Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a general term for pain or discomfort felt in the stomach and under the ribs.
Heartburn is when acid moves up from the stomach into the gullet (oesophagus) and causes a burning pain behind your breastbone.
Indigestion and heartburn can occur together or on their own.
It’s a common problem that affects most people at some point. In most cases it’s mild and only occurs occasionally.
Symptoms of indigestion
As well as heartburn, other common symptoms of indigestion include:
feeling uncomfortably full or bloated
belching or passing wind (flatulence)
bringing up food or fluid from your stomach
These symptoms usually occur soon after eating or drinking, although there can sometimes be a delay between eating and getting indigestion.
What causes indigestion?
Indigestion is usually related to eating. When you eat, your stomach produces acid. The acid can sometimes irritate your stomach lining, the top part of the bowel, or the oesophagus.
This irritation can be painful and cause a burning sensation, particularly if the lining of your digestive system is overly sensitive to acid.
Your stomach can also stretch after eating a big meal, causing acid reflux, where the acid moves up into your oesophagus.
Indigestion can also be triggered or made worse by a number of other factors:
Some medicines, such as nitrates – taken to widen blood vessels – relax the ring of muscle between the oesophagus and stomach. This allows acid to leak back up.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can also affect your digestive tract and cause indigestion.
Don’t take NSAIDs if you have stomach problems, such as a stomach ulcer, or you’ve had problems in the past. Children under 16 shouldn’t take aspirin.
If you’re overweight or obese, you’re more likely to get indigestion. This is because increased pressure inside your stomach, particularly after a large meal, can cause acid reflux.
Indigestion in pregnancy is partly caused by hormonal changes, and by the growing womb pressing on your stomach in the later stages of pregnancy.
As many as 8 out of 10 women experience indigestion at some point during their pregnancy.
Smoking and alcohol
The chemicals inhaled in cigarette smoke may contribute to indigestion. They can cause the muscle between the oesophagus and stomach to relax, causing acid reflux.
Drinking excess amounts of alcohol can also increase your risk of getting indigestion. Alcohol causes your stomach to produce more acid than normal, which can irritate your stomach lining.
If you have trouble with any of the above seek advice from your GP. or pharmacist. They will be happy to help with advice on what to do next.