Stomach pain with eating? It could be indigestion (dyspepsia)

January 19, 2024

Primary Care Gastroenterology
Man with indigestion

Is eating no longer pleasurable because you feel full too quickly or become painfully full once you’re done? Or, do you feel heat, burning or pain between your belly button and lower breastbone? If so, you might be suffering from dyspepsia, commonly known as indigestion. 

“People of any age, even infants, can get indigestion,” says Sandria T. Vernon, M.D., a family medicine physician at Riverside Eastern Shore Family Medicine. “About one of every four people will have it at some point. For some people, indigestion happens daily, while others only experience it once in a while.” 

“Indigestion is not the same as heartburn,” Dr. Vernon continues. “Indigestion, or to use the medical term, dyspepsia, feels slightly uncomfortable in the upper belly or abdomen. It usually happens during or right after eating. While the symptoms of heartburn are a painful and burning feeling in the chest or throat.”  

Dr. Vernon explains dyspepsia symptoms, causes, treatments and when to see a doctor. 

Dyspepsia symptoms 

“You don’t need to have every symptom of dyspepsia to suffer from it – just one,” Dr. Vernon explains. “But, it is possible to have multiple symptoms.” 

With dyspepsia, you may not want to finish your meal because you feel full so quickly. Or, you might choose not to eat a lot of food because you want to avoid the uncomfortable feelings after you eat, such as being painfully full, or feeling heat, burning or pain. Other, less frequent, symptoms include:

  • Bloating (swelling in the stomach)
  • Throwing up
  • Burping
  • Nausea

It’s possible to also experience heartburn along with indigestion. But heartburn symptoms may be related to acid reflux – rather than the cause of your dyspepsia.

What causes dyspepsia?

A number of things can cause Treating dyspepsia. Some of the main causes include:

  • Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Eating too fast or too much
  • Eating spicy, fatty or greasy foods
  • Eating high-fiber foods
  • Feeling stressed or nervous
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Using some medicines, such as antibiotics, aspirin and over-the-counter pain medicines 

“Usually, indigestion is not a sign of a serious health problem,” says Dr. Vernon. “But if your dyspepsia occurs along with other symptoms, such as bleeding, trouble swallowing or losing weight, then it could be related to a more serious medical condition.”

Treating dyspepsia

Treating dyspepsia will depend on what’s causing it. The most common treatments are over-the-counter antacids or a medicine prescribed by your doctor, along with changing what you eat or drink. Certain lifestyle changes, like taking enough time to eat, chewing your food carefully and completely, avoiding arguments during meals and not exercising right after a meal can also reduce or prevent indigestion. If you’re very stressed, resting and relaxing more can reduce or eliminate your symptoms.

“Sometimes, indigestion will continue after you’ve removed the likely causes from your diet,” says Dr. Vernon. “If there’s no direct cause, then you might have something called functional dyspepsia. That means the problem could be because your stomach muscle isn’t moving food to the small intestine. Treatment for this usually involves medication and lifestyle changes.” 

If this is the case, work with your doctor to figure out what will help your symptoms.

When to see a doctor

“If your indigestion lasts more than two weeks, your symptoms change or you see blood in your stool, you should make an appointment with your doctor,” Dr. Vernon explains. “Other concerning symptoms include throwing up blood, sudden weight loss, extreme belly pain, trouble swallowing or jaundice. See your doctor if you have any of those symptoms as well.”

Your doctor can diagnose dyspepsia based on your medical history, a physical exam and other various exams, such as blood and stool tests. To make an appointment with your Riverside primary care doctor for your indigestion, visit our website. To make an appointment with Dr. Vernon please call 757-534-5352.

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