Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia or an upset stomach, is a general term that describes discomfort in the upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a disease but rather symptoms of the condition that may include abdominal pain and fullness after a meal. Indigestion is common but the way the symptoms are experienced may differ.
Indigestion could also be a symptom of another digestive disease. Indigestion that is not caused by an underlying disease can be relieved with medications and lifestyle changes.
Symptoms of indigestion may include one or more of the following:
- Early fullness during a meal
- Uncomfortable fullness after a meal
- Discomfort in the upper abdomen (mild to severe pain in the area between the bottom of the breastbone, sternum, and the navel)
- Burning in the upper abdomen (heat or burning sensation between the sternum and navel)
- Bloating in the upper abdomen (uncomfortable sensation of tightness)
- Vomiting and belching (less common)
Some people with indigestion may also experience heartburn, which is a different condition. Heartburn is pain or burning feeling in the center of the chest that may spread to the neck or back during or after a meal.
There are many causes of indigestion. It is often related to lifestyle and it may be triggered by food, drink or medications. Common causes of indigestion may include:
- Overeating or eating too quickly
- Fatty, greasy or spicy foods
- Ingesting too much caffeine, alcohol, chocolate or carbonated beverages
- Certain antibiotics, pain relievers and iron supplements
Other digestive conditions that may cause indigestion include:
- Peptic ulcers
- Celiac disease
- Stomach cancer
- Intestinal blockage
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Reduced blood flow in the intestine (intestinal ischemia)
In addition, indigestion without an apparent cause is called functional dyspepsia or nonulcer stomach pain.
Indigestion does not usually have serious complications; however, it can affect the quality of life causing discomfort and eating less. Indigestion caused by an underlying digestive condition may have complications associated with that underlying condition.