Indigestion is an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach and is generally associated with eating and comes on during or after a meal. It can occur when the stomach is empty.

A duodenal ulcer will often wake you up in the early hours of the morning when the stomach has emptied.

Indigestion can be felt as pain, pressure or a burning sensation over the stomach or behind the breastbone. It may take the form of abdominal fullness with belching or it may produce regurgitation of food. If the acid contents of the stomach can come up into the mouth this produces what is known as “water brash” or heartburn.

Indigestion can be due to disease of the gastro-intestinal tract or to disease of other organs of the body or it may be of nervous origin with no obvious cause.

The commonest causes of indigestion are missing of meals and the fast eating of indigestible lumpy food associated with a chronic state of anxiety and smoking. This form of indigestion is generally relieved by the slow eating of a more easily digested meal, antacid tablets or mixtures, regular meals and reducing smoking particularly before meals. If not relieved, a doctor should be consulted.

Drugs such as aspirin, non-steroid anti-inflammatory tablets, cortisone tablets, alcohol and food allergies can produce indigestion.

Milk products generally help to relieve indigestion due to simple causes.

Failure of the valve at the lower end of the oesphagus, the “oesophageal sphincter” allow acid to splash back from the stomach and burn the lower oesophagus: acid reflux. Medication can assist the normal movement of the oesophagus and also decrease the production of or neutralise acid so less burning occurs.

Simple measures such as not wearing tight pants or belts, raising the head of the bed on bricks and ceasing smoking can also help these symptoms before medication becomes necessary.

Anxiety sometimes causes people to swallow air which then causes belching and indigestion.

If the symptoms persist or get worse and simple antacids do not work then your doctor should be consulted.

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