Indigestion and Heartburn

Most people have indigestion at some point. It’s not usually a sign of anything more serious and you can treat it yourself.

Symptoms are often related to eating and drinking and include;

  • pain or discomfort in the upper tummy
  • heartburn - a burning feeling in your chest which is caused by stomach acid travelling up towards your throat
  • belching and bloating
  • feeling sick and bringing up food or bitter tasting fluids.


Causes of indigestion and heartburn

There are many common causes of indigestion and heartburn.

People often experience symptoms after a heavy, spicy or fatty meal, sometimes when we have rushed our food but quite often when we have simply had too much to eat or drink.

Sometimes indigestion and heartburn can be associated with another illness or condition. Visit your GP if you are experiencing any of the warning signs listed below.

 

Lifestyle changes for indigestion and heartburn

There are steps you can take at home to improve symptoms of indigestion:

  • cut down on tea, coffee, cola or alcohol
  • avoid eating 3 to 4 hours before going to bed
  • try propping your head and shoulders up in bed – this can stop stomach acid coming up while you sleep
  • lose weight if you're overweight
  • avoid having rich, spicy or fatty foods
  • do not take ibuprofen or aspirin – this can make indigestion worse
  • reduce or stop smoking
  • eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • find ways to relax.

 

Speak to your local pharmacist for help

Your local pharmacist can recommend medicines that will ease the burning feeling or pain and discomfort that can come with indigestion. These medicines make your stomach less acidic. They're called antacids. It's best to take these with food or soon after eating.

 

See a GP for heartburn if;

  • lifestyle changes and pharmacy medicines are not helping
  • you have heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more
  • you have other symptoms, like food getting stuck in your throat, frequently being sick or losing weight for no reason keep getting indigestion.

For indigestion, if you;

  • are in bad pain
  • are 55 or older
  • have lost a lot of weight without meaning to
  • have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • keep vomiting
  • 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.

 

References or for further information

Guts UK, Indigestion factsheet (2018) Available at: https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/symptoms/indigestion [accessed on 8/11/19]

NHS Health A-Z, Heartburn and acid reflux (August 2017) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/ [accessed on 7/11/19]

NHS Health A-Z, Indigestion (May 2017) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/indigestion [accessed on 7/11/19]

Patient Info, Indigestion (March 2018) Available at: https://patient.info/digestive-health/dyspepsia-indigestion [accessed on 07/11/19]

 

Factsheets:

Online resources: