Dyspepsia

Topic Overview

Dyspepsia is a common condition and usually describes a group of symptoms rather than one predominant symptom. These symptoms include:

  • Belly pain or discomfort.
  • Bloating.
  • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Heartburn.
  • Burping up food or liquid (regurgitation).
  • Burping.

Most people will experience some symptoms of dyspepsia within their lifetimes.

Common causes of dyspepsia include:

  • Burped-up stomach juices and gas (regurgitation or reflux) caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a hiatal hernia.
  • A disorder that affects movement of food through the intestines, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Peptic (stomach) ulcer or duodenal ulcer.
  • An inability to digest milk and dairy products (lactose intolerance).
  • Gallbladder pain (biliary colic) or inflammation (cholecystitis).
  • Anxiety or depression.
  • Side effects of caffeine, alcohol, or medicines. Examples of medicines that may cause dyspepsia are aspirin and similar drugs, antibiotics, steroids, digoxin, and theophylline.
  • Swallowed air.
  • Stomach cancer.

You can make changes to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of dyspepsia. Here are some things to try:

  • Change your eating habits.
    • It’s best to eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.
    • After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren’t a good idea.
    • Chocolate, mint, and alcohol can make dyspepsia worse. They relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
    • Spicy foods, foods that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make dyspepsia worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better.
  • Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
  • If you get dyspepsia at night, raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows does not work.)
  • Do not wear tight clothing around your middle.
  • Lose weight if you need to. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help.

Treatment depends on what is causing the problem. If no specific cause is found, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms with medicine.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Last Revised January 4, 2012

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