How long does indigestion last?

The duration of an episode of indigestion often depends on its underlying cause and its severity.

Indigestion or dyspepsia (sometimes called an upset stomach) is not a disease but a manifestation of other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. In some cases, it may be a sign of a more serious illness.

Its common symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Belching, flatulence or both
  • A bitter or acidic taste in your mouth
  • Borborygmi (rumbling or growling sounds in your stomach)
  • Stomach discomfort (usually a feeling of extreme fullness)
  • Heartburn (a burning sensation in your chest that often rises up your throat)
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting

How long these symptoms last and how they should be addressed largely depends on the type and cause of your indigestion. If your indigestion is caused by a particular GI disease, symptom relief will come only after the disease has been treated.

Chronic indigestion

Chronic indigestion could last a lifetime, especially if it is linked with a persistent GI disease such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), gastroparesis, and stomach cancer. To relieve symptoms of chronic indigestion, you need to learn how to manage the consequences of your chronic GI condition.

However, indigestion that displays fluctuations in frequency and severity over many years, and is not associated with any other form of illness can also be considered chronic. 

Functional indigestion

Functional indigestion is a type of indigestion that is not related to any GI condition nor a result of any underlying disease. Functional indigestion or non-ulcer dyspepsia exhibits symptoms of an ulcer, however no structural abnormalities, damages or lesions on the intestinal lining—which are characteristic of ulcers—can be detected.

Non-ulcer dyspepsia causes an organ or a group of organs in your digestive system to function abnormally. This results in a disruption of your normal bodily functions, specifically those of the gastrointestinal tract, producing symptoms of indigestion.

While it is not a very serious condition, functional indigestion is quite difficult to diagnose. But once you have established that it is indeed non-ulcer dyspepsia, it is fairly simple to manage. Otherwise, the ambiguity of your condition also poses certain challenges when it comes to treatment.

The duration of indigestion

Indigestion caused by other digestive diseases will continue to manifest symptoms as long as the related conditions remain unresolved. This may take years or even a lifetime.

On the other hand, symptoms of functional indigestion tend to subside without intervention or medications. Alternatively, you can seek the help of a qualified dietitian or nutritionist for natural remedies and diet-based treatments.

In this post, we will focus on functional indigestion.

Diagnosing functional indigestion

The process of ruling out GI disorders and arriving at a diagnosis of functional indigestion can be complicated because most of these disorders have similar symptoms. However, negligence, misdiagnosis, and failure to address functional indigestion early on may lead to further complications, irreversible damage to your health, and ultimately, a poor quality of life.

Your doctor can diagnose you with functional indigestion after eliminating the possibility that your symptoms are caused by other GI conditions. He or she will also review your medical history, conduct a thorough physical examination and evaluate the results of tests and procedures, which may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) and other laboratory tests to rule out anaemia and other digestive problems
  • Breath and stool tests to check for the presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, which may be responsible for the development of peptic ulcers
  • Diagnostic imaging techniques such as X-ray, CT scan or MRI to look into your GI tract that may reveal any intestinal obstructions or abnormalities
  • Endoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure in which an instrument is inserted into the body—usually through the mouth—to examine internal organs like the stomach and intestines

If these tests and procedures come out negative for other digestive diseases with the same symptoms, then your doctor may confirm your condition is functional indigestion. 

Causes of functional indigestion

Causes of functional indigestion are generally lifestyle-related (i.e., eating habits, vices and medications) and can be treated through proper diet and lifestyle changes.

Functional indigestion can be caused by any or a combination of the following:

  • Eating too much food
  • Eating too fast
  • Diet rich in fatty, greasy or spicy foods
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, chocolate, carbonated or alcoholic beverages
  • Cigarette or tobacco smoking
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Medications like painkillers, antibiotics, sedatives and tranquillisers, as well as some dietary supplements

Indigestion may also occur during the 27th week of pregnancy and beyond as a result of hormonal changes and the baby’s increase in size that puts pressure on the mother’s stomach and other digestive organs.

Possible complications

Unlike other GI conditions, functional indigestion doesn’t usually lead to any serious complications and its symptoms are typically mild and harmless, however, it can still have a negative effect on your quality of life. Feeling discomfort every now and then and not always being able to enjoy the foods you eat are just some of the ways functional digestion can affect how you live.

Treatment for functional indigestion

Symptoms of functional indigestion are likely to resolve on their own after a few hours or with the help of over-the-counter antacids or doctor-prescribed medications such as omeprazole and pantoprazole.

However, if you prefer a more natural way of managing functional indigestion and relieving yourself of its symptoms for good, try making dietary changes or committing to a complete lifestyle overhaul. You can do this with the help of an accredited dietitian or nutritionist who can help you create personalised meal plans that meet your daily nutritional requirements without triggering your indigestion symptoms.

We’re here to help you deal with your indigestion

Our team of accredited dietitians and nutritionists have been helping individuals manage their indigestion and other gut and bowel health issues for years. Call us at (07) 3071 7405 to schedule an appointment with any of our diet and nutrition specialists.