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.
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.
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 :
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 :
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.
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.
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.