How Long Does Indigestion (Dyspepsia) Last?

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed
September 29, 2021

Indigestion may seem like a straightforward thing, but it’s actually a bit vague.

Rather than being a specific condition, dyspepsia, as it’s also called, is a whole set of symptoms.

So each person may experience indigestion differently and for varying amounts of time.

Identifying the cause or trigger behind your symptoms can help you determine the best lifestyle changes and any medications to effectively treat or prevent your indigestion. 

In this article, I’ll describe possible symptoms and causes of indigestion.

I’ll also cover some of the most common treatment options and which home remedies effectively remedy or head off indigestion.

Finally, I’ll explain when you should see a doctor for expert care.

What Is Indigestion?

Indigestion is not one thing. Instead, the term describes a whole group of gastrointestinal symptoms.

If you have indigestion, you may experience only one or several of these symptoms.

Indigestion can also be a symptom of different digestive diseases.

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Symptoms of Indigestion

Although the symptoms of indigestion vary from person to person, the most common symptoms include: 

Many people confuse indigestion with heartburn.

The two are not the same, however, it’s possible to experience both at the same time.

Causes of Indigestion

Indigestion can be caused by both lifestyle triggers and health conditions.

You are more at risk for developing indigestion if you:

  • Drink a lot of alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated drinks
  • Eat quickly
  • Eat spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
  • Eat acidic foods, such as tomatoes or citrus
  • Experience stress
  • Smoke

You are also at greater risk if you have any of the following conditions:

Pregnancy and Indigestion 

Heartburn, often associated with feeling a burning sensation in the chest, is common throughout pregnancy and especially during the third trimester.

Symptoms may be caused by hormonal changes or by the growing baby pressing against the stomach.

Diet and lifestyle changes—such as eating smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding greasy or spicy foods—may help to provide relief.

Over-the-counter (OTC) antacids may also help to relieve symptoms, but it’s important to speak with your doctor or OBGYN first to ensure that they are safe to use.

Duration of Indigestion

Most mild cases of indigestion do not require medical attention or even medication.

In these instances, symptoms last only a few hours, and while they may recur for a few days, the symptoms either go away on their own or after making dietary or lifestyle changes.

However, recurring or chronic indigestion can also occur.

If you’re unsure about the cause of your indigestion or if your symptoms last for more than two weeks, see your doctor.

And if you experience any severe symptoms such as black stool, painful swallowing, shortness of breath, or bloody vomit, contact your doctor immediately.

Treatment for Indigestion

Medications and home remedies (including lifestyle changes) can help treat indigestion.

It may take a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you.

If you still experience symptoms of indigestion after two weeks, see your doctor, who may recommend prescription medication.

Antacid medicines

Antacids are typically the first-line recommendation for most cases of indigestion.

They work by neutralizing acids in your stomach.

Examples of OTC antacids that treat indigestion include: 

  • Calcium carbonate (TUMS)
  • Loperamide (Imodium)
  • Simethicone (Mylanta)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer)

Depending on the cause of your indigestion, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication instead of an OTC antacid.

Common prescriptions for indigestion include:

  • Antibiotics: to fight an H. pylori bacterial infection.
  • H-2 blockers: to reduce how much acid your stomach produces.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): often prescribed for those who also experience heartburn, PPIs also decrease stomach acid production. 
  • Prokinetics: to help your stomach empty faster.

Home remedies for indigestion

In many cases, your doctor may recommend making a few lifestyle changes to help alleviate your symptoms or prevent indigestion in the future.

The changes and home remedies below may help:  

  • Stop smoking: Evidence shows that nicotine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that helps keep acid in the stomach so it doesn’t travel back up the esophagus and cause symptoms of indigestion and heartburn. 
  • Don’t eat or drink close to bedtime: To give your body time to digest, aim to finish your meal at least three hours before laying down in bed.
  • Avoid trigger foods: Certain foods appear to be more likely to lead to indigestion. The most common culprits include large amounts of spicy foods, acidic foods (citrus, tomatoes), alcohol, caffeine, and greasy and fatty foods. Consider keeping a food journal of your meals and symptoms to help you identify your triggers so you can avoid them.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying excess pounds may increase pressure on your stomach. This may cause acid to back up in your esophagus.  
  • Avoid certain pain relievers: Some pain medications—including aspirin, naproxen sodium, and ibuprofen—can irritate the stomach and make symptoms worse. 

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When to See a Doctor

Many cases of mild indigestion can be managed at home. But if any of your symptoms of indigestion last longer than two weeks, see your doctor.

And if you experience any of the below symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately:

  • Unintentional weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Bloody vomit
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Severe, constant stomach pain 
  • Difficulty swallowing that gets progressively worse
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain on exertion or with stress, or pain that radiates to the neck, jaw, or arm
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

How K Health Can Help

Abdominal pain and chest pain caused by indigestion can be treated. Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes of indigestion are non-digestive?
There are many possible causes of indigestion, some of which are non-digestive. Examples of non-digestive causes of indigestion include anxiety and depression, thyroid disease, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, and pregnancy.
How common is indigestion?
Indigestion is very common. In the United States, approximately one in four people experiences indigestion every year.
Can indigestion be fatal if not treated?
In most cases, indigestion does not have complications, though it can disrupt your quality of life. If left untreated, some forms of indigestion can contribute to long-term health problems within the digestive tract.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.