Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach, is a condition of impaired digestion. It is a disorder that is characterized by discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a disease but a group of symptoms that usually occur together, which include pain, a burning feeling, or discomfort in your upper abdomen; feeling full too soon while eating, and feeling uncomfortably full after eating.

Although indigestion is common, each person may experience indigestion in a slightly different way. While you may experience symptoms of indigestion once in a while, there are many others who are prone to regular or recurrent episodes of indigestion. It is your eating habits and your lifestyle that triggers indigestion. 

Sometimes, other digestive disorders such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can also lead to indigestion. GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus (the tube connecting your mouth and stomach). 

Read on to understand the causes, symptoms, and do’s and don’ts to manage and prevent indigestion.

What Causes Indigestion  

  • Overeating spicy, processed, and fatty foods

  • Eating your meals too quickly 

  • Drinking excessive alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, or carbonated beverages

  • Indulging in regular smoking 

  • Having recurrent gastric or stomach ulcers (painful sores in your stomach lining)

  • Having GERD 

  • Taking certain medications such as  nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are used to treat pain, fever and reduce inflammation

  • Being stressed, anxious or depressed 

  • Having psychosomatic or functional dyspepsia. When there is no organic cause or diagnosis identified for dyspepsia but symptoms persist, it is known as functional dyspepsia or psychosomatic dyspepsia. Usually, such cases are corrected with psychological treatments like stress management, bio-feedback (therapy that aims to tackle stress using relaxation techniques), cognitive therapy (a therapy that helps you in recognizing negative or unhelpful thoughts and behaviour patterns), etc.

What Does Indigestion Feel Like?

If you have one or more of the following symptoms after eating or drinking, then you are most likely to have indigestion:

  • Stomach pain

  • Burning sensation in your chest

  • A feeling of bloating (flatulence)

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Belching (burping) and farting

  • Heartburn (an irritation of your esophagus)

Treating Indigestion at Home

Following the right dietary and lifestyle recommendations can help you treat mild indigestion at home. 

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to remember:


1. Eat smaller and lighter meals. Avoiding large meals is one of the easiest ways to lower the chances of experiencing acid reflux and heartburn. Eating 5-6 small meals a day is less work for your digestive system and easy and convenient for you as well.

2. Eat foods rich in healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, and probiotics to fight various symptoms of indigestion. Eating healthy fats is important to help fight acid reflux symptoms. Healthy fats include avocados, flax seeds, olive oil, and sesame oil. 

Fiber aids digestion and high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains reduce acid reflux. Fiber, among other things, absorbs liquid in your digestive system, which prevents the displacement of stomach acid.

Magnesium combined with hydroxide or carbonate ions may help neutralize the acid in your stomach. Your stomach contains gastric juices that are made up of water, electrolytes, hydrochloric acid, enzymes, mucus, and intrinsic factor. Include nuts, fish, legumes, bananas, and leafy greens in your daily diet.

Know that your stomach contains healthy bacteria which help in regulating digestion, your immune system, and your overall health. Probiotics or “friendly” bacteria may help maintain a balance between good and harmful bacteria. 

Probiotic-rich foods are yogurt, kimchi (a Korean dish which is a combination of vegetables, garlic, ginger, chili peppers, salt, and fish sauce), raw fermented pickles and vegetables, kefir (fermented drink, traditionally made using cow's milk or goat's milk) and kombucha (fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink). 

3. Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. Studies show that moderate and low impact exercises are quite beneficial for indigestion sufferers. Activities like walking, light jogging, yoga, riding a stationary bike, or swimming are great to alleviate symptoms associated with GERD and acid reflux.

4. Stay hydrated. Drinking water regularly can make your digestion process better and curb GERD symptoms.

5. Manage or reduce stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are known to have both short-term and long-term effects on your digestive system. Stress increases the amount of acid in your stomach, which leads to indigestion and heartburn.

6. Control your weight. Being overweight or obese (excessive body fat) increases your risk of GERD which can lead to indigestion. Due to excessive accumulation of body fat, there is extra pressure on your stomach which can cause the backflow of stomach acid into your esophagus and cause GERD. 

Reducing your weight through regular physical activity and eating the right foods can help manage indigestion.

7. Stop or avoid painkillers. NSAIDs are known to cause mild stomach-related side effects such as indigestion, heartburn, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and diarrhoea (watery stools). It is advisable to avoid painkillers as much as possible or stop them as soon as the need dies.

Also remember, taking pain relief medication on an empty stomach can result in a stomach ache or upset. To avoid this, try to take them with food and a glass of water for stomach pain relief.


1. Eat spicy food and processed foods. Too much intake of spicy, salty, and processed foods can affect your esophagus and lead to inflammation. This can further cause indigestion and discomfort. Avoid eating these foods on a regular basis and watch your portion sizes while gorging on these foods.

2. Drink excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. 

  • Alcohol can cause inflammation in your stomach mucosa – the lining that protects the walls of your stomach. Heavy drinking can cause heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. 

  • Caffeinated food and beverages can increase the production of your stomach acid, resulting in GERD and heartburn, the most common symptoms of indigestion. 

  • Carbonated drinks and sodas are high in acid content and can irritate your esophagus. If you have recurrent indigestion, it is best to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. You can opt for fresh fruit juices, herbal or green teas, and detox water (water that has been infused with the flavors of fresh fruits, vegetables, or herbs to get rid of toxins) instead of tea, coffee, and aerated drinks. 

3. Eat food late at night or just before bedtime. Your body slows down its functions at night to prepare for sleep, but consuming foods, especially those high in carbohydrates, can make it harder to digest and result in indigestion. It is advised to eat your dinner 2 hours before bedtime to avoid indigestion symptoms.

4. Indulge in frequent binge-watching at night. Frequent binge-watching (watching multiple episodes of (a television programme) in rapid succession) can result in night-time snacking and eating food late at night. Eating food right before bedtime or late at night can result in slow digestion and acid reflux. 

It is best to avoid frequent binge-watching and if you do it every other day, you must stop right away!

Mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about. Consult your doctor if discomfort persists for more than two weeks. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice a sudden weight loss or loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or vomiting with blood, black stools, and have trouble swallowing food.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.