What is dyspepsia? Discover the signs, causes and remedies for indigestion

Do you suffer from dyspepsia? Find out what causes indigestion and some remedies to help you ease the symptoms.

Indigestion (also known as dyspepsia) refers to uncomfortable feelings related to the digestive system, sometimes experienced after eating. If you’ve ever felt unusually full quickly after eating, or felt a burning or acidic sensation in your digestive system after eating, then you are familiar with the experience of indigestion.

To help you, Parvinder Sagoo, Lead Pharmacist and Medical Advisor at Simply Meds Online explains everything you should know about Dyspepsia. 

Although indigestion itself is not a serious condition, some more serious conditions can cause indigestion. Therefore it is worth understanding what exactly dyspepsia is, what the signs are, what could be causing it, and how to treat it. Indigestion is not the same as heartburn, but the feeling can be similar. 

Common trigger foods for indigestion

The causes of dyspepsia vary from person to person. You might have specific trigger foods that are more likely to cause indigestion.

Common trigger foods include:

  • Chocolate
  • Spicy foods including onion and garlic
  • Fast food or heavily processed foods
  • Fruits and other citrus products
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol

Though digestion is associated with diet, there are other lifestyle factors that can increase the chances of indigestion occurring. People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from indigestion. A high level of stress is also a factor that increases the likelihood of indigestion. 

Therefore there are four main lifestyle changes that can be made if you are suffering from regular indigestion:

  • Reduce trigger foods from your diet
  • Reduce alcohol consumption and smoking
  • Act to reduce weight
  • Act to reduce stress

Indigestion can be a sign of other conditions. Though it is more common to have isolated incidents of dyspepsia that get better with time or with lifestyle changes, dyspepsia can also be a symptom of other illnesses or diseases.

Though this is not a full list, the following conditions can cause indigestion:

  • GERD (which you may hear referred to as acid reflux or heartburn) 
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Cancer, in particular stomach cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallstones
  • Gastritis
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Celiac disease
  • Liver disease
  • IBS and IBD

There is usually no need to worry about dyspepsia, but it is worth understanding when it is worth seeing a doctor. 

When should you see a doctor about indigestion?

Dyspepsia is not usually serious. If you have a mild, manageable case of indigestion or one that goes away with changes to your lifestyle, and it is not accompanied by other symptoms, you don’t have any reason to worry. It may be unpleasant but it is a fairly harmless condition that many people get on occasion. 

However, if your indigestion occurs often, is particularly painful or nauseating, doesn’t go away easily, or is accompanied by other symptoms (such as lumps, vomiting, changes in bowel movement or stools, or exhaustion), it would be a good idea to see a medical professional.

What will the doctor check?

For a patient with indigestion, it would be normal for a doctor to physically check the abdomen area.

Depending on what they know about your symptoms, lifestyle and family history, and what they find out during the examination, they may also do a blood test, urea breath test and/or a stool antigen test. If the doctor suspects there may be a tumour to blame, an endoscopy might also be appropriate. 

There are a few treatments available

  • Reflux suppressant
  • Antacids 
  • Proton pump inhibitor

Reflux suppressants leave a layer at the top of your stomach acid that prevents it travelling up your food pipe. The most common reflux suppressant in the UK is Gaviscon, which comes in many varieties. Antacids neutralise acid in the stomach, and an example of a UK antacid-based product is Rennie. Proton pump inhibitors reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Some of these medications are available over-the-counter in pharmacies and supermarkets. Doctors will prescribe some of these options. 

Reflux suppressants and Indigestion treatment can be found on the Simply Meds Online site.

Photo by Danie Franco