Indigestion is a common problem in Australia, affecting around 10% of the population.1 Let’s take a look at what indigestion is and how you can manage it with and without medications.
What is indigestion?
Indigestion (sometimes called dyspepsia) is a pain or uncomfortable feeling in the upper-middle part of your abdomen. You might feel too full after eating or unable to finish a meal because you feel full. You could also experience pain or burning in the upper region of your stomach. Some people also experience nausea or heartburn as well.
While it’s common, it is still not known exactly what causes indigestion.
Lifestyle changes and remedies for indigestion
Before turning to medications there are several changes you can make to your lifestyle that may help alleviate indigestion. You can try:
- Checking with your doctor to see if any medication you are taking could be contributing, such as some types of pain relievers
- Avoiding alcohol, coffee and smoking
- Weight loss
- Eating smaller meals
- Avoiding foods that trigger your indigestion (e.g. fatty foods).
Medications for managing indigestion
Here are five common that you can buy over-the-counter in your local pharmacy.
Antacids work by neutralising the acid produced by your stomach. The active ingredient that achieves this can be calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate or aluminium hydroxide which are all effective remedies for indigestion. They work best when taken 1–3 hours after a meal.
Alginates (rafting agents)
Gaviscon is an example of an alginate-containing product. The sodium alginate in Gaviscon acts as a ‘raft’ that forms on the top of your stomach to help keep stomach contents in their place. Gaviscon Dual Action Liquid starts to work from 4 minutes and lasts up to 4 hours.
Histamine H2-receptor antagonists
These products are also called H2-antagonists or H2-blockers. H2-antagonists work by turning off chemical receptors in the cells of your stomach so that they reduce the production of acid. They can be bought over-the-counter, or are prescribed by a doctor.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
These products also reduce the production of stomach acid. However, PPIs work in a different way to H2-antagonists. They block the acid pumps, which are the source of acid in the stomach. Some PPIs can be bought over-the-counter, while others are only available with a prescription.
Not all products may be suitable for everyone with indigestion. So if you are in any doubt about your symptoms or what indigestion may help, speak to your doctor.
*Strugula V, et al. 2010. [Sponsored by RB]
**Chevrel B, 1980. [Sponsored by RB]
This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
1. Talley NJ, et al. Aust Prescr 2017;40:209–13.
2. American Family Physician. Information from your family doctor, Dyspepsia: What it is and what to do about it. Am Fam Physician 2010;82(12):1459–1460.
3. Therapeutic Guidelines March 2020 edition. Functional gastrointestinal disorders. Available at: https://tgldcdp.tg.org.au (accessed July 2020).
4. Australian Medicines Handbook. Dyspepsia. Available at: https://amhonline.amh.net.au/ (accessed July 2020).
5. Australian Medicines Handbook. Drugs for dyspepsia, reflux and peptic ulcers. Available at: https://amhonline.amh.net.au/ (accessed July 2020).
6. Salisbury BH and Terrell JM, Antacids. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan.
7. Strugula V, et al. J Int Med Res 2010;38:449–457.
8. Chevrel B, J Int Med Res 1980;8(4):300–302.