Indigestion is a collection of symptoms that often includes heartburn, nausea, bloating and belching. Most cases of indigestion are nothing to worry about.

What is it?

Indigestion is a general term used to describe discomfort in the upper abdomen. It’s not a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms. You may notice a burning sensation in your upper abdomen, nausea, bloating and belching.

What causes it?

If you eat too much of any food, you can wind up with an upset stomach, particularly if you overindulge in fatty or spicy foods. Eating too quickly has the same effect. Alcohol and stress can also take a toll.

Persistent indigestion may point to other digestive conditions:

  • Heartburn. When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus — an event known as acid reflux — you may experience heartburn. This burning pain in the upper abdomen and under the breastbone may be accompanied by nausea and an acid or sour taste in your mouth.
  • Peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach, upper small intestine or esophagus. They may cause burning pain anywhere from your navel to your breastbone.
  • Gastritis. astritis is inflammation of the lining of your stomach, which you may experience as a gnawing or burning pain in your stomach or upper abdomen.
  • Gallstones. Gallstones are solid deposits of cholesterol or calcium salts that form in your gallbladder or nearby bile ducts.
  • Stomach cancer. The earliest sign of a stomach tumor may be microscopic internal bleeding, which may only be detected by tests that check your stool for blood.

What are the symptoms?

  • Burning in the stomach or upper abdomen.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bloating (full feeling).
  • Belching and gas.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Acidic taste.
  • Growling stomach.

Are there any natural therapies?

  • Digestive enzymes are available in supplement form to assist your body to break down foods.
  • Bitter herbs such as gentian, dandelion root and globe artichoke improve stomach function by signalling the stomach to start production of gastric acid.

What else can I do?

  • Eat small meals so the stomach does not have to work as hard or as long.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid foods that contain high amounts of acids, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
  • Reduce or avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
  • If stress is a trigger for your indigestion, re-evaluating your lifestyle may help to reduce stress. Learn new methods for managing stress, such as relaxation and biofeedback techniques.
  • Smokers should consider quitting smoking, or at least not smoking right before or after eating, as smoking can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption because alcohol can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments because they tend to compress the stomach, which can cause its contents to enter the esophagus.
  • Do not exercise with a full stomach. Rather, exercise before a meal or at least one hour after eating a meal.
  • Do not lie down right after eating.
  • Wait at least three hours after your last meal of the day before going to bed.
  • Sleep with your head elevated (at least 6 inches) above your feet and use pillows to prop yourself up. This will help allow digestive juices to flow into the intestines rather than to the esophagus

Did you know?

Swallowing excessive air when eating may increase the symptoms of belching and bloating, which are often associated with indigestion.