Table of Content


Indigestion: Around the World

Stomach upset or dyspepsia, as it is known, is a common digestive problem. Often, there is pain and uneasiness in the upper part of the stomach. Across the world, anywhere between 20% and 40% of the population suffers from this problem.

Describing Indigestion or Stomach Upset

This condition is described by a number of symptoms that seem to rise in the upper part of the stomach. Patients often complain of pain or a vague sense of discomfort in the stomach; this may often occur as part of other digestive symptoms listed later in this leaflet.

Although this problem is not life-threatening, it very often prevents patients from participating in the day-to-day activities. Nearly one-third of people with a stomach upset have had to skip work or school because of it.

Causes of Indigestion

  • Oversensitive nerves in the stomach that interpret the normal stretching of the stomach as abnormal and lead to pain and discomfort.
  • Inflammation in the stomach
  • Infection
  • Ulcers in the stomach
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Acid reflux
  • Rarely, cancer
  • Certain foods and drinks may cause the symptoms or make them worse. Although this is difficult to prove, some of the foods suspected include tomatoes, chocolate, spicy foods, hot drinks, coffee, and alcoholic drinks.
  • Anxiety, depression or stress have an impact on the digestive system and can worsen symptoms.
  • Medications used often have indigestion as a side effect; the most common medicines include painkillers, antibiotics or even steroids. Many other medications not listed here also cause symptoms of indigestion. If you feel your symptoms are triggered by some medicine, talk to your doctor about it.

Very often, the cause cannot be found and scientists believe that in some of these patients, one of the reasons for the presence of symptoms could be a past infection.

Symptoms of Indigestion

  • Pain or uneasiness or discomfort in the upper part of the stomach is usually the main symptom. Besides this, the following may also be present:
  • Bloating (a feeling of air filled in the stomach/a tightness located in the upper abdomen)
  • Nausea (feeling like vomiting)
  • Burning sensation in the stomach
  • Feeling full before completing your normal meal

Diagnosis of Indigestion

  • There are no diagnostic tests for indigestion. Instead, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms to determine the history and will perform a physical examination.
  • You may be asked about the medicines you are currently using since many medicines could cause indigestion.
  • You may be asked to take certain medications to rule out any acidity-related problem.
  • If your doctor finds it necessary, you may be asked to undergo an endoscopy, which is a simple procedure to detect abnormalities in the upper part of the digestive tract.


  • Multiple treatments are available to tackle indigestion; depending on the patient response, different treatments may be tried before finding the one suited to treat the problem.
  • If an infection is causing the symptoms, an antibiotic may be prescribed to get rid of the infection.
  • You can reduce discomfort by avoiding the foods that you feel increase your symptoms, e.g., high-fat diet, coffee, alcohol.
  • Avoid smoking cigarette's
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals spread throughout the day can help reduce symptoms of bloating, fullness or nausea.
  • Some people find that it helps to avoid fatty meals and foods that cause bloating such as cabbage and nuts.
  • Avoid large meals, especially in the evening hours.

Long-Term Outlook for Patients with Indigestion

  • Although this condition is very troublesome, it is unlikely to lead to any serious problems. However, it is important to be vigilant and not ignore health complaints.
  • Most people with this condition manage the symptoms well and often, overtime, the symptoms reduce.

When to See a Doctor?

If you experience any of the following along with or without indigestion, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Fever
  • Night sweat
  • Weakness, reduced physical fitness
  • Weight loss
  • Recurrent vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Abnormal mass in the stomach region
  • Abdominal mass


1. Phytomedicine 13 (2006) SV 211
2. J Nippon Med Sch 2011; 78:280285
3. http:// www. / helath/ Dyspepsia-Non-ulcer-%28Functional%29.htm as accessed in March 2012
4. http:// www. / contents/ functional-dyspepsia?source=search_result&search=dyspepsia&selected Title=2∼150 as accessed in March 2012

This is not a substitute to a doctor's advice and care. Please refer to your doctor for any further queries.


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