Indigestion Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

Indigestion Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

What Is Indigestion?

Indigestion Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

Indigestion (dyspepsia) happens to almost everyone from time to time. It may cause stomach discomfort or a feeling of being too full. When severe, it can cause heartburn, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.

Indigestion may be the result of your eating habits, or it can be a chronic problem. If you suffer from frequent indigestion, talk to your doctor.

What Causes Indigestion?

Indigestion has many causes, including:


Indigestion Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

  • Ulcers
  • GERD
  • Stomach cancer (rare)
  • Gastroparesis (a condition where the stomach doesn't empty properly; this often occurs in diabetics)
  • Stomach infections
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Thyroid disease


As many as 80 percent of pregnant women suffer from indigestion. This may be triggered by high levels of the female hormones progesterone and oestrogen, which relax your sphincter.

Symptoms are usually first experienced late in the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) and can continue throughout the remaining six months. The symptoms of indigestion usually go away within four weeks of giving birth.


  • Aspirin and many other painkillers
  • Estrogen and oral contraceptives
  • Steroid medications
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Thyroid medicines


  • Eating too much, eating too fast, eating high-fat foods, or eating during stressful situations
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Stress and fatigue
Swallowing excessive air when eating may increase the symptoms of belching and bloating, which are often associated with indigestion.

Sometimes people have persistent indigestion that is not related to any of these factors. This type of indigestion is called functional, or nonulcer dyspepsia.

During the middle and later parts of pregnancy, many women have indigestion. This is believed to be caused by a number of pregnancy-related factors including hormones, which relax the muscles of the digestive tract, and the pressure of the growing uterus on the stomach.

Symptoms of indigestion 

If you have indigestion you may have the following symptoms:

Indigestion Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies
Symptoms of indigestion 

  • pain, fullness or discomfort in the upper part of your abdomen or chest (heartburn)
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling sick
  • flatulence (gas passed from your rectum), burping or belching.
Depending on the cause of your indigestion, your symptoms may go very quickly, come and go, or they may be regular and last for a long time.

Visit your GP for advice if you have:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • unexplained and continual symptoms of indigestion for the first time and you're 55 or older
  • severe pain, or if the pain gets worse or changes
  • blood in your vomit, even if it's only specks of blood.

Diagnosis of indigestion 

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine you. They may also ask you about your medical history.

If lifestyle changes and medicines don't help to improve your symptoms, your GP may recommend further tests, such as:

Breath or blood tests

These tests are to detect the presence of H. Pylori which may indicate that you have a peptic ulcer.


This is a procedure to look inside your oesophagus, stomach and duodenum using an endoscope (a small camera on the end of a long, flexible tube). During a gastroscopy your doctor may take a biopsy (a small sample of tissue). This will be sent to a laboratory for testing.

A barium swallow and meal X-ray

This is a test that involves swallowing a drink containing barium (a type of metal that illuminates the digestive organs during x-rays) so your doctor can get clear X-ray images of your abdomen.

When to See the Doctor

  • See your doctor right away if you:
  • have severe vomiting
  • vomit blood
  • have recently lost a lot of weight
  • have black stools
  • have trouble swallowing

Treatment for indigestion 


There are a few things you can do to help reduce the symptoms of indigestion, including:

  • losing excess weight if you’re overweight or obese
  • cutting down on fatty foods, tea, coffee, alcohol and anything else that you think triggers your symptoms
  • stopping smoking
  • sleeping with the head of your bed raised by about 20-30cm with something sturdy and solid
  • eating at least two to three hours before going to bed if you have a peptic ulcer
  • reducing your stress levels - try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing
  • not eating too much or too quickly.


Over-the-counter medicines

You can buy a range of indigestion medicines from your pharmacist without a prescription. Always read the accompanying consumer medicines information leaflet and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

Antacids are medicines that can relieve symptoms of indigestion by neutralising acid in your stomach. They can be taken as either liquid or tablets that can be swallowed or chewed. If antacids don't work, or if you need to take large quantities to relieve your symptoms, your pharmacist may recommend H2 blockers. These work by reducing the amount of acid that your stomach produces.

Another option is a low dose of a proton pump inhibitor. Proton pump inhibitors work by stopping your stomach producing acid. The proton pump inhibitors available without a prescription are pantoprazole (Somac) and rabeprazole (Pariet). These over-the-counter packs can be taken for a maximum of two weeks. See your GP if symptoms persist beyond this time.

Prescription-only medicines

If you need to take medicines for indigestion regularly, more than two or three times a week, your doctor may prescribe higher doses of proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers to be used for a month. The doctor can then reassess whether you need to continue using this medication at this dose.

If a proton pump inhibitor is controlling your symptoms, your GP can prescribe you one for long-term use.

Another type of medicine you may be prescribed along with your proton pump inhibitor is a prokinetic or motility stimulant, which quickens the rate at which your stomach empties and helps stop your stomach contents refluxing back into your oesophagus.

If you have an H. Pylori infection, your GP may recommend having triple therapy to kill off the bacterial infection. This usually means taking a seven-day course of a proton pump inhibitor combined with two different antibiotics.

Always read the accompanying consumer medicines information leaflet and if you have any questions or concerns ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.


Surgery for indigestion or heartburn is rare. Your doctor will usually only recommend it if medicines don't work or if you don't want to take proton pump inhibitors for long periods of time, and you have weighed up the risks of having surgery against the benefits.

If you have a hiatus hernia and your symptoms are severe, your GP may refer you to a surgeon, who may recommend surgery to repair the hernia.

Talking therapies

Some people find that talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy, may help reduce the symptoms of indigestion.

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.

Lifestyle Tips - Home Remedies

You may be able to get relief from indigestion without medication. Here are some simple lifestyle changes that can help:
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid spicy, fatty foods that can trigger heartburn.
  • Eat more slowly and don’t eat before lying down.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Reduce the amount of coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol you consume.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Stop taking medicines that irritate the stomach lining, such as NSAIDs and aspirin.
  • Reduce stress through yoga or relaxation therapy.