What is indigestion?

Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is a condition of impaired digestion. The term is used to describe a number of unpleasant symptoms of various intensity and frequency from the stomach and duodenum. The condition is long-term and it will often last for months or years.

In the UK, roughly one fourth of the population suffers from dyspepsia, and only few seek medical advice from their doctor. The condition is harmless, but recurring or constant dyspepsia should be examined by a doctor.


What are the symptoms of indigestion?

Indigestion can be long-term, where the symptoms are always present. Sometimes, however, the symptoms occur from time to time.

The symptoms include:

  • Feeling full quickly when eating (early satiety)
  • Occasional or constant pain or discomfort in the upper stomach
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Burping up food or liquid (Reflux)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal gas


What are the causes of indigestion?

Indigestion can be caused by a number of different diseases. These include ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, food allergies and gastritis. Often examinations won’t be able to uncover any underlying cause of the condition, and in this case, the diagnosis functional dyspepsia will be made. In functional dyspepsia, there is thus no apparent explanation for the symptoms, but they can be due to a complex interplay between increased sensitivity of the inner lining of the stomach, ineffective emptying of the upper digestive tract, disturbed intestinal motility, or psychological factors such as stress or anxiety.


How is indigestion treated?

Since indigestion can be caused by a number of different conditions, the treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If the indigestion is caused by a stomach ulcer, proton pump inhibitors and possibly antibiotics will be part of the treatment, but if the condition is caused by psychological issues, the treatment will involve psychological therapy. If the symptoms occur when eating certain foods, these foods should be avoided.

There is thus not only one specific treatment method against dyspepsia regardless of the cause, but if you experience any of the abovementioned symptoms you should see your GP for an examination to establish the cause of the condition and to initiate the correct treatment quickly.

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