Dyspepsia, the medical term for indigestion, refers to discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen, often after eating or drinking. It is not a disease but a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other conditions.

Dyspepsia is a common problem, affecting up to 20% of the population. Common symptoms include bloating, discomfort, feeling too full, nausea, and gas.

In most cases, it happens after eating or drinking. Lifestyle changes can often help.

Other causes include medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and the use of certain medications.

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A doctor will diagnose dyspepsia if a person has one or more of the following symptoms:

A person may also experience bloating and nausea.

A person can have symptoms even if they have not eaten a large amount.

Treatment for dyspepsia depends on the cause and severity. Often, treating an underlying condition or changing a person’s medication will reduce dyspepsia.

Lifestyle changes

For mild and infrequent symptoms, lifestyle changes may help. These include:

  • avoiding or limiting the intake of trigger foods, such as fried foods, mint, tomatoes, and some spices
  • limiting the intake of milk, caffeine, and alcohol
  • avoiding large portions at mealtime
  • eating smaller meals more often
  • avoiding lying down for at least two hours after eating
  • if a person is overweight, losing weight may provide some relief to the digestive tract
  • elevating the head of the bed by roughly six inches (by propping up the mattress or bed frame)


FDA warning.

In April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that all forms of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) ranitidine (Zantac) be removed from the United States market. They made this recommendation because unacceptable levels of NDMA, a probable carcinogen (or cancer-causing chemical), were present in some ranitidine products. People taking prescription ranitidine should talk with their doctor about safe alternative options before stopping the drug. People taking OTC ranitidine should stop taking the drug and talk with their healthcare provider about alternative options. Instead of taking unused ranitidine products to a drug take-back site, a person should dispose of them according to the product’s instructions or by following the FDA’s guidance.

For severe or frequent symptoms, a doctor may recommend medication. People should speak to their doctor about suitable options and possible side effects.

There are various medications and treatments available, depending on the cause of dyspepsia.

Medication options include:


These counter the effects of stomach acid. Examples include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Rolaids, Riopan, and Mylanta. These are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that do not need a prescription. However, it is important to note that some antacids contain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which may actually exacerbate dyspeptic symptoms and peptic ulcer disease.

H-2-receptor antagonists

These reduce stomach acid levels and are more effective than antacids. Examples include Tagamet and Pepcid. Some are available OTC, while others are by prescription only. Some may carry a risk of adverse effects. A doctor can help a person choose a suitable H-2-receptor option.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

PPIs reduce stomach acid and are stronger than H-2-receptor antagonists. Examples are Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, and Zegerid.


These can help boost the movement of food through the stomach. Examples include metoclopramide (Reglan). While this medication can be effective, it is typically reserved for people with severe symptoms. Side effects may include tiredness, depression, anxiety, and muscle spasms.


If a Helicobacter pylori infection is causing peptic ulcers that result in indigestion, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Side effects may include an upset stomach, diarrhea, and fungal infections.


Some medications that are used for gastrointestinal neuromodulation are of the same class of drugs used for mood disorders, although typically at lower doses.


Chronic indigestion can affect a person’s quality of life and overall well-being. Counseling may help some people manage these issues.

Options may include:

Drug interactions

If a person’s medication appears to be a trigger for indigestion, a doctor may recommend adjusting the drug dose or type.

It is important to change medications only under the supervision of a doctor.

Dietary choices may help manage indigestion.

Tips include:

  • following a healthy, balanced diet
  • limiting the intake of spicy and fatty foods
  • limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • drinking water instead of sodas
  • avoiding acidic foods, such as tomatoes and oranges

Consuming four or five smaller meals per day instead of three larger ones can also help.

Indigestion can result from lifestyle or dietary habits, a medical condition, or the use of some drugs.

Common causes of indigestion include:

If there is no identifiable structural or metabolic cause, a doctor will diagnose functional dyspepsia.

Dyspepsia can also be a symptom of a wide range of health conditions, including:

In pregnancy

Dyspepsia is common during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. This is due to hormonal changes and the way the fetus presses against the stomach.

A doctor or pharmacist can recommend safe ways to manage indigestion during pregnancy.

Many people experience mild dyspepsia from time to time and manage it with lifestyle changes or OTC medication.

However, anyone who has frequent indigestion or worsening symptoms should seek medical help.

People should see a doctor if they have the following symptoms alongside indigestion:

  • blood in the stools or black stools
  • frequent vomiting, especially with traces of blood
  • difficulty swallowing food
  • unexplained weight loss
  • chest pain that spreads to the jaw, arm, or neck
  • severe and constant abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • yellow coloring in the eyes and skin

A doctor will ask the person about:

  • their symptoms
  • their personal and family medical history
  • any other health conditions and medications that they are taking
  • their dietary habits

They may also examine the chest and stomach. This may involve pressing down on different parts of the abdomen to check for areas that may be sensitive, tender, or painful under pressure.

In some cases, a doctor may use the following tests to rule out an underlying health condition:

  • Blood test: This can assess for anemia, liver problems, and other conditions.
  • Tests for H. pylori infection: In addition to a blood test, these tests may include a urea breath test and a stool antigen test.
  • Endoscopy: The doctor will use a long, thin tube with a camera to take images of the gastrointestinal tract during this procedure. They may also take a tissue sample for a biopsy. This can help them diagnose an ulcer or a tumor.

In very rare cases, severe and persistent indigestion can lead to complications. These include:

Esophageal stricture

Persistent exposure to stomach acid can cause scarring in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The tract can become narrow and constricted, causing difficulty with swallowing and chest pain. Surgery may be necessary to widen the esophagus for a person with an esophageal stricture.

Pyloric stenosis

In some cases, stomach acid can cause long-term irritation of the pylorus, the passage between the stomach and the small intestine. If the pylorus becomes scarred, it can narrow. If that happens, a person may not be able to digest food properly, and they may need surgery for pyloric stenosis.


Over time, stomach acid can cause the lining of the digestive system to break down, leading to an infection called peritonitis. Medication or surgery may be necessary.

Below are some commonly asked questions about dyspepsia.

What does dyspepsia mean?

Dyspepsia is another term for indigestion, which is discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen, often after eating or drinking.

What should a person eat if they have dyspepsia?

If a person has dyspepsia, they may benefit from the following dietary tips:

  • follow a healthy, balanced diet
  • limit the intake of spicy and fatty foods
  • limit caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • drink water instead of sodas
  • avoid acidic foods, such as tomatoes and oranges

How does a person get rid of dyspepsia?

To get rid of mild dyspepsia, the following lifestyle changes may help:

  • avoiding or limiting the intake of trigger foods, such as fried foods, mint, tomatoes, and some spices
  • avoiding large portions at mealtime
  • eating smaller meals more often
  • avoiding lying down for at least two hours after eating

For more severe or frequent dyspepsia, a doctor may recommend medications such as antacids, H-2-receptor antagonists, or Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion, refers to discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen, often after eating or drinking.

It is often mild, and people can make dietary and lifestyle changes to help manage it. If these do not work, a doctor can prescribe medications.

In some cases, there may be a more serious underlying cause. Anyone who has concerns about new, severe, or ongoing dyspepsia should seek medical advice.