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Indigestion

You know it when you feel it: that full, uncomfortable sensation in your belly during or after a meal. You might have burning or pain in the upper part of your stomach, too. It’s indigestion, also called dyspepsia.

Indigestion is often a sign of an underlying problem, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, or gallbladder disease, rather than a condition of its own. Any treatment you get will depend on what the cause is. But there are ways you can feel better or avoid getting it.

Symptoms

You might have:

  • Bloating
  • Belching and gas
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • An acidic taste in your mouth
  • Fullness during or after a meal
  • Growling stomach
  • Burning in your stomach or upper belly
  • Belly pain

These symptoms might be worse when you’re stressed. If you swallow too much air when you eat, that can make belching and bloating worse.

People often have indigestion along with heartburn (a burning feeling deep in the chest), which happens when stomach acids rise into the esophagus.

Causes

Men and women of all ages can get indigestion. It’s a common condition. But certain things make some people more prone to it. Causes include:

Diseases:

  • Ulcers
  • GERD
  • Stomach cancer. This is rare.
  • Gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach doesn't empty properly. It often happens to people with diabetes.
  • Stomach infections
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pancreatitis, an inflamed pancreas
  • Thyroid disease

Medications :

  • Aspirin and many other pain relievers
  • Estrogen and birth control pills
  • Steroid medications
  • Some antibiotics
  • Thyroid medicines

Lifestyle:

  • Eating too much, too fast, or when you’re stressed. High-fat foods can also add to the problem.
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Stress and fatigue

Sometimes people have long-lasting indigestion that isn’t related to any of these things. This type is called functional or non-ulcer dyspepsia.

Many women have indigestion during the middle and later parts of pregnancy. The problem might come from hormones, which relax the muscles of the digestive tract, and from the pressure the growing baby puts on the stomach.

Getting a Diagnosis

Because indigestion is such a broad term, it’s helpful to give your doctor a precise idea of how you’re feeling. Be specific about where in your belly you usually feel pain or bloating.

First, your doctor will try to rule out other health conditions that could be causing your symptoms. She might do blood tests and X-rays of your stomach or small intestine. She might also use a thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera to look closely at the inside of your stomach, a procedure called an upper endoscopy.

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