A burb. A bubble or two. Then comes the bloating and the loosening of the belt. “Roiling gas and fire” perfectly describes how your tummy feels. “Urrrp, sorry!” You have indigestion, better known as an upset stomach. What a lousy way to cap off a great meal. But what can you do about it, both long-and short-term?
Indigestion is not an actual illness in itself. It’s a series of symptoms that occur when or shortly after you eat. While it could be caused by a more serious condition, often it can just be a matter of eating the wrong thing the wrong way. Common symptoms include:
- Bloating and tightness caused by a buildup of gas
- Fullness: it can happen early during the meal or shortly afterward and last longer than it should
- Upper abdomen discomfort: you could feel mild to strong pain or burning between your breastbone and belly button
- Belching to release the gas
- Nausea or vomiting
Mild and occasional cases of indigestion can be relieved by changing what you eat and how/when you eat. If you occasionally experience indigestion, try these tactics to alleviate the symptoms and frequency of occurrence:
- Avoid eating foods that trigger indigestion (some dishes that didn’t bother us at one time in life may be troublesome at other times); common culprits include fatty, greasy, spicy, and/or highly acidic foods
- Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day; aim for five or six instead of the big three—breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Keep an eye on the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink and eat (caffeine can be found in tea, chocolate, and soft drinks as well as coffee)
- Monitor your stress and anxiety; they can also show up as indigestion
- You may also want to avoid some pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve)
- Iron supplements may also contribute to indigestion
- You can often treat occasional indigestion by taking an over-the-counter antacid (be sure to follow the package directions and make sure you’re taking the correct type of antacid)
- Try incorporating ginger, oatmeal, non-citrus fruits, egg whites, and healthy fats into your diet
- To avoid ingesting too much air when you eat, try chewing with your mouth closed and slowing the pace at which you eat
- Avoid late-night meals, then sit up and relax after a meal and don’t lie down too quickly
If your indigestion occurs often or lasts more than two weeks, you may want to talk with your primary care physician. You should also seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms:
- Unintentional loss of weight or appetite
- Bouts of vomiting or blood in vomit
- Black, tarry stools
- Trouble swallowing that worsens
- Weakness or fatigue
Here’s an important note: Indigestion is different from heartburn, which can be described as a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest. Heartburn symptoms may also mimic the signs of a heart attack, so don’t hesitate to talk to your PCP or seek emergency help if you are unsure about what you’re experiencing, or if you also have shortness of breath; sweating; chest pain that radiates into your jaw, arm, or neck; or chest pain during physical exertion or when you feel stressed.
Teladoc’s nationwide network of U.S.-licensed physicians can diagnose and treat non-emergency conditions such as indigestion, diarrhea, and acid reflux. We also treat sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, seasonal allergies, and much more. Download the app, and be sure to add your eligible dependents so that your loved ones can enjoy the great benefits of Teladoc 24/7 wherever you are!
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