AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER, nearly everyone experiences indigestion (dyspepsia), a feeling of discomfort or burning in your upper abdomen. You may belch and feel bloated. You may also feel nauseated or even vomit. Although indigestion is common, each person experiences it in a slightly different way, with symptoms occurring only occasionally or as often as daily. It is bad enough to have indigestion at home; you certainly want to avoid it while traveling, though sticking to your normally healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is not always a priority or even a possibility.
You may get indigestion from eating too much or too fast, eating high-fat or spicy foods, or eating when you are stressed or anxious. Other contributors include smoking; drinking too many alcoholic, caffeinated or carbonated beverages; eating chocolate; taking certain medicines; and being tired. Sometimes the culprit is a function of the digestive tract itself, such as an ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Other causes include gastritis, peptic ulcers, celiac disease, gallstones, constipation, pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis), stomach cancer, intestinal blockage and reduced blood flow in the intestine (intestinal ischemia). Indigestion with no obvious cause is known as functional or non-ulcer dyspepsia.
Indigestion occurs during or right after eating. It may feel like heat, burning or pain in the area between the navel and the lower part of the breastbone, an unpleasant fullness that comes on soon after a meal begins or when the meal is over. You may experience bloating in the upper abdomen and an uncomfortable sensation of tightness. Sometimes people with indigestion also experience heartburn, but heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back during or after eating.
Although indigestion doesn’t usually have serious complications, it can affect your quality of life by making you feel uncomfortable and causing you to eat less. You might miss work or school because of your symptoms.
Indigestion can be a sign of a more serious problem, so you should see your health care provider if it lasts for more than two weeks or if you have severe pain or other symptoms. Your provider will take a history and perform a thorough assessment, which may be sufficient if your indigestion is mild and you’re not experiencing certain symptoms such as weight loss and repeated vomiting. But if your indigestion began suddenly and you are experiencing severe symptoms or are older than age 55, your doctor may recommend X-rays, a CT scan, lab tests, a stool sample or an upper endoscopy to diagnose the cause. You may need medicines to treat the symptoms.
Lifestyle changes can help ease indigestion. Avoid foods that trigger indigestion; eat five or six small meals a day instead of three large meals; reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol and caffeine; and avoid certain pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB and others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Find alternatives for medications that trigger indigestion, and try controlling stress and anxiety If your indigestion persists, medications may help. Over-the-counter antacids are generally the first choice. Another option is a proton pump inhibitor, which reduces stomach acid. PPIs may be recommended if you experience heartburn along with indigestion. H-2-receptor antagonists can also reduce stomach acid. Prokinetics may be helpful if your stomach empties slowly. Antibiotics may be considered if H. pylori bacteria are causing your indigestion. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may ease the discomfort from indigestion by decreasing your sensation of pain.
Alternative and complementary treatments may help ease indigestion although they have not been well-studied. These treatments include herbal therapies such as peppermint and caraway, behavior modification, relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy. Acupuncture may work by blocking the nerve pathways that carry sensations of pain to the brain.
STW 5 (Iberogast) is a liquid supplement that contains extracts of herbs including bitter candytuft, peppermint leaves, caraway and licorice root. STW 5 may work by reducing the production of gastric acid. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements to be sure you’re taking a safe dose and that the supplement will not adversely interact with other medications you take.
Most of the time indigestion is not a sign of a serious health problem unless it occurs with other symptoms. Rarely, the discomfort of a heart attack is mistaken for indigestion. Get medical help right away if your symptoms include jaw pain, chest pain, back pain, heavy sweating, anxiety or a feeling of impending doom. These are possible heart attack symptoms.
Digestive problems can put a damper on your trip, but watching what you eat can help keep your digestive system on track. Significant changes in your eating habits, not drinking enough fluids and even the stress of travel can result in indigestion. Do not eat foods without considering what’s in them or how they were cooked. Avoid eating heavy meals late at night, and do not lie down after consuming a heavy meal; your system requires two hours to properly digest a meal. Allow enough time for meals, chew food carefully and completely, avoid arguments during meals and avoid excitement or exercise right after eating. Relax and get rest if stress is causing your indigestion.
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Read This Next
All Reads on This Topic
Read Them All
FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.
Diego Rivera’s America Presents the Most In-Depth Look at Artist’s Work in More than 20 Years
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas, presents Diego Rivera’s America, the first major exhibition focused solely on the Mexican artist in more than 20 years, on view until July 31. Crystal Bridges is the second and final stop for the exhibition, the only remaining opportunity for visitors to experience Rivera's expansive vision of America.
Share Your Travel Preferences with Global Traveler in a Short Survey & Win
Learning more about our readers’ travel habits and preferences ensures Global Traveler delivers the content you desire. As the travel industry has adapted and changed over the last few years, it’s more important than ever to connect. To best meet your short- and long-term travel content needs, please help us!
San Antonio, Texas, Preserves Architectural Beauty for Future Generations
In San Antonio, Texas, old buildings are seldom destroyed. When they fall into disrepair, they are instead repurposed and restored to maintain the city’s history and traditions for future generations to appreciate. Whether it’s a former brewery or bank transforming into a chic hotel or a candy factory evolving into stylish lofts, this Texas city embraces both history and sustainability.
Here’s How to Arrive in Style to the World’s Most Unforgettable Hotels
Make a grand entrance to these equally grand hotels:
Why Buy Travel Insurance for U.S. Destinations?
If you’re traveling stateside, travel insurance is a must.
SponsoredJun 1, 2023
Protected: MORE TO TRAVEL
There’s more to travel than just getting there.
Park Hyatt Tokyo Prepares for Its New Look
London Concours Displays Golden Age Coupes
eFlyer ReviewsMay 31, 2023
Homer and Janet by Homer Review
The Marais District, covering swaths of Paris’ 3rd and 4th arrondissments, has a distinctively gritty glamour that reveals it to be one of the city’s great incubators for new French food, fashion and lifestyle trends. It is here Moïse Sfez took on the challenge of creating street food establishments Homer in 2017 and Janet by Homer in 2022, doing it in such a way they both transcend the novelty of being regional American comfort food offered at stylized lunch counters matching up with New England lobster shacks and New York delis. Overwhelming local response and Sfez winning the 2018 Lobster Roll World’s Championship title in Portland, Maine, solidified him as a Paris restaurateur and one of France’s hottest culinary stars.
Exclusive Savings: Cruise Along the Danube River with Global Traveler
Exclusive Sailing with Global Traveler
eFlyer NewsMay 31, 2023
Air New Zealand to Introduce Skynest Sleeping Pods on Ultra-Long-Haul Flights in 2024
Starting September 2024, Air New Zealand introduces its new Skynest full-length sleeping pods on its ultra-long-haul routes. The new feature will begin on routes between New York and Chicago.