Indigestion

ExitCare ImageIndigestion is discomfort in the upper abdomen that is caused by underlying problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, or gallbladder problems.

CAUSES

Indigestion can be caused by many things. Possible causes include:

  • Stomach acid in the esophagus.

  • Stomach infections, usually caused by the bacteria H. pylori.

  • Being overweight.

  • Hiatal hernia. This means part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm.

  • Overeating.

  • Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

  • Poor nutrition.

  • Consuming too much alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine.

  • Consuming spicy foods, fats, peppermint, chocolate, tomato products, citrus, or fruit juices.

  • Medicines such as aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones, steroids, and thyroid medicines.

  • Gastroparesis. This is a condition in which the stomach does not empty properly.

  • Stomach cancer.

  • Pregnancy, due to an increase in hormone levels, a relaxation of muscles in the digestive tract, and pressure on the stomach from the growing fetus.

SYMPTOMS

  • Uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating.

  • Pain or burning sensation in the upper abdomen.

  • Bloating.

  • Belching and gas.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Acidic taste in the mouth.

  • Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn).

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will review your medical history and perform a physical exam. Other tests, such as blood tests, stool tests, X-rays, and other imaging scans, may be done to check for more serious problems.

TREATMENT

Liquid antacids and other drugs may be given to block stomach acid secretion. Medicines that increase esophageal muscle tone may also be given to help reduce symptoms. If an infection is found, antibiotic medicine may be given.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Avoid foods and drinks that make your symptoms worse, such as:

  • Caffeine or alcoholic drinks.

  • Chocolate.

  • Peppermint or mint flavorings.

  • Garlic and onions.

  • Spicy foods.

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, or limes.

  • Tomato-based foods such as sauce, chili, salsa, and pizza.

  • Fried and fatty foods.

  • Avoid eating for the 3 hours prior to your bedtime.

  • Eat small, frequent meals instead of large meals.

  • Stop smoking if you smoke.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. Do not wear anything tight around your waist that causes pressure on your stomach.

  • Raise the head of your bed 4 to 8 inches with wood blocks to help you sleep. Extra pillows will not help.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are not better after 2 days.

  • You have chest pressure or pain that radiates up into your neck, arms, back, jaw, or upper abdomen.

  • You have difficulty swallowing.

  • You keep vomiting.

  • You have black or bloody stools.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have dizziness, fainting, difficulty breathing, or heavy sweating.

  • You have severe abdominal pain.

  • You lose weight without trying.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.