Dyspepsia (Stomach Problems)

Information Sheets

Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion, is a phrase that describes different symptoms such as suffering from discomfort and /or pain in the upper abdominal regions.

Dyspepsia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms which can include fullness, bloating, stomach pain, excessive belching, nausea and sometimes being sick after food. Indigestion can also sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, so if you have these symptoms frequently then you should see your Doctor.

Dyspepsia can be caused by the stomach being too sensitive or not relaxing properly when you have eaten. It can also be causes if the stomach muscles are weak and slow to empty meals and drinks from the stomach. It can also be caused by intolerances or allergies to certain foods.

The majority of people who have dyspepsia / indigestion feel discomfort and pain in the stomach and/or chest regions. Symptoms usually occur during and after consuming food and/ or drink but can also be worse when you have not eaten. So it’s quite a complicated condition to understand and treat properly!

The following symptoms can also occur:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full quickly during meals
  • Loss of appetite / weight loss
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Acid reflux

You may experience indigestion from certain types of medications. Some medicines, such as nitrates (which are taken to widen blood vessels) relax the lower oesophageal sphincter (the ring of muscle in between the oesophagus and stomach), which allows acid to leak back up into the oesophagus and can cause irritation and inflammation.

Indigestion can be related to lifestyle and diet but may also be due other underlying digestive conditions. Some common causes are:

  • Increased sensitivity of the stomach
  • Poor relaxation of the stomach after eating
  • Increased air swallowing
  • Slow emptying of food from the stomach
  • Rapid emptying of food from the stomach (dumping)
  • Consumption of fatty, greasy, spicy foods
  • Consumption of alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks
  • Emotional trauma and stress
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • Hiatus Hernia
  • Bacterial overgrowth or infection
  • Obesity
  • Certain medications irritating the stomach lining
  • Gallstones

If you suffer from obesity, you are more prone to experience indigestion, due to the increased pressure inside your abdomen (tummy). This increase in pressure can then force open the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) after a large meal, causing acid reflux.

A Hiatus Hernia is when part of your stomach pushes up above your diaphragm (the sheet of muscle under the lungs), which can prevent your valve which keeps acid in your stomach from closing adequately which can lead to irritation and inflammation in the gullet.

An infection can cause reoccurring bouts of indigestion if Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria are present in the stomach. H pylori infections are common but do not usually cause any symptoms, some may be unaware that the bacteria is present. However, in some cases, an H pylori infection can damage the stomach lining and increase the amount of acid in the stomach. It is also possible for the duodenum (top of the small intestine) to be irritated by excessive stomach acid if H pylori is present.

Peptic ulcers can form when stomach acid damages the lining of the stomach (gastric ulcer) or duodenum (duodenal ulcer) which is an open sore that develops on the inside of the lining. They can also occur if you have been taking certain medicines such a NSAID’s (Ibuprofen, for example). Bacteria in the upper gut can also sometimes ferment food and cause gas and bloating which also can cause pain and discomfort (see hydrogen breath test).

For this condition a structured approach is normally undertaken. You may first be advised on changing your diet and losing some weight. You may be asked to keep a food dairy to see if you are intolerant of certain things. If slow gastric emptying is suspected then prokinetic drugs (drugs which speed up the gut) may be tried. If the condition still persists, then over the counter medicines can be tried such as antacids (Rennies and Gaviscon, for example). These can neutralise the stomach acid and reduce symptoms. If H Pylori is confirmed then you will take some antibiotics and stronger antacids such as Losec. If small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is suspected then you may also be given antibiotics. In rare cases, when the stomach is very slow to empty, a gastric ‘pacemaker’ may be fitted surgically.

By the time you come and see us at the Functional Gut Clinic, you may have tried many treatments. Our aim is to carry out specific tests to see exactly what is going on in your upper gut and help to guide your doctor’s management strategy with highly accurate diagnostic information.


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