What is indigestion?

Indigestion is a broad nonspecific term that covers a variety of upper abdominal complaints such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, regurgitation, and dyspepsia. Different individuals with indigestion and dyspepsia report predominantly epigastric burning, gnawing discomfort, or pain. Some persons with dyspepsia complain of symptoms including postprandial fullness, early satiety (an inability to complete a meal due to premature fullness), bloating, eructation (belching), and anorexia.

Most common causes of indigestion are GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and functional dyspepsia. Other causes are generally due to some serious underlying pathology.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease:

Gastric acid reflux can result from various defects. When LES (lower esophageal sphincter) tone is reduced such as during pregnancy, acid reflux can occur. Transient relaxation of LES is also not uncommon in many individuals during which acid enters esophagus freely and bathes the esophagus with stomach acid. Aerophagia and overeating can sometime override LES and contribute in causation of GERD. Reduced salivary secretion can prolong acid exposure.

GERD is common ailment in many countries. In the United States it is reported that 40% of people have heartburn (due to excess acid reflux from stomach to esophagus) once a month and 7-10% have heartburn daily.

Functional Dyspepsia:

Functional dyspepsia can be defined as presence of symptoms (such as bothersome postprandial fullness, early satiety, epigastric pain, or epigastric burning) for more than 3 months and onset of these symptoms at least 6 months before consultation/diagnosis, in absence of any organic disease. This definition is applicable for more than 60% patients. Nearly 25% of individuals have symptoms of dyspepsia at least 6 times a year, but only 10-20 of these people consult a doctor for their problem. For most patients the course of disease (functional dyspepsia) is usually benign, but for a small group of patients it may lead to H. pylori infection and ulceration (peptic ulcer).

Other conditions:

There are several other disorders which may case heartburn, such as peptic ulcer disease, malignancy etc. Opportunistic fungal or viral infections of esophagus, intestinal lactase deficiency, billiary colic etc. also produce symptoms of dyspepsia. Chronic pancreatitis and malignant tumor of pancreas, thyroid and parathyroid disease, celiac disease, liver cancer also produce similar symptoms of indigestion.

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1 Comment

  • Aurelia September 23, 2012 11.49 pm

    As a Newbie, I am permanently browsing online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you

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