Most of the time, indigestion is not a sign of a serious health problem unless it occurs with other symptoms. These may include:
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
Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
Other causes of indigestion are:
Gastritis (when the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed or swollen)
Swelling of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
Ulcers (stomach or intestinal ulcer)
Use of certain medicines such as antibiotics, aspirin, and over-the-counter pain medicines (NSAIDs)
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 health care provider 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.
Tack J. Dyspepsia. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 14.
Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.