URL of this page: //www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003260.htm


Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a mild discomfort in the upper belly or abdomen,it occurs during or right after eating. It may feel like:

  • A feeling of heat, burning, or pain in the area between the navel and the lower part of the breastbone
  • An unpleasant feeling of fullness that comes on soon after a meal begins or when the meal is over

Bloating and nausea are less common symptoms.

Indigestion is NOT the same as heartburn.


Most of the time indigestion is not a sign of a serious health problem unless it occurs with other symptoms. These may include bleeding, weight loss, or trouble swallowing.

Rarely, the discomfort of a heart attack is mistaken for indigestion.

Indigestion may be triggered by:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
  • Eating too much (overeating)
  • Eating too fast
  • Stress or being nervous
  • Eating high-fiber foods
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Drinking too much caffeine

Other causes of indigestion are:

  • Gallstones
  • Gastritis (when the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed or swollen)
  • Swelling of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Ulcers (stomach or intestinal ulcer)
  • Use of certain medicinessuch as antibiotics, aspirin, and over-the-counter pain medicines (NSAIDs)

Home Care

Changing the way you eat may help your symptoms. Steps you can take include:

  • Allow enough time for meals.
  • Chew food carefully and completely.
  • Avoid arguments during meals.
  • Avoid excitement or exercise right after a meal.
  • Relax and get rest if indigestion is caused by stress.

Avoid aspirin and other NSAIDs. If you must take them, do so on a full stomach.

Antacids may relieve indigestion.

Medicines you can buy without a prescription, such as ranitidine (Zantac) and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC) can relieve symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe these medicines in higher doses or for longer periods of time.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Get medical help right away if your symptoms include jaw pain, chest pain, back pain, heavy sweating, anxiety, or a feeling of impending doom. These are possible heart attack symptoms.

Call your health care provider if:

  • Your indigestion symptoms change noticeably
  • Your symptoms last longer than a few days
  • You have unexplained weight loss
  • You have sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • You have trouble swallowing
  • You have yellow coloring of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • You vomit blood or pass blood in the stool

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your doctor will perform a physical exam on the stomach area and digestive tract. You will be asked questions about your symptoms.

You may have some tests.
  • Ultrasound test of the abdomen
  • Blood tests
  • Upper edoscopy

Alternative Names

Dyspepsia; Uncomfortable fullness after meals


Mayer EA. Functional gastrointestinal disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, and functional chest pain of presumed esophageal origin. In: Goldman L, Schafer Al, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 139.

Patient Instructions

Update Date 1/6/2013

Related MedlinePlus Health Topics