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Indigestion

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Learn more about indigestion: introduction

Most people have indigestion at some point. Usually, it's not a sign of anything more serious and you can treat it yourself.

How to tell if you have indigestion (dyspepsia)

You can have the following symptoms after eating or drinking:

  • heartburn – a painful burning feeling in the chest, often after eating
  • feeling full and bloated
  • feeling sick
  • belching and farting
  • bringing up food or bitter tasting fluids

When it's not indigestion

Stomach ache or back pain are usually not symptoms of indigestion. If you have those you might be constipated.

Indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux – what's the difference?

Heartburn and acid reflux are the same thing – when acid from your stomach comes up your throat. You'll have a burning feeling when this happens. This can be a symptom of indigestion.

How you can treat indigestion yourself

There's usually no need to see a GP about indigestion. There are some things you can do at home.

Do

  • cut down on tea, coffee, cola or alcohol
  • prop your head and shoulders up in bed – this can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep
  • lose weight if you're overweight

Don't

  • eat 3 to 4 hours before going to bed
  • have rich, spicy or fatty foods
  • take ibuprofen or aspirin – this can make indigestion worse
  • smoke

A pharmacist can help with indigestion

A pharmacist can recommend medicines that will ease the burning feeling or pain that can come with indigestion.

These medicines make your stomach less acidic. They're called antacids.

It's best to take the medicine after eating – they'll last up to 3 hours on a full stomach. They'll only last for 20 to 60 minutes on an empty stomach.

Find a pharmacy

Pregnant women: treating indigestion

Pregnant women often get indigestion. It's very common from 27 weeks onwards.

It can be caused by hormonal changes and the growing baby pressing against the stomach.

A pharmacist can help with uncomfortable feelings or pain. They can recommend the best medicines to use when you're pregnant.

See a GP if you:

  • keep getting indigestion
  • are in bad pain
  • are 55 or older
  • have lost a lot of weight without meaning to
  • have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • keep vomiting
  • have iron deficiency anaemia
  • feel like you have a lump in your stomach
  • have bloody vomit or poo

These symptoms can be a sign of something more serious.

What causes indigestion

The acid in your stomach can irritate the stomach lining or your throat. This causes indigestion and gives you a burning feeling and pain.

Other things that can cause indigestion include:

  • medicines
  • smoking
  • alcohol

Stress can make indigestion worse.

Illnesses that can cause indigestion
Content supplied by NHS Choices