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Indigestion Vs Heartburn


Updated July 08, 2014

Some people who suffer from heartburn report to others that they are suffering from a case of indigestion. Though they both have similar triggers, and treatment may be the same in many instances, indigestion isn't the same thing as heartburn. For example, indigestion is the condition, and heartburn occasionally is a symptom of indigestion.

Indigestion is a vague feeling of discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen and chest, including a feeling of fullness and bloating, accompanied by belching and nausea. Occasionally, heartburn is one of the symptoms. It is a common problem, and can be triggered by several things. These include eating particular foods, drinking alcoholic or carbonated beverages, eating too fast or too much, eating fatty or spicy foods, drinking too much caffeine, or eating too much high-fiber foods. Symptoms have also been shown to be worsened by anxiety and depression.

Common causes of indigestion:

  • Overeating
  • Eating too fast
  • Significant caffeine intake
  • Eating fatty or spicy foods
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
  • Chronic or acute gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • Chronic or acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Duodenal ulcer
  • Gastric ulcer
  • Antibiotics
  • Aspirin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Other causes of indigestion:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
    This is a bacterium that lives in the mucus layer of the stomach, that can cause irritation (gastritis) and ulcers. If H. pylori is diagnosed, it can be treated.
  • Hiatal hernia
    This occurs when part of the stomach slides upward through the diaphragm, and into the chest cavity. Besides indigestion, hiatal hernia can cause pain and heartburn.


  • Heartburn, a burning pain that usually starts in the chest, behind the breastbone.
  • Pain, that occurs in the upper abdomen or the chest. It may or may not be related to overeating or consuming a trigger food or beverage.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Burping
  • Flatulence

Because indigestion can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as an ulcer or occasionally cancer, anyone experiencing the following symptoms in addition to indigestion should consult with their doctor.

  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Severe pain
  • Anyone over 45 who has not previously suffered with any indigestion problems

Immediate medical attention is needed for anyone who experiences either of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting with specks of blood or with blood that looks like coffee-grounds
  • Vomiting fresh blood

More information on lifestyle changes and medications to treat indigestion, please read the next part on treatment and medications.

Related Video
Avoid and Treat Heartburn
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