What’s the Cause of My Indigestion?

Defining Indigestion

Indigestion is also known as dyspepsia. Almost everyone experiences it at some point in their life. Indigestion may be triggered by poor eating habits or a problem with the digestive tract.

Indigestion can cause the following:

Other symptoms that characterize indigestion include:

  • Experiencing satiety even when one is yet to finish their meal.
  • Feeling full after eating a small portion
  • Having a burning feeling in the esophagus or stomach
  • Experiencing a gnawing sensation in the abdomen
  • Belching or passing gas excessively

You mustn’t overlook severe symptoms of indigestion. Please consult your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Severe vomiting
  • Black stools
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Bloody vomit or one that looks like coffee grounds

Indigestion
Photo Credit: NIDDK

What causes indigestion?

Sometimes, a person may experience indigestion if he or she eats too fast or overeats. Eating fatty, greasy, or spicy foods can also increase the risk of indigestion. Lying on your bed immediately after eating a meal can make the process of digestion more difficult. With this, you’re at risk of abdominal discomfort.

Other factors that contribute to indigestion include:

Drugs that cause indigestion as a side effect include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, all being nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Dyspepsia may also be a result of poor lifestyle choices and eating habits.

Underlying health conditions that cause dyspepsia include:

In some cases, the cause of indigestion may not be known. This condition is referred to as functional dyspepsia. Functional dyspepsia may be due to abnormal muscle motility, for example, a squeezing sensation in the area of digestion in your stomach.

Diagnosing dyspepsia

Your doctor will look into your eating habits and medical history. A physical examination will be carried out. The doctor may order abdominal x-rays to see if your digestive system has any abnormalities.

Samples of your stool, breathe, and blood may be collected to test for ulcer-causing bacteria.

An endoscopic examination may be conducted to check for abnormalities in your upper gastrointestinal tract.

During an endoscopic examination, a small tube carrying a biopsy tool and a camera will be passed through the esophagus into the stomach. With endoscopy, the lining of your gastrointestinal tract can be examined for diseases, while tissue samples can also be collected. You will receive mild sedation for this procedure.

With an endoscopy of your upper GI tract, your doctor can diagnose the following:

  • Ulcers
  • Reflux esophagitis
  • Infection of cancer
  • Inflammatory diseases.

Treatment options for dyspepsia

Medications

Some medications help with the treatment of indigestion. However, they may cause some side effects. Mylanta and Maalox can neutralize stomach acid but may trigger constipation or diarrhea.

Pepcid, Zantac, and other H2 receptor antagonists can minimize stomach acid production. Side effects are rare, but may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Itching or rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Headache
  • Constipation

Gastrointestinal tract motility may be improved by medications such as Motilium and Reglan. Side effects of these medications include:

Prilosec, a proton pump inhibitor, reduces stomach acid. Side effects of PPIs include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Backache

Both proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor antagonists help with the treatment of peptic ulcers. If the ulcer is caused by H. pylori, these drugs will be combined with antibiotics such as amoxicillin and clarithromycin.

Home treatment and lifestyle changes

Symptoms of indigestion can be improved with lifestyle changes. For instance:

  • Eat small portions
  • Not eating fatty or spicy foods. They can cause a heartburn
  • Eat slowly and avoid lying down after meals
  • Stop smoking if you are a smoker
  • Get adequate rest
  • Work on your weight if you are obese
  • Avoid NSAIDs and other medications that can irritate your stomach lining

Prognosis of indigestion

Dyspepsia is a common problem but it shouldn’t be ignored. Do not ignore indigestion that is chronic, severe or one that doesn’t respond to OTC medications.

If you leave your indigestion untreated, it may reduce your quality of life.

If you are unable to manage your indigestion at home, talk to your doctor. They will diagnose the underlying cause of your problem.

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