Indigestion Symptoms: When To See A Doctor
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a feeling of discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen or stomach. It’s often accompanied by bloating, belching, and nausea. Indigestion can happen to anyone, but some people experience it more often than others.
While indigestion often isn’t a serious condition, it can be a sign of an underlying problem that requires medical attention.
Indigestion isn’t a medical diagnosis — it’s simply a term that describes a feeling. Indigestion can have a range of symptoms, including:
- A feeling of discomfort, pressure, or dull pain in the upper abdomen
- Bloating and gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Belching and burping
- Acidic taste in the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling full quickly
- Difficulty swallowing
Most people experience indigestion occasionally, and it usually goes away within a few hours. However, if you experience these symptoms frequently or they are severe, you may have an underlying medical condition that needs treatment.
Sometimes, indigestion can also include symptoms that indicate a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. These symptoms may include:
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Vomiting blood or passing black, tarry stools
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
Symptoms like those mentioned above may indicate a more severe condition, such as a heart attack, pancreatitis, or an ulcer. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Causes of Indigestion
Many different things can cause indigestion. However, it is most commonly caused by:
- Overeating: Consuming large meals or eating too quickly can put extra pressure on the stomach and lead to indigestion.
- Spicy, fatty, or greasy foods: These types of foods can irritate the stomach lining and cause indigestion in some individuals.
- Acid reflux: When stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) and contribute to indigestion.
- Peptic ulcers: These are open sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. They can cause indigestion-like symptoms, including pain and discomfort.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This chronic condition occurs when acid reflux happens frequently and leads to persistent symptoms of indigestion and heartburn.
- Hiatal hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of the stomach pushes into the diaphragm. It can contribute to the development of indigestion symptoms.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, antibiotics, and some cardiovascular drugs, can irritate the stomach lining and cause indigestion.
- Stress and anxiety: Psychological factors like stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil can trigger indigestion or worsen existing symptoms.
- Digestive conditions: Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), and celiac disease can cause indigestion symptoms.
- Gallstones: If gallstones obstruct the bile duct, it can lead to indigestion-like symptoms, especially after consuming fatty foods.
- Infections: Certain infections, such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection, can cause inflammation in the stomach lining and contribute to indigestion. H. pylori can also cause ulcers, which may lead to symptoms of indigestion.
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and the pressure exerted on the stomach by the growing uterus during pregnancy can cause indigestion.
Home Remedies for Indigestion
You can try some home remedies to relieve the symptoms if you have mild or occasional indigestion. These include:
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals
- Avoiding spicy and fatty foods
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Chewing food thoroughly
- Avoiding lying down immediately after eating
- Managing stress through exercise, yoga, or meditation
- Taking over-the-counter antacids or acid reducers like Tums or Pepcid
If your symptoms persist or worsen despite these measures, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You may need further testing and prescription medication to relieve your symptoms.
Testing for Indigestion
To determine the cause of your indigestion, your doctor may recommend some tests, such as:
- Blood tests to check for infection or inflammation
- Stool tests to check for infection or blood in the stool
- Upper endoscopy to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine
- Abdominal ultrasound or CT scan to look for abnormalities in the digestive system
- Gastric emptying study to evaluate the movement of food through the stomach
When To See a Doctor
Indigestion is a common digestive problem, and while it’s usually not a serious condition, it can be a sign of a medical condition that needs treatment. If you experience severe or frequent symptoms or any of the warning signs mentioned above, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist. They can help you by diagnosing the underlying cause of your indigestion and recommend appropriate treatment.
Don’t continue to live with chronic indigestion — schedule an appointment today!