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What causes indigestion?

The causes of indigestion can vary from something as simple as eating too much, to the medications you are taking or even because of an underlying condition.

Here we will take a detailed look at the possible causes for indigestion symptoms.

How your stomach breaks down food

Your stomach produces acid when you eat to help you digest the food you eat and sometimes this acid can cause irritation and inflammation in your stomach lining, oesophagus or parts of your bowel. 

Many people will experience this at some point and it is usually not something to be too worried about.

Things that can contribute to the condition include:

  • Eating too quickly or too much

    Indigestion can be caused by something as simple as eating too quickly or eating too much, which stretches the lining of your stomach, causing pain. Slowing down or eating smaller meals should help stop it.
  • Over-sensitivity

    You could be over sensitive to certain types of food that you eat – fatty and spicy foods are known to cause indigestion in some people. You could keep a food diary to see which food agree and disagree with you to try and prevent it in future.
  • Medication

    Some medicines can cause problems with the digestive system and lead to indigestion, such as nitrates or painkillers, like aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Pregnancy

    Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect the normal function of the digestive system. During the later stages of pregnancy, it is common for women to experience indigestion as the baby presses on your stomach.
  • Obesity

    Obesity can put increased pressure on your stomach, which can cause acid to move up into your throat.
  • Stress

    Stress and anxiety can have an impact on your entire body, including causing indigestion. If you are struggling with stress and anxiety, it is a good idea to speak to someone about it to address the cause.
  • Alcohol

    Drinking more than the recommended amount each week can lead to indigestion. Excessive alcohol consumption makes your stomach produce more acid than normal, which irritates the lining and leads to discomfort or pain.
  • Fizzy and caffeinated drinks

    These can aggravate some people’s stomach, causing indigestion.
  • Smoking

    It is thought that smokers are more likely to suffer with indigestion than non-smokers. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can make the muscles between the stomach and oesophagus relax. This allows the stomach acid to move up into the oesophagus.
  • Stomach ulcers

    Stomach ulcers are painful open sores that can appear in the stomach lining and can lead to indigestion.
  • Hiatus hernia

    This happens when some of your stomach protrudes out into your diaphragm because of a weak spot in your abdominal wall. It can cause indigestion symptoms.
  • GORD

    This is when there is damage to your oesophagus due to repeated acid reflux. One of the main symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is indigestion. 
  • Gastritis

    This is when there is inflammation in your stomach lining and one of the symptoms can be indigestion. Find out more about gastritis here.
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection

    This bacteria can cause peptic ulcers, which are sores in your stomach lining, oesophagus or small intestine. These can lead to indigestion.
  • Stomach cancer

    This is a very rare cause, but sometime repeated bouts of indigestion can be a symptom of stomach cancer.

There is no need to suffer through the symptoms of indigestion on your own, particularly if they are severe.

If over-the-counter medications have not helped, our doctors may be your next step. Once they understand what triggers your indigestion, they will be able to offer you practical advice and find the most effective treatment tailored to you.

You can find out more about the different treatments here.