Woman sitting up on bed and experiencing digestive discomfort while wondering how long indigestion lasts

How Long Does Indigestion Last?

Medically reviewed on December 10, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Indigestion most commonly occurs after you eat a particularly large or fatty meal. When you fill your stomach with food, the whole of the digestive system—including the esophagus, pancreas, gallbladder, stomach, and small intestine—must work extra hard to break down the food and pass it through the body.

As a result, people with indigestion can experience abdominal pain or a burning sensation behind the breastbone, most commonly called heartburn. But how long does indigestion last?

Put simply, the duration of your indigestion can vary depending on the size of the meal and your overall gastrointestinal health, ranging anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

What Causes Indigestion?

Ingestion, also called dyspepsia, can arise after overeating. When you taste or even smell food, the stomach produces gastrin—a hormone that helps secrete acid into the stomach. When stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of digestive organs, it can slowly break the lining down. Over time, this can cause an upset stomach after eating, including painful irritation and/or inflammation.[1]

So, what is the difference between indigestion vs. heartburn? In the specific case of heartburn, a type of indigestion, the acid in the stomach can make its way back up the esophagus. The esophagus, which connects the throat to the stomach, does not have the same protective lining as other digestive organs. As a result, the stomach acid can cause a painful, burning sensation in the chest and throat.

This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle that connects the esophagus to the stomach, fails to tighten after delivering food to the stomach, allowing for the return of stomach acid to the esophagus.

Fortunately, most people with indigestion don’t show signs of inflammation. Rather, their discomfort comes from the overstretching of the stomach muscles to accommodate overeating.

That said, several other factors may also play a role in your indigestion. These include [1]:

  • Medications – Nitrates, which widen the blood vessels, may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter, making you more susceptible to acid reflux. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen may also negatively impact the digestive tract, causing stomach irritation and heartburn.
  • Obesity – A high body mass index (BMI) can increase the amount of pressure on your digestive organs, like your stomach and small intestine. This can lead to acid reflux, particularly after a large meal.
  • Stress and/or anxiety – Long-term stress and anxiety can cause muscle tension and pressure in the upper abdomen, pushing stomach acid up into the esophagus. High anxiety levels may also lead to increased stomach acid production.
  • Hiatus hernia – When an organ pushes through weakened tissue, it causes a hernia. In this particular case, the stomach pushes into the diaphragm under the lungs, which may prevent stomach acid from draining from the esophagus, causing long-term burning.
  • Helicobacter pylori infection – H. pylori is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach, damaging tissue in the stomach and the small intestine. While it’s largely asymptomatic, some people can experience indigestion and even stomach ulcers and/or stomach cancer as a result.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – When you frequently experience acid reflux, the lining of your esophagus can become inflamed, irritated, and damaged. This, in turn, can cause heartburn, regurgitation, and painful swallowing.
  • Stomach ulcer – A stomach ulcer is a sore that can develop in the lining of your stomach or small intestine (often as a result of damage from the H. pylori bacteria). These sores can also cause indigestion symptoms.
  • Stomach cancer – Although rare, indigestion may be a sign of stomach cancer. Cancer cells can break down the lining of the stomach, making it more susceptible to digestive acid.

Smoking, as well as drinking too many alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated beverages can also cause indigestion. Additionally, certain medical conditions may be to blame, including but not limited to [2]:

  • Gallbladder inflammation – Often caused by gallstones that block the flow of bile, causing inflammation.
  • Gastritis – The inflammation of the stomach lining often due to the use of NSAIDs, drinking alcohol, and/or smoking.
  • Gastroparesis – Paralysis of the stomach that makes digestion slower and more difficult.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – An intestinal disorder that can cause pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Lactose intolerance – Occurs when the small intestine does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to properly break down lactose, which is found in dairy products.

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The Typical Duration Of Indigestion

As you can see, there are many potential causes of indigestion. But how long does indigestion last?

After eating, it’s typical for indigestion to last for a few minutes and can last up to a few hours. Fortunately, indigestion symptoms are likely to dissipate after your body has fully digested and passed your meal.

That said, you should consult with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing long-term indigestion that lasts for more than two weeks.[2]

Seek Expert Advice From The Comfort Of Home With Everlywell

It’s common for indigestion to occur, especially after overeating. However, a number of different factors can lead to indigestion, so if you’re experiencing long-term or chronic indigestion, you should consider taking the at-home food sensitivity test from Everlywell. This test can help you identify what the root cause of your symptoms are so that you can find relief.

With Everlywell, you can schedule a digital telehealth appointment and get the help you need from the comfort of your own home. Schedule a virtual care visit today to start your journey down the path to better health.

Indigestion vs. Heartburn: What’s the Difference?

Burning Sensation In Stomach: Causes & Treatment

What Causes An Upset Stomach After Eating?


  1. Indigestion - Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform. NHS Inform. URL. Accessed November 28, 2023. Published May 29, 2023.
  2. Symptoms & Causes of Indigestion. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL. Accessed November 28, 2023. Published July 23, 2022.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.

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