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Indigestion

Indigestion (dyspepsia) happens to almost everyone from time to time. It may cause stomach discomfort or a feeling of being too full. When severe, it can cause heartburn, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. Indigestion may be the result of your eating habits, or it can be a chronic problem.

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Symptoms

    • Bloating
    • Belching and gas
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • An acidic taste in your mouth
    • Fullness during or after a meal
    • Growling stomach
    • Burning in your stomach or upper belly
    • Belly pain

Causes

    • Ulcers
    • GERD
    • Stomach cancer. This is rare
    • Gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach doesn’t empty properly. It often happens to people with diabetes
    • Stomach infections
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Pancreatitis, an inflamed pancreas
    • Thyroid disease

How Can I Prevent Indigestion?

The best way to avoid getting it is to steer clear of the foods and situations that seem to cause it. You can keep a food diary to figure out what you eat that gives you trouble. Other ways to prevent the problem:

    • Eat small meals so your stomach doesn’t have to work as hard or as long.
    • Eat slowly.
    • Avoid foods with a lot of acid, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
    • Cut back on or avoid foods and drinks that have caffeine.
    • If stress is a trigger, learn new ways to manage it, such as relaxation and biofeedback techniques.
    • If you smoke, quit. Or at least, don’t light up right before or after you eat, since smoking can irritate your stomach.
    • Cut back on alcohol.
    • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes. They can put pressure on your stomach, which can make the food you’ve eaten move up into your esophagus.
    • Don’t exercise with a full stomach. Do it before a meal or at least 1 hour after you eat.
    • Don’t lie down right after you’ve eaten.
    • Wait at least 3 hours after your last meal of the day before you go to bed.

Raise the top of your bed so that your head and chest are higher than your feet. You can do this by placing 6-inch blocks under the top bedposts. Don’t use piles of pillows to achieve the same goal. You’ll only put your head at an angle that can increase pressure on your stomach and make heartburn worse.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Because indigestion can be a sign of a more serious health problem, let your doctor know if you have any of the following symptoms:

    • Vomiting or blood in your vomit. It may look like coffee grounds.
    • Weight loss you can’t explain
    • Loss of appetite
    • Stools that are bloody, black, or tarry
    • Severe pain in your upper-right belly
    • Pain in the upper- or lower-right parts of your belly
    • Feeling uncomfortable even if you haven’t eaten

A heart attack can cause symptoms that feel like indigestion. Get medical help right away if you have shortness of breath, sweating, or pain that spreads along your jaw, neck, or arm.

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