Indigestion / Gastritis
Indigestion is caused by stomach acid coming into contact with the sensitive, protective lining (mucosa) of the digestive system. The stomach acid breaks down the mucosa, leading to irritation and inflammation (redness and swelling). This causes the symptoms of indigestion.
The symptoms of indigestion also known as dyspepsia, are often described as 'heartburn', which you may experience as a burning pain behind your breastbone (sternum) This usually happens after eating certain types of food. The foods might be fatty or very rich.
Indigestion may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- feeling full or bloated
- heartburn, a burning sensation that is caused by acid passing from the stomach into the oesophagus (gullet)
- nausea (feeling sick)
- belching (burping)
Causes of indigestion:
In most cases, indigestion is related to eating, although it can be caused by other factors, such as an infection, taking certain medications, conditions such as hiatus hernia, gastritis or stomach ulcer.
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. It may cause upper abdominal pain (just below your breastbone). The pain is often described as a burning feeling. It usually comes and goes. It may be eased if you take antacid tablets. Sometimes food makes the pain worse. The pain may also wake you from sleep.
There are usually other symptoms as well, such as feeling sick (nausea), vomiting and feeling full after eating.
Treatment for indigestion (dyspepsia) will vary depending on what is causing it and how severe your symptoms are. If you have indigestion only occasionally with mild pain and discomfort, you may not need to see your GP for treatment. It may be possible to ease your symptoms by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle asking your pharmacy for short term medication that can help.
Gastritis is usually mild and resolves without any treatment. Some simple changes to your lifestyle and using over-the-counter antacid medicines are often all that is required. Other medicines to reduce the acid in your stomach are sometimes needed. If not treated properly, gastritis can last a long time or may lead to a stomach ulcer or anaemia. If you think the cause of your gastritis is repeated use of NSAIDs, talk to your doctor about switching to a different painkiller that isn't in the NSAID class, such as paracetamol.
Diet and lifestyle changes -
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms such as rich / spicy food, fruit juice, alcohol.
- Eating smaller and more frequent meals.
- If you tend to experience indigestion symptoms at night, avoid eating for three to four hours before you go to bed.
- Reducing stress.
When to see your Doctor
- Pain which doesn't settle with remedies from your pharmacist.
- You have pain or any other indigestion symptoms lasting for more than a week.
- Being off your food or losing weight for no obvious reason.
- Food sticking when you swallow, or severe pain on swallowing.
- Vomiting up blood or black 'coffee grounds'.
- Blood in your poo, especially if it's dark red and mixed in with the poo (rather than being on the paper or in the pan) or passing black, tarry poos.
- Feel generally unwell or tired.
- Persistent bloating that lasts for three weeks or longer
- You have recently lost weight without deliberately trying to diet.
- The gastritis / indigestion starts after taking any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter).
Your doctor may recommend medications such as
- Antacids - They work by neutralising the acid in your stomach (making it less acidic), so that it no longer irritates the lining (mucosa) of your digestive system.
- Alginates – Your indigestion may be caused by acid reflux which occurs when stomach acid leaks back up into your oesophagus (gullet) and irritates its lining (mucosa). Alginates work by forming a foam barrier that floats on the surface of your stomach contents, keeping stomach acid in your stomach and away from your oesophagus.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 receptor antagonists - If you have severe or recurring indigestion, your GP may prescribe PPIs which inhibit the acid production in your stomach or H2 receptor antagonists that lower the acidity in your stomach.
- Antibiotics if your symptoms are due to infection such as Helicobacter pylori (that cause ulcers)