Indigestion (Dyspepsia): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 05, 2024
13 min read

Everyone gets indigestion every once in a while. Indigestion, also called upset stomach or dyspepsia, is a group of digestive symptoms that usually happen at the same time, such as:

  • Pain, a burning feeling, or discomfort in your upper belly
  • Feeling full too soon while eating
  • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating

Occasional indigestion is normal, but sometimes it happens regularly for a few weeks or months. In this case, it may be a sign of an underlying problem, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, or gallbladder disease.

Indigestion vs. heartburn

Some people use the terms "indigestion" and "heartburn" to mean the same set of symptoms. But, doctors think of them as two different problems that may happen at the same time. 

Heartburn is more specific than indigestion. It's a burning feeling in the middle of your chest, sometimes with a sour or bitter taste in your throat and mouth. It may happen after eating a big meal or when you lie down after eating. It's usually caused by acid reflux, when your stomach contents including acid, digestive juices, enzymes, and/or food, flow back up into your esophagus (the food tube leading to your stomach). It's common to get heartburn as part of your indigestion symptoms.

Indigestion almost always includes burning or pain in your upper belly and feeling like you're full too soon or for too long after you finish eating. Other symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Burping and gas
  • Nausea and regurgitation (when the food you swallow comes back up into your esophagus) 
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Loud growling or gurgling in your stomach

Indigestion burping

Swallowing a lot of air when you eat or drink may increase the symptoms of burping and bloating. You may swallow a lot of air when you eat or drink too fast, talk while you eat, chew gum, suck on hard candies, drink carbonated drinks, or smoke. Acid reflux can also make you feel the need to swallow more often, which can increase the amount of air you swallow.

Here are some tips to help reduce the amount of air you swallow:

  • Eat and drink more slowly. Don't eat when you're stressed or on the run. Make meals a relaxing occasion.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks.
  • Don't suck on hard candies or chew gum.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Make sure your dentures fit well if you wear them.
  • Take a short walk after you eat.
  • Take OTC heartburn relief if you have occasional, mild heartburn.

Indigestion pain in chest

Heartburn, angina (reduced blood flow to your heart), and heart attack can all cause a burning sensation in your chest, right behind your breast bone (sternum). If you have persistent chest pain and you're not sure what's causing it, call 911 or go to the ER. If you have had an episode of chest pain and you don't know why--even if it went away after a while--call your doctor. A developing heart attack can cause symptoms that come and go.

Indigestion and constipation

Indigestion and constipation often go together. Many people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) will also have constipation. Getting relief for your indigestion may also help your constipation. Make sure you talk to your doctor about all your symptoms when you have chronic indigestion and/or constipation.

How long does indigestion last?

Your symptoms may last for only a few minutes or as long as a few hours after eating.

Occasional indigestion is usually caused by eating a large or fatty meal. The symptoms of indigestion come on because large and fatty meals make your digestive system work extra hard. Your stomach stretches and your gallbladder and pancreas contract, and they all make strong digestive juices. All together, this can irritate your stomach.

Indigestion that lasts longer than one meal or that comes and goes may be caused by your lifestyle, a medical condition, or a medicine you take regularly. Sometimes, people have persistent indigestion that's not related to any of these factors. This type of indigestion is called functional or non-ulcer dyspepsia.

Some lifestyle factors that may cause indigestion that comes and goes include regularly:

  • Eating too much, eating too fast, or eating during stressful situations
  • Eating foods that your body has a hard time digesting (food intolerance)
  • Smoking or using other tobacco products

Foods that cause indigestion

If you eat any of these regularly, stop eating them for a while to see how you do. Add them back in one by one to see if any trigger your indigestion. 

Common food triggers for acid reflux, which is a cause of indigestion, include: 

  • Fatty and fried food
  • Spicy foods
  • Foods with a lot of acid, like citrus fruit, tomatoes and tomato sauces, and vinegar
  • Alcohol
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Peppermint

Some medical conditions that may cause indigestion include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Too much stomach acid (hyperchlorhydria)
  • Slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis)
  • Swelling in your stomach lining (gastritis)
  • Hiatal hernia (when your stomach pushes through your diaphragm, an organ that helps you breath)
  • Bacterial stomach infections
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia
  • Gallstones and gallbladder swelling (cholecystitis)
  • Chronic pancreatitis (swelling in the pancreas)
  • Autoimmune conditions, such as thyroid disease or celiac disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Stomach cancer (very rare)

Some medicines and dietary supplements that may irritate your esophagus or cause other symptoms of indigestion include:

  • Certain antibiotics, such as tetracycline and clindamycin
  • Bisphosphonates (used to slow bone loss in osteoporosis and other bone conditions), such as alendronate (Binosto, Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), and risedronate (Actonel)
  • Iron supplements
  • Potassium supplements
  • Quinidine
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
  • Anticholinergics (used for overactive bladder and IBS), such as oxybutynin
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and doxepin (Silenor)
  • High blood pressure and heart disease medicine, such as calcium channel blockers, statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and nitrates
  • Progesterone (used in some birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy)
  • Opioid pain relievers, such as codeine and hydrocodone
  • Sedatives or tranquilizers, such as diazepam (Valium) and temazepam (Restoril)
  • Theophylline (used in medicine for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma)

Indigestion is common during pregnancy. You're more likely to get it during pregnancy because of:

  • Hormonal changes
  • The growing baby pressing against your stomach
  • The muscles between your stomach and esophagus relaxing, which allows stomach acid to come back up

If you had indigestion before you were pregnant or you've been pregnant before, you may be more likely to get indigestion than other pregnant people.

When does heartburn start in pregnancy?

You may get indigestion or heartburn anytime during your pregnancy, but they're more likely after about 12 weeks.

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and perform a physical exam.

Your doctor may also order some tests, such as:

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy. Your doctor will use a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera to look at your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of your small intestine). Your doctor may also take some tissue samples for a biopsy at the same time. Using this test, your doctor may be able to see if you have peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, or cancer.

Other imaging tests, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or an ultrasound.

Tests to look for signs of Heliobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. H. pylori is a bacteria that causes peptic ulcer disease, which can be a cause of chronic indigestion. Your doctor may want you to take a blood or stool test. They may also want you to take a urea breath test. During this test, you swallow a capsule, liquid, or gel that has urea labeled with a special carbon atom in it. H. pylori bacteria will take in the labeled urea and change it to carbon dioxide. If you have H. pylori bacteria in your stomach, you will breathe out this labeled carbon dioxide. Your doctor can then measure how much of this labeled carbon dioxide you breathe out.


Treatment usually depends on what is causing your symptoms. You may be able to ease your symptoms by:

  • Making changes in how and what you eat and drink, such as avoiding foods that cause indigestion
  • Trying psychological therapies to help manage any anxiety, depression, or stress that may cause your indigestion
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicine for indigestion or acid reflux, such as antacids, histamine blockers, proton pump inhibitors, or antibiotics

Indigestion medicines

Antacids neutralize, or offset, the stomach acid that causes indigestion. Don't take them more than a few times a week. Common OTC antacids are:

  • Calcium carbonate (Rolaids, Tums)
  • Simethicone (Maalox, Mylanta)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer)

Histamine (H2) blockers lower the amount of acid your stomach makes, so they can both stop and prevent indigestion symptoms. They take between 1 and 3 hours to take effect but work for several hours. If you take any prescription medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist before you use an H2 blocker because they can interact with certain other drugs. Common H2 blockers include: 

  • Cimetidine (Tagamet HB)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid AC)
  • Nizatidine (Axid AR)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac 75)

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. They may be best for people with both indigestion and heartburn. They take 1 to 4 days to start working. You can use them for up to 14 days, and up to 3 times per year. They can interact with other medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before you use them. The most common PPIs that you can buy over the counter are: 

  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid)
  • Pantoprazole (Protonix)
  • Rabeprazole (AcipHex)

Antibiotics will kill H. pylori bacteria if that is what's causing your symptoms. Your doctor will usually give you a combination of two antibiotics, including:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Metronidazole
  • Tetracycline
  • Tinidazole

Prokinetic agents can help your stomach empty faster if you have indigestion because of slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis). You'll need a prescription for these. Examples include:

  • Bethanechol (Urecholine)
  • Metoclopramide (Reglan)

You might not need any treatment. Indigestion often goes away on its own after a few hours. But let your doctor know if your symptoms get worse. 

Unlike medicines that are tested for safety and effectiveness, there are no guidelines to know if home remedies will work for you. Many things can affect how a remedy will work, including the cause of your indigestion, other medications you may be taking, and whether or not you're pregnant. Check with your doctor before trying a natural remedy for indigestion. 

But, there are a number of home or natural remedies that that may be worth a try, including: 

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). It's the main ingredient in Alka-Seltzer, and it can neutralize the extra stomach acid that may be the cause of your symptoms. Stir one-half teaspoon of baking soda in 4 oz of water and drink it down. You can repeat this after about 2 hours, but don't take more than 7 doses per 24 hours if you're younger than 60 or more than 3 doses per 24 hours if you're 60 or older. Too much may cause side effects like stomach cramps, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.

Chamomile tea. Chamomile reduces swelling and spasms, and if you drink it warm (not hot), it can help soothe your stomach. If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before you try this because chamomile can interact with your medicine and increase your chance of bleeding.

Licorice root. Licorice has chemicals that can reduce swelling in your stomach and help food move through your system faster. It may help ease symptoms of indigestion and acid reflux. Chew on the licorice root or use it to make a tea. Don't take more than 2.5 grams per day, though, because it can have side effects if you take too much.

Fennel seed. Like licorice, fennel has chemicals that reduce swelling in your stomach. Chewing on about a teaspoon of fennel seeds or drinking fennel tea may help ease the symptoms of indigestion, such as stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea.

Ginger root. Ginger also has chemicals that can help food move through your system faster. This can help soothe the nausea and diarrhea that you may have with indigestion, and it can also reduce vomiting. The easiest way to include ginger in your diet is to drink ginger tea, but if you can hold down food, try adding a bit of fresh ginger root to bland foods like rice or oatmeal.

Peppermint. Peppermint can relax the muscles in your stomach and esophagus. This may help ease symptoms of indigestion in some people, but it can also increase the symptoms of acid reflux in others. Try sipping on peppermint tea or taking a supplement to see if it works for you.

Apple cider vinegar. Raw apple cider vinegar has helpful bacteria that may help balance your gut bacteria. This may help ease the symptoms of indigestion. However, indigestion is often caused by extra stomach acid, and vinegar is acidic. If your indigestion is caused by too much stomach acid, vinegar may make your indigestion symptoms worse. But it's safe to try it because some people do get indigestion from too little stomach acid. You can add a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm water and drink it right before or right after you eat. Don't use apple cider vinegar if you have low potassium because it could make your condition worse. Also, don't use it if you take insulin or water pills because the vinegar could interact with your medicines. 

Aloe vera juice. Aloe has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant chemicals, and it may also decrease acid production in your stomach. These effects may help ease symptoms of indigestion. It also has a laxative effect and so may ease constipation. People who are allergic to other members of the lily family, such as onions, garlic, and tulips, should not use aloe vera. In general, aloe vera is probably safe to use for up to 2 months, but talk to your doctor before using it for longer. Since it has a laxative effect, it can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Bananas. The vitamins in bananas may help stop muscle spasms in your digestive system. They're low-acid and a gentle source of fiber to help keep food moving through your system. Try eating a banana when you have symptoms to see if it helps.

Chewing gum. Chewing sugar-free gum for about 30 minutes after you eat could reduce acid levels in your stomach and esophagus. Watch out for mint-flavored gum, though, because peppermint can make acid reflux symptoms worse in some people.

The best way to prevent indigestion is to avoid the foods and situations that seem to cause it. Keeping a food diary may help you identify foods that cause your indigestion. 

Lifestyle changes can help ease mild indigestion. Try these to see if they help you:

  • Eat small meals more often throughout the day.
  • Chew your food slowly and thoroughly before swallowing.
  • Try not to chew with your mouth open, talk while you chew, or eat too fast. This makes you swallow too much air, which can make your symptoms worse.
  • Avoid drinks and foods that can trigger indigestion, such as caffeine, alcohol, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, and fried or fatty foods.
  • Don't lie down right after eating. Wait at least 3 hours after your last meal of the day before going to bed.
  • Sleep with your head elevated (at least 6 inches) above your feet and use pillows to prop yourself up. This will help allow digestive juices to flow into the intestines rather than to the esophagus.
  • If stress is a trigger for your indigestion, learn new methods for managing stress, such as relaxation and biofeedback techniques.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can irritate the lining of the stomach.
  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight. Extra weight puts pressure on your stomach and lower esophagus. Exercising regularly not only helps you get to a healthy weight, but it can also help you digest your food better.

If you don't feel better after trying these changes, talk to your doctor. They may prescribe medicines for you or suggest a good OTC medicine to help ease your symptoms.

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

  • Persistent indigestion that's not relieved by antacids, or if you're taking antacids frequently
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A feeling of tightness in your chest or shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vomiting, blood in your vomit, or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Black, tarry poop or visible blood in your poop
  • Weight loss, especially if you haven't been trying to lose weight

Symptoms similar to indigestion may be caused by heart attacks. If you have symptoms of indigestion and shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain, or pain radiating to the jaw, neck, or arm, call 911 immediately.


Does drinking water help indigestion?

Drinking water may help ease some of your symptoms. Small sips of water can help food move through your digestive system faster and dilute your stomach acid. Water may also wash acid back down your esophagus if you have acid reflux. 

What is indigestion with no cause?

Indigestion without a cause is sometimes called functional dyspepsia. That means your doctor can't find a medical cause of your symptoms. Otherwise, there's no difference between indigestion and functional dyspepsia. Your doctor will diagnose and treat both the same.

What is indigestion sometimes mistaken as?

The symptoms of severe indigestion or heartburn and a heart attack can be very similar. Go to the emergency room if you have symptoms of indigestion or heartburn and pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing sensation in your chest or arms, shortness of breath, cold sweat, and sudden dizziness. You're more likely to have a heart problem if you also have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, are overweight, and you smoke.



It's perfectly normal to get indigestion or an upset stomach every once in a while. You can usually treat it yourself by making a few lifestyle changes and taking an over-the-counter antacid. If you have indigestion often, though, it may be because of an underlying medical condition. If you're having indigestion more than a couple of times a week or if it lasts a long time, visit your doctor so they can help you find relief. If you have symptoms that don't get better with antacids, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, or cold sweats, call 911 or go to the ER right away because the symptoms of indigestion and heartburn and heart attack can be very similar.