It's another busy day for John. After a day of classes and an exhausting soccer
practice, he now has half an hour of free time to grab some dinner before play rehearsal.
He orders a large pizza with pepperoni and extra cheese and gobbles it down with time
As he walks into the theater for rehearsal, John starts to feel nauseated and he
has a burning feeling in the back of his throat. John can't understand what's going
on — he felt fine just a few minutes ago.
What Is Indigestion?
John has indigestion, a common digestive
problem. Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia (pronounced: dis-PEP-see-ah), is just
another name for an upset stomach. Indigestion usually happens when people eat too
much or too fast, or certain foods don't agree with them. It might happen more
often if you smoke, drink alcohol, are stressed out, or don't get enough sleep.
Sometimes indigestion can be accompanied by heartburn. Despite its name though,
heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart. It's caused by stomach acid
splashing up from the stomach and into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from
the mouth to the stomach. This is called esophageal reflux, and it usually leaves
a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.
Indigestion and heartburn are common problems for people of all ages — hence
all those commercials for heartburn and indigestion medicines on TV. Some of the medicines
you see advertised are OK for teens, but some of them are meant for adults. So before
you start taking any medication for heartburn or indigestion, talk to your doctor.
What Causes Indigestion?
You may be wondering how indigestion occurs in the first place. There are many
potential causes — often it's just because a person eats too much or eats too
fast, as mentioned before. But sometimes it can be due to smoking, drinking alcohol,
or certain stomach problems, like gastritis (stomach inflammation) or an ulcer.
Do I Have It?
If you have indigestion, you'll probably have one or more of these symptoms:
pain or burning in your upper belly
When to Go to the Doctor
Usually, indigestion only happens once in a while, like after eating certain foods
that don't agree with you. But you'll want to see the doctor if you get indigestion
even when you're eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
You may need to be examined or have stomach X-rays or other tests to make
sure your indigestion is not a sign of another problem in your digestive tract. Depending
on what the doctor finds, you might need to make changes in your diet or take medicine.
Be sure to tell your parent or talk to a doctor if these things happen in addition
to your indigestion:
vomiting (throwing up), especially if you see blood in your vomit
no appetite for more than a day
shortness of breath
frequent or intense stomach pain
black or bloody bowel movements
These can be signs of other problems, so be sure to talk to a doctor if you experience
one or several of these symptoms.
Some people can eat anything and never get an upset stomach. But others are more
sensitive to certain foods and find that some just don't agree with them. If you discover
you have a problem with particular foods, it's best to limit them or skip them entirely.
Besides avoiding problem foods, try to eat a few smaller meals instead of
one or two really big ones. Here are some other tips to prevent indigestion:
As much as possible, avoid fatty, greasy foods, like fries and burgers.
Avoid too much chocolate or too many citrus fruits (the acid in citrus fruits
can upset the digestive tract).
Give your body a chance to digest food. Don't eat a huge meal and immediately
go to sports practice. Try to eat at least an hour before physical exertion, or eat
You might still get indigestion once in a while, even if you follow these tips.
But as long as your indigestion doesn't go on for a long time or is not excessively
painful, it's probably nothing out of the ordinary.