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 to spare.
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.
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.
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.
If you have indigestion, you'll probably have one or more of these symptoms:
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:
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:
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.
Reviewed by: J. Fernando del Rosario, MD
Date reviewed: July 2015
|Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.|
|ChooseMyPlate.gov ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) NASPGHAN works to help children and adolescents with digestive disorders.|
|Food Poisoning The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself.|
|Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Gastroesophageal reflux disease doesn't just affect old people who eat too much while watching TV. Active, healthy teens can have GERD too.|
|Lactose Intolerance If you have lactose intolerance, you're not alone. Millions of Americans have the condition. Check out these tips on dealing with lactose intolerance.|
|Stomachaches Lots of different problems can cause similar kinds of stomach pain - not all of them related to the digestive system. Here are some clues about what could be going on.|
|Irritable Bowel Syndrome For some people stomachaches and diarrhea are a regular occurrence. Read this article for information on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common intestinal disorder that affects the colon.|
|Ulcers Doctors once thought that stress, spicy foods, and alcohol caused most stomach ulcers. But ulcers are actually caused by a particular bacterial infection, by certain medications, or from smoking. Read all about ulcers.|
|Digestive System Most people think digestion begins when you first put food in your mouth. But the digestive process actually starts even before the food hits your taste buds.|
|Constipation Constipation is a very common problem that usually happens because a person's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, making simple changes can help you feel better.|
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