What is indigestion (Dyspepsia)?
Indigestion (Dyspepsia) usually appears as a symptom of an underlying issue such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and is not usually considered a condition in itself.
Indigestion is a common medical condition that affects a large number of people around the world. In the majority of cases, it is mild and does not occur regularly. If this applies to you then the good news is that you should not worry too much. The only time to get concerned is when it is more severe and regular. But what is indigestion, what causes it and what can you do about it?
This is an important question for most people so you can actually understand what is happening in your body. Indigestion is discomfort or pain felt in your upper abdomen or a burning sensation in the area behind your breastbone. Known as dyspepsia or heartburn respectively, some people who suffer from indigestion can feel both of these types at the same time. Many people who suffer from this condition will have indigestion after eating or drinking.
What are the symptoms of indigestion?
If you are wondering whether you have indigestion, there are some common symptoms to look out for. These can include:
- Belching and farting
- Food or drink coming back into your gullet after being consumed
- Full or bloated feeling after eating or drinking
- Feelings of sickness or nausea
If you experience any of the above especially after eating or drinking then you may have indigestion. Other symptoms that are commonly associated with Indigestion however are unrelated such as back pain and stomach ache are likely to be constipation.
What are the causes of indigestion?
This medical condition is usually caused by the acid in your stomach coming into contact with the protective lining of your digestive system. This digestive system lining is actually very sensitive and the presence of stomach acid next to it is the root cause of indigestion. The net effect of this is that the stomach acid attacks your protective digestive lining and causes inflammation or pain in your body.
While the majority of indigestion cases are caused by the food and drink people consume (spicy food being a great example), there are other triggers. Smoking is one as is drinking alcohol. As Acid Relux is considered to be a very similar condition to Indigestion, it may also be worth cutting out foods that can cause Acid Reflux.
As well as cutting certain foods out of your diet, it may also be worth introducing healthier foods that are known to help with Acid Reflux, heartburn and indigestion.
The most common causes of Indigestion are:
- Certain types of medication
- Lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking and poor diet
- Hiatus Hernia (where the stomach bulges up into the chest)
- Stomach Ulcer
- Cancer of the stomach
- H. Pylori bacteria infections (This can lead to gastritis)
- GORD (Acid Reflux)
It is also found that certain medications, stress and pregnancy can also bring it on.
What treatments are available?
The good news for most people with this condition is that it can be treated easily at home. This could include changing your lifestyle or diet, for example, to cut out things that trigger it. You can also buy antacid medication to use at home which provides relief when indigestion flares up. These antacids usually come in tablet form and are simple to take while tasting nice.
If you find that lifestyle changes and over the counter medications do not help with the symptoms you are experiencing, your doctor may choose to prescribe stronger prescription medicines such as Omeprazole or Lansoprazole which will provide more effective relief from your symptoms.
Some cases of indigestion can be more serious though and require a visit to your doctor. If any of the following apply and you have regular indigestion, we recommend seeing your GP as soon as possible:
- you are 55 years old or older
- you have shed a lot of weight without trying too
- you are finding it harder and harder to swallow
- you are vomiting constantly
- you suspect you have anaemia
- you have found a lump in the stomach area
- you notice blood in your stools or vomit
If any of the above apply with recurring ingestion, you should see your doctor urgently. This is because another underlying health condition may actually be causing all the other symptoms. In these cases, an Endoscopy is normally performed which allows specialist medical staff to see into your body. Severe long-term indigestion can eventually bring issues with parts of your digestive system which are hard to repair. This could be scarring of your oesophagus or problems with the passage of food from the stomach.