• Living With Dyspepsia

    The most common cause of dyspepsia is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a condition in which the acid that is normally present in the stomach to help digest our food flows back up the swallowing tube (esophagus). In some persons this causes heartburn and regurgitation, and in others it may cause these symptoms as well as also cause inflammation (redness and swelling) or sores (erosions) in the esophagus. A small number of persons suffering from dyspepsia may have an ulcer in the stomach (gastric ulcer) or in the first part of the intestine (duodenal ulcer).

    Managing Your Symptoms

    Sometimes symptoms can be helped by changes in lifestyle. Losing weight, stopping smoking and raising the head of the bed may help some patients who have mostly reflux. It is always appropriate to pay attention to your general health, considering factors such as exercise, ideal body weight and discontinuation of smoking. It is useful to consider any correlation of symptoms with certain types of foods such as spicy foods, and alcohol. Certain drugs such as aspirin and arthritis medication as well as pain killers (except acetominophen) may worsen injury to the stomach, and discontinuation or change of these medications may sometimes help. 

    Stress does not usually cause dyspepsia but can worsen GI symptoms and heighten our awareness of those symptoms. In some cases, appropriate strategies to cope with stress can be helpful 

    Treatment Options

    It may be necessary for you to have one or more tests to determine what the cause of your dyspepsia is.  With the results in hand, your physician can determine what treatment options will be best for you.

    Medications are listed below in general order of potency but the order does not necessarily reflect the order in which the doctor may choose to begin treatment.

    • Antacids
      Antacids are useful as short-term therapy but are usually used for infrequent or "breakthrough" symptoms that may occur when the patient experiences symptoms while on other medications. In general, antacids would not be used as a regular form of therapy.
    • H2-receptor antagonists (H2-RAs)
      This class of drugs has been available for over 25 years and was the first truly effective form of acid-reducing medicine. These pills provide a moderate decrease in acid produced by the stomach and are helpful for milder cases of reflux.
      They are effective in healing ulcers, although at a somewhat slower rate than the proton pump inhibitor class of drugs (see below). These drugs are very safe. Rare side effects may include skin rash, diarrhea, liver test abnormalities, and kidney problems. These medicines are accepted as safe for long-term therapy if necessary.
    • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
      This class of drugs has been available for over 10 years and provides the most effective acid suppression currently available. These are the most effective pills for more severe reflux symptoms and are effective at healing ulcers somewhat more rapidly than H2-RAs. In general, the best medicine is the one that adequately controls symptoms.
      These pills are also considered safe for long term treatment if necessary. Use of this type of drug is often combined with antibiotics to treat Helicobacter pylori. Side effects with this class of medication are also infrequent and may include skin rash, diarrhea and a variety of other minor side effects. Rarely, interference with other drugs has to be considered by the doctor.

Enhancing lifelong health

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation believes our ability to help establish, enrich and protect a healthy gut microbiota is the key to lifelong health