Why Do I Have Indigestion?

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You may have indigestion after eating some foods, such as greasy or spicy foods, taking certain medications, or due to an underlying health condition. Treatment can depend on the cause.

Indigestion is the name given to a collection of digestive symptoms, including a feeling of fullness or discomfort in your upper abdomen, heartburn, and nausea. The medical term for indigestion is dyspepsia.

People often experience indigestion after eating large meals. However, several other factors can lead you to develop symptoms of indigestion.

Causes of indigestion
There are many possible causes of indigestion. These can range from dietary and lifestyle habits to the side effects of medications and serious underlying conditions.

Lifestyle
You experience indigestion when your body cannot digest food as normal. This may be the result of eating a lot or eating too fast.

Spicy, greasy, and fatty foods also increase the risk of indigestion. Lying down too soon after eating can make it harder to digest food. This increases your risk of abdominal discomfort.

Other common causes of poor digestion include:
smoking
drinking too much alcohol
stress

Medication
Indigestion can be a side effect  of taking specific medications.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are one class of medications that can cause indigestion.

Antibiotics, medications that treat or prevent bacterial infections, can also irritate the digestive system and cause indigestion as a side effect.

Medical conditions
Several medical conditions can also cause indigestion. These include:
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
gastric cancer
pancreatic or bile duct abnormalities
peptic ulcers
lactose, gluten, and other intolerances
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
gastroparesis

Sometimes you may experience indigestion with no apparent cause. The medical term for this is functional dyspepsia.
Symptoms of indigestion
Indigestion can cause:

abdominal pain or bloating
heartburn
nausea
vomiting

Other common symptoms include:
quickly feeling full during a meal
burning sensation in the stomach or esophagus
experiencing excessive gas or belching

Indigestion may accompany severe symptoms such as:
vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
unexplained weight loss
black stools
trouble swallowing

Complications of indigestion
Indigestion does not typically lead to severe complications. However, severe or persistent symptoms may make it more difficult for you to eat the necessary amount of food. This may have an effect on the overall nutritional balance of your diet.

You may also experience indigestion alongside other symptoms, which themselves can lead to complications. For example, GERD can lead to the following complications:
esophageal stricture
pyloric stenosis
Barrett’s esophagus

Diagnosing indigestion
Your doctor will likely start by asking questions about your medical history and eating habits. You may also undergo a physical examination. Your doctor might order X-rays of your abdomen to see if there are any abnormalities in your digestive tract.

They may also collect blood, breath, and stool samples to check for a type of bacteria that causes peptic ulcers. Your doctor can also order an endoscopic exam to check your upper digestive tract for abnormalities.

During an endoscopy, your doctor passes a small tube with a camera and biopsy tool through your esophagus into your stomach. They can then check the lining of the digestive tract for diseases and collect tissue samples.

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy can diagnose the following:
reflux esophagitis
ulcers
inflammatory diseases

Treatment options for indigestion
Indigestion often goes away on its own and will pass with time. For example, if you experience indigestion after a large meal, your abdominal discomfort may lessen as your body begins to digest the food you’ve eaten.

However, some medications and lifestyle changes can help you treat and prevent indigestion symptoms.

Medications
Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat common indigestion symptoms, but they can cause side effects.
H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) like Pepcid reduce stomach acid. Side effects are uncommon but can include:
nausea
vomiting
diarrhea
rash or itching
constipation
headache
bleeding or bruising

Diagnosing indigestion
Your doctor will likely start by asking questions about your medical history and eating habits. You may also undergo a physical examination. Your doctor might order X-rays of your abdomen to see if there are any abnormalities in your digestive tract.

They may also collect blood, breath, and stool samples to check for a type of bacteria that causes peptic ulcers. Your doctor can also order an endoscopic exam to check your upper digestive tract for abnormalities.

During an endoscopy, your doctor passes a small tube with a camera and biopsy tool through your esophagus into your stomach. They can then check the lining of the digestive tract for diseases and collect tissue samples.

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy can diagnose the following:
reflux esophagitis
ulcers
inflammatory diseases

Treatment options for indigestion
Indigestion often goes away on its own and will pass with time. For example, if you experience indigestion after a large meal, your abdominal discomfort may lessen as your body begins to digest the food you’ve eaten.

However, some medications and lifestyle changes can help you treat and prevent indigestion symptoms.

Medications
Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat common indigestion symptoms, but they can cause side effects.

H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) like Pepcid reduce stomach acid. Side effects are uncommon but can include:
nausea
vomiting
diarrhea
rash or itching
constipation
headache
bleeding or bruising

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), like Prilosec, reduce stomach acid but are stronger than H2RAs. Side effects include:
nausea and vomiting
constipation
diarrhea
cough
headache
backache
dizziness
abdominal pain
Prokinetics, like prescription medications Reglan and Motilium, improve the muscle action of the digestive tract. However, taking these

medications may cause side effects, including:
depression
anxiety
involuntary movements or spasms
fatigue
Home remedies

Medication isn‘t the only treatment for indigestion. You may be able to improve digestion and relieve uncomfortable symptoms with lifestyle changes. For example, it can be helpful to:

avoid foods that can trigger heartburn
eat slower
don’t eat before lying down
try to stop smoking, if you smoke
try to maintain a moderate weight
reduce the amount of coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol you consume
reduce stress through yoga or relaxation therapy

Poor digestion is a common problem. However, you shouldn’t ignore indigestion that‘s:
chronic (long term)
severe
unresponsive to OTC medication
If left untreated, the symptoms of indigestion may interfere with your quality of life.
If you’re unable to manage indigestion at home, speak with a doctor. They can help determine the underlying cause of your digestion issues.

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