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Indigestion

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 1, 2024.

Overview

Indigestion — also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach — is discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion describes certain symptoms, such as belly pain and a feeling of fullness soon after you start eating, rather than a specific disease. Indigestion can also be a symptom of other digestive disorders.

Although indigestion is common, each person may experience indigestion in a slightly different way. Symptoms of indigestion may be felt occasionally or as often as daily.

Indigestion may often be relieved with lifestyle changes and medicines.

Digestive system

The major organs in your digestive system are the liver, stomach, gallbladder, colon and small intestine.

Symptoms

If you have indigestion, you may have:

Less frequent symptoms include vomiting and belching.

Sometimes people with indigestion also experience heartburn. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back during or after eating.

When to see a doctor

Mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about. Consult your health care provider if discomfort lasts for more than two weeks.

Contact your provider right away if pain is severe or accompanied by:

Seek immediate medical attention if you have:

Causes

Indigestion has many possible causes. Often, indigestion is related to lifestyle and may be triggered by food, drink or medicine. Common causes of indigestion include:

A condition known as functional or nonulcer dyspepsia, which is related to irritable bowel syndrome, is a very common cause of indigestion.

Sometimes indigestion is caused by other conditions, including:

Complications

Although indigestion doesn't usually have serious complications, it can affect your quality of life by making you feel uncomfortable and causing you to eat less. You might miss work or school because of your symptoms.

Diagnosis

Your health care provider is likely to start with a health history and a thorough physical exam. Those evaluations may be enough if your indigestion is mild and you're not experiencing certain symptoms, such as weight loss and repeated vomiting.

But if your indigestion began suddenly, and you are experiencing severe symptoms or are older than age 55, your provider may recommend:

Treatment

Lifestyle changes may help ease indigestion. Your health care provider may recommend:

If your indigestion won't go away, medicines may help. Nonprescription antacids are generally the first choice. Other options include:

Lifestyle and home remedies

Mild indigestion can often be helped with lifestyle changes, including:

Alternative medicine

Alternative and complementary treatments have been used for many years to ease indigestion, although their effectiveness varies from person to person. These treatments include:

Always check with your health care provider before taking any supplements to be sure you're taking a safe dose. This is also important to make sure the supplement won't react with any other medicines you're taking.

Preparing for an appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary health care provider, or you may be referred to a provider who specializes in digestive diseases, called a gastroenterologist. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect.

What you can do

Some basic questions to ask include:

In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Be ready to answer questions your provider may ask:

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