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Digestive Health > Nausea / upset stomach > What can I do about occasional indigestion?
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What can I do about occasional indigestion?

What is indigestion?

Indigestion is a common digestive problem that affects many people from time to time. Symptoms include:

  • feeling uncomfortably full during or after a meal
  • burning or pain between the chest bone and belly button
  • nausea and bloating (less frequent)

What causes indigestion?

Indigestion is often caused by overeating; eating too fast; drinking too much alcohol; or eating fatty, spicy, or greasy food. It may also be caused by emotional stress or a medical problem in the digestive system, such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), gallstones, inflammation of the pancreas, ulcers, or cancer. Sometimes, no cause can be found.

What can I do to relieve my occasional indigestion?

Visit your pharmacy to get a non-prescription product such as bismuth subsalicylate. Other non-prescription options for indigestion include antacids containing calcium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide plus aluminum hydroxide, and non-prescription strength acid blockers containing famotidine or ranitidine.

When trying a non-prescription product, be sure the product is right for you. Always read and follow the label. Check with your pharmacist if you have any questions.

These simple lifestyle changes can also help with occasional indigestion:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Chew your food well.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages (such as pop).
  • Get plenty of rest and find ways to manage stress in your life.
  • Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications could be making the problem worse (e.g., anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen).

When should I see a doctor?

Although many cases of indigestion can be treated at home, you should see your doctor if you have frequent vomiting, bloody vomit, blood in the stool or black tarry stools (keep in mind that bismuth subsalicylate can darken the stool), unexplained weight loss or fatigue, trouble swallowing or painful swallowing, shortness of breath, sweating, yellowing of the eyes or skin, or abdominal pain outside of the area between the chest bone and belly button. You should also see a doctor if your symptoms last longer than a few days.

These tips are for adults. If your baby or child has indigestion, get medical advice.


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