Indigestion

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

How you can treat indigestion yourself

There’s usually no need to see a GP about indigestion.

Here are some things you can do at home:

  • avoid rich, spicy or fatty foods
  • cut down on tea, coffee, cola or alcohol
  • don’t eat 3 to 4 hours before going to bed
  • prop your head and shoulders up in bed - this can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep
  • don’t take ibuprofen or aspirin - this can make indigestion worse
  • lose weight if you’re overweight
  • give up smoking

These things will also help prevent indigestion.

A pharmacist can help with indigestion

A pharmacist can recommend medicines that’ll 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. On a full stomach they’ll last up to 3 hours. On an empty stomach they’ll only last 20 minutes to an hour.

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.

Indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux - what’s the difference?

Heartburn and acid reflux are the same thing. It’s 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.

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
  • Hiatus hernia
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Helicobacter pylori infections
  • Gastro-oesophageal disease (GORD)

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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