Acid Reflux / GERDGastroIntestinal / Gastroenterology

What to know about indigestion or dyspepsia

Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion, is a term used to describe upper abdominal discomfort or pain. This is not an disease.

The term refers to a group of symptoms commonly associated with bloating, discomfort, nausea, and burping.

Indigestion is associated, in most situations, with eating or drinking. It may also be attributed to diseases or the use of other medicines.

Fast facts on dyspepsia

  • Dyspepsia is the same as indigestion, and it is not a disease. It is the name for a group of symptoms that cause discomfort in the abdomen.
  • Overeating, consuming greasy or spicy foods, and hiatus hernia can all cause indigestion.
  • An endoscopy can be used to identify the root cause.
  • Dietary choices and medication are used to manage dyspepsia symptoms.

What is dyspepsia?

Dyspepsia is not a specific condition but rather a collection of symptoms.

Many people with indigestion suffer from abdominal or chest pain and discomfort. Generally, the feeling comes soon after eating food or drink. During a meal, it can make a person feel full or depressed even if they haven’t eaten a large amount of food.

Treatments

Indigestion care depends on the cause of the symptoms and their severity.

If the symptoms are moderate and rare, changes in lifestyle will likely relieve them. It usually involves less fatty and spicy foods and less caffeine, sugar, and chocolate intake. Sleeping every night for at least 7 hours can also help ease a mild indigestion.

Daily exercise and quitting smoking are effective lifestyle changes in indigestion treatment as well.

Medications

In severe or frequent cases of indigestion, a doctor may prescribe medication.

Antacids: These counter the effects of stomach acid. Examples include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Rolaids, Riopan, and Mylanta. These are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that do not need a prescription. A doctor will usually recommend an antacid medication as one of the first treatments for dyspepsia.

H-2-receptor antagonists: These reduce stomach acid levels and last longer than antacids. However, antacids act more quickly. Examples include Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid, and Axid. Some of these are OTC, while others are only available on prescription.

Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and headaches after taking these. Other side effects may include bruising or bleeding.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Examples include Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, and Zegerid. PPIs are highly effective for people who also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They reduce stomach acid and are stronger than H-2-receptor antagonists.

Speak to a doctor about possible side effects.

Prokinetics: This medication is helpful for stomachs that empty slowly. One example of a prokinetic drug is Reglan. Side effects may include tiredness, depression, sleepiness, anxiety, and muscle spasms.

Antibiotics: If H. pylori is causing peptic ulcers that result in indigestion, an antibiotic will be prescribed. Side effects may include an upset stomach, diarrhea, and fungal infections.

Antidepressants: If the doctor finds no causes for indigestion after a thorough evaluation, and the person with dyspepsia has not responded to treatments, the doctor may prescribe low-dose antidepressants.

Antidepressants sometimes ease discomfort by reducing the sensation of pain. Side effects may include nausea, headaches, agitation, constipation, and night sweats.

Psychological therapy: For people with functional dyspepsia, psychological therapy can help manage the cognitive aspects of indigestion. Cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, and relaxation therapy may be recommended.

The doctor may also recommend that changes be made to a person’s current schedule of medication if they believe it could cause indigestion. Often, a course of aspirin or ibuprofen may be halted and alternative drugs may be recommended.

Changing drugs is only necessary under the supervision of a doctor.

Dyspepsia symptoms

Indigestion is not a condition but a group of symptoms that affect digestion.
Indigestion is not a condition but a group of symptoms that affect digestion.

The following symptoms of dyspepsia are also common:

  • nausea
  • belching
  • pain
  • a feeling of fullness, or satiety
  • feeling bloated

In very rare cases, indigestion may be a symptom of stomach cancer.

Mild dyspepsia occasionally involves further testing, and should not be a cause for concern. A doctor visit is only required if the symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks.

Seek emergency treatment if the pain is severe and if there is one of the following, too:

  • loss of appetite or weight loss
  • vomiting
  • inability to swallow
  • black stools
  • yellow coloring in the eyes and skin
  • chest pain during exertion
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • chest pain that spreads to the jaw, arm, or neck

Heartburn and dyspepsia are often mistaken for each other but, although occurring often at the same time, they are two different disorders. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, described as a burning sensation that usually occurs behind the breastbone after eating

Dyspepsia diet

Different type of Fruits
Foods high in fiber, such as fruit, can help prevent indigestion.

A diet high in fibre is a healthy way to manage digestive health. It has the effect of clearing the intestine and making digestion easier, cleaner.

Foods containing fruit, nuts, legumes, and wholegrain are filled with fiber and an excellent choice to protect against indigestion. There were also many yogurts and cereals filled with fibre.

It is important to eat a balanced diet which excludes spicy or greasy foods. Be sure to eat every meal with fluids, as this helps move food through the digestive tract.

It can also support the digestive system by eating four or five smaller meals in a day, as opposed to three larger ones.

Causes

caffeine in the cup
Consuming too much caffeine is one of the many possible causes of dyspepsia.

Indigestion is generally caused by an individual’s lifestyle and the foods that they consume. It may also have an connection with an infection or other intestinal disorders.

The signs are usually caused by contact with the mucosa through the stomach acid. Stomach acids break down the mucous membrane and cause irritation and inflammation. That triggers the uncomfortable indigestion symptoms.

Common causes of indigestion include:

  • eating too much or too rapidly
  • eating fatty, greasy, or spicy foods
  • drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
  • consuming too much chocolate or soda
  • emotional trauma
  • gallstones
  • gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach
  • hiatus hernia
  • infection, especially with a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
  • nervousness
  • obesity
  • pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas
  • peptic ulcers
  • smoking
  • certain medications, such as antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • stomach cancer

If a doctor is unable to find cause for indigestion, the individual may develop functional dyspepsia. This is a type of indigestion to explain the symptoms, without any pathological or metabolic disease. It may be caused by stomach disease, which prevents it from eating and digesting food in a normal manner.

Diagnosis

For most people with signs dyspepsia is mild and rare. In such cases there is no need for treatment.

People with daily indigestion or severe abdominal pain should see a primary care doctor.

A doctor should ask the person with dyspepsia about the symptoms thereof. You will also find out about their personal and family backgrounds, and analyze the stomach and arms. This may include pressing down on different areas of the abdomen to decide whether any are under pressure sensitive, tender, or painful.

If the doctor suspects an underlying cause, they can use the following diagnostic tests to identify any underlying health problems:

  • Blood test: If the person with indigestion also has any symptoms of anemia, the doctor may order a blood test.
  • Endoscopy: People who have not responded to previous treatment for dyspepsia may be referred for a more detailed examination of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A long thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted through the mouth and into the stomach. This produces clear images of the mucosa. The doctor can also perform a biopsy during this procedure to test for cancer.
  • Tests to diagnose H. pylori infection: These may include a urea breath test, a stool antigen test, and a blood test. An endoscopy would also identify H. pylori as well as any peptic ulcers that are present. Peptic ulcers are often caused by H. pylori.
  • Liver function test: If the doctor suspects a problem with the bile ducts in the liver, they may request a blood test to assess how the liver is working.
  • X-rays: X-ray images are taken of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: High-frequency soundwaves make images showing movement, structure, and blood flow in the abdomen. A gel is applied to the abdomen and a hand-held device pressed against the skin. The device gives off sound waves, and the doctor can see a detailed picture of the inside of the abdomen on a monitor.
  • Abdominal CT scan: This may involve injecting a dye into the veins. The dye shows up on the monitor. The CT scan takes a series of X-ray images to produce a 3D image of the inside of the abdomen.

Further examinations are often only used in severe cases.

Complications

In most cases, dyspepsia is mild, and uncommon. Nevertheless, the following conditions will occasionally cause severe indigestion.

Esophageal stricture: The reflux of acids will cause indigestion. This is a disease in which stomach acids spill back into the esophagus and irritate the stomach’s delicate lining, called the mucosa. The pain can scar the esophagus, which becomes narrow and limited afterwards.

People with an esophageal stringency can begin to find it difficult to swallow. Food can get caught in the mouth, which can cause chest pain. Often, esophageal dilatation is required to expand the esophagus.

Pyloric stenosis: This occurs when stomach acid causes the lining of the digestive system to be irritated for long periods. The pylorus is the pathway between a small intestine and the stomach. It becomes scarred and narrowered in pyloric stenosis. As a consequence the food is not digested properly.

Surgery may be required to widen the pylorus.

Takeaway

Dyspepsia is often mild, and can be treated before symptoms arise by dietary and lifestyle changes.

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