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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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Indigestion

What Is the Treatment for Indigestion?

Because indigestion is a symptom rather than a disease, treatment usually depends upon the underlying condition causing the indigestion.

Often, episodes of indigestion go away within hours without medical attention. However, if your indigestion symptoms become worse, you should consult a doctor. Here are some helpful tips to alleviate indigestion:

  • Try not to chew with your mouth open, talk while chewing, or eat too fast. This causes you to swallow too much air, which can aggravate indigestion.
  • Drink fluids after rather than during meals.
  • Avoid late-night eating.
  • Try to relax after meals.
  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.

If indigestion is not relieved after making these changes, your doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate your symptoms.

How Can I Prevent Indigestion?

The best way to prevent indigestion is to avoid the foods and situations that seem to cause indigestion. Keeping a food diary is helpful in identifying foods that cause indigestion. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Eat small meals so the stomach does not have to work as hard or as long.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid foods that contain high amounts of acids, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
  • Reduce or avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
  • If stress is a trigger for your indigestion, re-evaluating your lifestyle may help to reduce stress. Learn new methods for managing stress, such as relaxation and biofeedback techniques.
  • Smokers should consider quitting smoking, or at least not smoking right before or after eating, as smoking can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption because alcohol can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments because they tend to compress the stomach, which can cause its contents to enter the esophagus.
  • Do not exercise with a full stomach. Rather, exercise before a meal or at least one hour after eating a meal.
  • Do not lie down right after eating.
  • Wait at least 3 hours after your last meal of the day before going to bed.

Raise the head of your bed so that your head and chest are higher than your feet. You can do this by placing 6-inch blocks under the bedposts at the head of the bed. Don't use piles of pillows to achieve the same goal. You will only put your head at an angle that can increase pressure on your stomach and make heartburn worse.

 

When Should I Call the Doctor About Indigestion?

Because indigestion can be a sign of a more serious health problem, call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting or blood in vomit (the vomit may look like coffee grounds)
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Black, tarry stools or visible blood in stools
  • Severe pain in upper right abdomen
  • Pain in upper or lower right abdomen
  • Discomfort unrelated to eating

Symptoms similar to indigestion may be caused by heart attacks. If indigestion is unusual, accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, or pain radiating to the jaw, neck or arm, seek medical attention immediately.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 17, 2014

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