Indigestion is a general term describing pain or discomfort arising from the stomach or under the ribcage.
Heartburn is when acid from the stomach moves up into the food tube (oesophagus) and causes a burning pain behind the breastbone, throat, or stomach.
In addition to a burning sensation, you might also experience frequent burping, bloating, nausea or difficulty swallowing.
These symptoms usually occur after eating or drinking, although there can sometimes be a delay between eating and getting indigestion.
This irritation can be painful and cause a burning sensation, particularly if the lining of your stomach or oesophagus is sensitive to acid. In addition, your stomach can also stretch after eating a big meal, causing acid to moves up into your oesophagus (acid reflux)
Indigestion is fairly common, and most of us will be expected to get this from time to time.
It can be triggered or made worse by a number of factors:
- medications (such as aspirin or ibuprofen)
- obesity (from increased pressure on the stomach)
- pregnancy (hormonal changes as well as pressure from the womb)
- smoking and alcohol (causes acid reflux and excess acid production)
- fatty and spicy foods (increases acid production and irritation)
- hiatus hernia (where part of the stomach pushes up into the diaphragm)
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (the muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus is weak and fails to prevent stomach acid rising)
Treatment for indigestion will vary depending on what's causing it and how severe your symptoms are.
Most people are able to manage their indigestion by making simple diet and lifestyle changes, or taking medication such as antacids (e.g gaviscon)
If you have persistent or recurring indigestion, treatment with antacids may not be effective enough to control your symptoms. Your GP may then recommend a different type of medication, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2-receptor antagonists.
If your indigestion symptoms are caused by an H. pylori infection, you'll need treatment to clear the infection from your stomach.