Bloating, belching, acidic taste, burning in the upper abdomen, nausea, or vomiting make up the constellation of symptoms known as indigestion. Constant indigestion may be caused by some diseases, medications, lifestyle habits, pregnancy, or the cause may be unknown. Ulcers, gallbladder disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are three common diseases in which indigestion is a symptom. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, oral contraceptives, and thyroid, and steroid medications may also be to blame for the condition. Many times it is lifestyle choices that are at the root of the disorder.
The stomach lining normally is coated with a mucosal layer. An ulcer forms when the mucosal layer that protects the stomach tissue is disrupted. When there is a break in the mucosal layer, stomach acid can reach the tissues and eat away at them. This can cause stomach pain and constant indigestion.
Gallbladder disease may be a cause of continual indigestion because the bile is not properly digesting dietary fat. This could be due to gallstones, inflammation, or other disease of the gallbladder. When the gallbladder is the cause, most of the time indigestion worsens after eating a high-fat meal.
GERD is a condition in which the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach leaks. This allows stomach acid into the esophagus. The stomach acid eats away at the esophagus and may cause burning or painful sensations that some people refer to as severe heartburn.
Some medications may be responsible for feelings of constant indigestion. This is why doctors may recommend taking certain medications with food. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, as well as antibiotics, birth control pills, and estrogen replacement, may contribute to chronic indigestion. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, and medication for thyroid disease might be other common culprits of medication-induced indigestion.
Lifestyle choices can play a huge role in constant indigestion. Fortunately, this is one of the areas over which people have the most control. Eating too much or too fast is a sure way to get indigestion. Fatty foods, in particular, tend to invite symptoms. Consuming too much alcohol or smoking may also be the reason some people have chronic indigestion. Stress and fatigue may play a role in this condition as well.
During the last two trimesters of pregnancy, some women experience constant indigestion. This is caused by pregnancy hormones that relax the digestive tract. The pressure of the growing baby may also play a part in indigestion during pregnancy.
The causes of a person's chronic indigestion sometimes cannot be seen under a microscope or with direct vision. Doctors refer to this as functional dyspepsia or non-ulcer dyspepsia. This means that somewhere in the digestive tract, things are not working the way they should be — but doctors do not know why or where this abnormality is happening. At times, further testing may reveal the cause, but other times it does not.