What is indigestion?
Indigestion is a feeling of discomfort in the abdomen or chest during digestion. It's often accompanied by heartburn, nausea, belching or passing wind, as well as feeling full and bloated.
Symptoms usually pass on their own after a few hours, but there are some things you can do to help you feel better more quickly. Your pharmacist can also give you advice on which medicines to take if necessary.
There is no need to see your Doctor if you get indigestion but consider making an appointment if it happens frequently or you're worried about it.
What are the causes of indigestion?
You may find that you have a couple of personal triggers that always lead to symptoms of indigestion. It might be useful to keep a diary of symptoms and suspected factors. This will help you to spot any patterns and avoid your triggers.
These are some common lifestyle-related causes of indigestion:
• Excess alcohol, although some people may also get indigestion with small amounts of alcohol
• Excess weight. Extra weight creates pressure on the stomach and means you're likely to get indigestion more often
• Certain foods, like spicy or fatty food
• Eating quickly or eating large meals
• Certain medicines, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and antibiotics
Some medical conditions can cause indigestion too. These include:
• A hiatus hernia
• Stomach ulcers
What can I do to manage my indigestion?
You can try propping up your head and shoulders when in bed, and keeping them elevated higher than the stomach to avoid acid moving up the food pipe.
Speak to your pharmacist if you think you require medicine. Antacids can help to neutralise acid in the stomach. They often work well and quickly after a single dose. If antacids are not effective, there are also acid-reducing medicines available like proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2-receptor antagonists – ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.
How can I help prevent indigestion?
The following simple measures may help to prevent indigestion:
• Eat regular small meals and chew food slowly. Stay away from spicy or fatty foods if you find they trigger your symptoms
• Limit alcohol intake and cut down on fizzy drinks and coffee
• Stop smoking. Speak with your pharmacist if you need help with quitting
• Lose weight if you are overweight
• Control your stress levels by finding some time for yourself to do something you enjoy
• Speak to your pharmacist or Doctor for advice about medicines that may help with your indigestion
When should I see my Doctor?
Sometimes, frequent episodes of indigestion can point to other more serious underlying conditions. You should make an appointment with your Doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
• Frequent episodes of indigestion or heartburn
• Difficulty in swallowing
• Frequent vomiting or vomiting with blood
• Severe abdominal pain
• Shortness of breath
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• If you're 55 or older
• Consider which factors may be causing your indigestion and attempt to avoid any possible triggers
• Speak with your pharmacist for medicines which may help with your indigestion
• If you get frequent episodes of indigestion, or if you have any of the warning symptoms mentioned above, you should make an appointment with your Doctor