prescribed.

If, however, the underlying cause of indigestion is related to depression or anxiety, antidepressants are routinely prescribed.


Occasional bouts of indigestion and accompanying discomfort are mostly cured without the use of prescription medicine, but persistent spells of indigestion or chronic dyspepsia needs thorough investigation and prolonged treatment by gastroenterologist.


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