Definition & Facts of Indigestion

In this section:

What is indigestion?

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, is a general term that describes a group of gastrointestinal symptoms that occur together. These symptoms most often include

  • pain, a burning feeling, or discomfort in your upper abdomen
  • feeling full too soon while eating a meal
  • feeling uncomfortably full after eating a meal

Indigestion may be

  • occasional—happening once in a while
  • chronic—happening regularly for a few weeks or months
  • functional—having chronic symptoms without a specific cause

Indigestion is not a disease. However, indigestion may be a sign of certain digestive tract diseases or conditions. Indigestion is not always related to eating.

Sometimes digestive tract diseases such as peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, and stomach cancer cause chronic indigestion. However, most often doctors do not know what causes chronic indigestion. Chronic indigestion without a health problem or digestive tract disease that could explain symptoms is called functional dyspepsia.

How common is indigestion?

Indigestion is a common condition, affecting about 1 in 4 people in the United States each year.1

Of those people with indigestion who see a doctor, almost 3 in 4 are diagnosed with functional dyspepsia.2

Who is more likely to get indigestion?

You are more likely to get indigestion if you

  • drink
    • too many alcoholic beverages
    • too much coffee or too many drinks containing caffeine
  • eat
    • too fast or too much during a meal
    • spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
    • foods that contain a lot of acid, such as tomatoes, tomato products, and oranges
  • feel stressed
  • have certain health problems or digestive tract diseases
  • smoke
  • take certain medicines

What are the complications of indigestion?

In most cases, indigestion does not have complications, although it may affect your quality of life.


Last Reviewed November 2016
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.