Indigestion, or dyspepsia, describes an upset stomach. It may cause a painful or burning feeling in your abdomen (belly). Also called a sour stomach, indigestion may happen once in a while or often.
Indigestion is sometimes confused with heartburn. Heartburn, is a separate condition that affects your upper chest.
Indigestion is a very common condition. About 25% of people in the U.S. experience indigestion each year.
A healthcare provider will review your medical history, symptoms and lifestyle. Try to explain your indigestion in as much detail as possible. Note the type of discomfort and where you feel it. Also tell your healthcare provider when you experience indigestion. For example, does it occur after a meal or on an empty stomach? Is it worse in the morning or at night? Do certain foods make it worse?
Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam. They’ll check your belly for swelling or tenderness. They may use a stethoscope (medical instrument to hear sounds inside the body) to check your stomach for growling or gurgling.
Other diagnostic tests may include:
Sometimes indigestion means there’s a problem in your digestive tract. Your digestive system contains organs that help your body break down food and absorb nutrients.
Indigestion could be a sign of:
Sometimes chronic (ongoing) indigestion isn’t related to any of these causes. In that case, it’s called functional indigestion.
Symptoms of indigestion may include:
You can reduce your risk of indigestion by:
Most people find relief from indigestion by making diet changes or taking medication. Your healthcare provider may recommend a combination of both.
Diet changes include:
Indigestion caused by another health condition might improve with medication. Common medications for relief include:
Your healthcare provider may recommend surgery if ongoing acid reflux gives you indigestion. A procedure called laparoscopic antireflux surgery may help relieve the symptoms of GERD. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, meaning it doesn’t need a large incision (cut).
Indigestion might go way as soon as you change your diet and habits. If you do take medication for your upset stomach, only do so with your healthcare provider’s approval. Some medications, especially acid reducers, can have long-term side effects. These may include an increased risk of infections or low levels of important nutrients.
Contact a healthcare provider right away if you experience:
The occasional stomach problem is normal. But frequent stomach problems can keep you from eating, sleeping or working. If indigestion is affecting your quality of life, it’s time to see a healthcare provider. There are a variety of professionals who can help with stomach problems. They include primary care providers, dietitians, gastroenterologists and talk therapists.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/11/2021.