At some point, you’ve probably had pain or discomfort in your tummy after eating or drinking. This is known as indigestion (dyspepsia). Many people get it from time to time, and it’s usually mild and goes away on its own.
Looking for some relief? Read on to learn more about the causes of indigestion and the best ways to get rid of it.
Symptoms and causes of indigestion
Although the main symptom of indigestion is pain or discomfort in the top of your tummy, you may also experience the following:
- a burning pain in your chest (heartburn)
- an acidic taste in your mouth
- bringing food or fluids up from your stomach
- feeling full or bloated
- belching and farting
- feeling sick (nausea)
- being sick (vomiting)
Indigestion happens when acid from your stomach irritates the sensitive, protective lining of your stomach, food pipe (oesophagus) and the top part of your bowel.
It usually comes on after eating or drinking. The most common causes of mild and occasional indigestion are:
- a large meal
- certain medications
If you get indigestion a lot, it can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as:
- gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- helicobacter pylori infection
- peptic ulcer
- hiatus hernia
- stomach cancer
Suitable treatment can depend on the cause of your indigestion and how severe your symptoms are, so speak to your doctor if you’re getting indigestion regularly.
How to get rid of indigestion
If you only have indigestion occasionally and your symptoms are mild, you can usually manage it yourself. Try these 5 suggestions to get rid of your indigestion.
Make some lifestyle changes
Making a few changes to your lifestyle will help you to avoid indigestion.
First, try to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts more pressure on your stomach, which can push stomach acid up into your food pipe and cause indigestion.
Second, if you’re a smoker, try to quit. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can relax the muscle that divides your food pipe from your stomach, meaning acid can leak into your food pipe.
Check your diet
Some foods are known to be more likely to trigger indigestion and heartburn, including rich, spicy and fatty foods and chocolate, so you may want to avoid them. Cutting down on alcohol and drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea and cola, can also help.
Try to eat low-fat meat and fish, and grill your food rather than frying it. And stop eating 3 to 4 hours before going to bed.
Think about your medication
Certain types of medication, including nitrates and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can cause heartburn and indigestion.
Talk to your doctor if you think your medication could be causing indigestion. You shouldn’t stop taking a prescribed medication unless you’re told to do so by a healthcare professional.
Adjust how you sleep
Sleeping in a more upright position can help prevent stomach acid from rising up your food pipe during the night. Try using a couple of pillows to raise your head and shoulders up in bed, or slightly raise the head of your bed by putting something underneath the mattress.
Consider indigestion medicines
There are also medicines that treat indigestion, which are available from a pharmacist or doctor. The most common types are:
- antacids and alginates
- proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
They work in different ways, but they all either neutralise your stomach acid or stop it from being made. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor to find out if one of these options is suitable for you.
Indigestion during pregnancy
Indigestion is very common in pregnancy, especially from 27 weeks onwards. This can be caused by hormonal changes and your growing baby pressing against your stomach. Speak to a pharmacist or doctor if you need help with indigestion during pregnancy.
When to see a doctor
You should speak to your doctor about your indigestion if you:
- keep getting indigestion
- are in severe pain
- are 55 or older
- keep being sick (vomiting)
- are losing weight without meaning to
- are struggling to swallow
- have iron deficiency anaemia
- feel like you have a lump in your stomach
- have blood in your poo or vomit
- it’s quite common to get pain or discomfort in the top of your tummy after eating or drinking, known as indigestion (dyspepsia)
- other indigestion symptoms include heartburn, feeling sick, being sick, bloating, belching and farting
- eating a large meal, drinking alcohol or taking certain medications are common causes
- getting indigestion a lot can sometimes be a sign of another health condition
- you can get rid of indigestion with lifestyle and diet changes, and indigestion medicines
- you should speak to your doctor if you get indigestion a lot, or have other symptoms