Most people have indigestion at some point. Usually, it's not a sign of anything more serious and you can treat it 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 into your mouth
When it's not indigestion
Stomach ache or back pain are usually not symptoms of indigestion. If you have those you might be constipated.
Indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux – what's the difference?
Heartburn and acid reflux are the same thing – 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.
How you can treat indigestion yourself
There's usually no need to see a GP about indigestion. There are some things you can do at home.
cut down on tea, coffee, cola or alcohol
prop your head and shoulders up in bed – this can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep
lose weight if you're overweight
eat 3 to 4 hours before going to bed
have rich, spicy or fatty foods
take ibuprofen or aspirin – this can make indigestion worse
A pharmacist can help with indigestion
A pharmacist can recommend medicines to ease the burning feeling or pain that can come with indigestion.
Medicines that help reduce acid in your stomach include:
- proton pump inhibitors
Some indigestion medicines are best to take after eating as their effects last longer. Check the information leaflet that comes with the medicines for more information.
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.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you:
- keep getting indigestion
- are in severe pain
- are 55 or older
- have lost a lot of weight without meaning to
- have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- keep being sick
- 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.
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:
- a type of bacterial infection called helicobacter pylori
Stress can make indigestion worse.
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Page last reviewed: 21 May 2020
Next review due: 21 May 2023