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Understanding Indigestion: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

What Is Indigestion?

It’s totally normal to have a bit of indigestion from time to time. We have all been there, especially after a large meal. Generally, this is when you have an upset stomach, burning, or pain in your belly after eating.

We asked James B. McGee, MD, associate professor of medicine in UPMC’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition what this really means.

“Indigestion is your GI tract’s way of telling you to slow down, eat healthier food, or calm down,” said Dr. McGee. “However, if persistent, it may be your body’s way of saying something is wrong.”

What Causes Indigestion?

This uncomfortable feeling in your belly can be caused by everything from your lifestyle and diet, medicines you might be taking, or other health-related issues. Some of the most common causes are:

If you experience this repeatedly, it could be caused by something more than just your diet, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, acid reflux, or gallstones. If you feel that this is the case, you should contact your doctor.

Symptoms of Indigestion

While indigestion is very common, symptoms can vary and are normally pretty mild. It is often confused with heartburn because it can cause burning in your chest or belly. Other side effects can include:

Again, if your symptoms are much worse, and include weight loss, bleeding, or vomiting, you need to speak to your doctor.

Indigestion Home Remedies

Indigestion typically goes away on its own after a few hours, but there are some helpful habits you can adopt at home that will help prevent and treat it when it does happen.

Change your eating habits. A simple diet change can really help fight indigestion. Stay away from spicy or greasy foods, as these can easily upset your stomach. Also, avoid eating late at night or right before bed.

Relax. Reducing stress will also help ease indigestion. Set aside more time to eat so you are not rushing through your meals. Eat slower and avoid excitement right before or after a meal. You may also want to try finding other ways to get rid of stress and anxiety, such as:

  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

Avoid harmful substances. Tobacco, caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol are all triggers. While this will help fight indigestion, it is also great for your overall health.

digestive disorders

Digestive Disorders

The Digestive Disorders Center (DDC) is a convenient point of access to the full range of digestive health care services available at UPMC. Our team has expertise in treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as swallowing disorders, gastrointestinal cancer, and liver, pancreatic, and biliary diseases. Read More