Acid Reflux vs. Indigestion

What's the Difference?

Acid reflux and indigestion are both digestive disorders that can cause discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen. However, they differ in their underlying causes and symptoms. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn. It is often triggered by certain foods, such as spicy or fatty meals, and can be worsened by lying down or bending over. On the other hand, indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, refers to a general discomfort or feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen. It can be caused by overeating, eating too quickly, or consuming greasy or fatty foods. Indigestion may also be accompanied by bloating, belching, and nausea. While acid reflux is primarily caused by the backflow of stomach acid, indigestion can have various causes, including stomach ulcers, gastritis, or gallbladder problems.


AttributeAcid RefluxIndigestion
CauseStomach acid flowing back into the esophagusPoor digestion of food
SymptomsHeartburn, regurgitation, chest painAbdominal pain, bloating, nausea
DurationCan be chronic or occasionalUsually temporary
TreatmentMedications, lifestyle changes, surgery (in severe cases)Antacids, dietary modifications, stress reduction
ComplicationsEsophagitis, strictures, Barrett's esophagusNone, unless underlying condition is present

Further Detail


Acid reflux and indigestion are two common digestive disorders that can cause discomfort and disrupt daily life. While they share some similarities, it is important to understand their distinct attributes in order to properly diagnose and treat them. In this article, we will explore the key differences and similarities between acid reflux and indigestion, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.


Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This happens due to a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that normally prevents acid from entering the esophagus. Common causes of acid reflux include obesity, pregnancy, hiatal hernia, and certain medications.

On the other hand, indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a term used to describe a range of symptoms that occur in the upper abdomen. It can be caused by various factors, including overeating, eating too quickly, consuming fatty or spicy foods, stress, smoking, and certain medications.


Both acid reflux and indigestion can cause similar symptoms, making it challenging to differentiate between the two. However, there are some distinguishing features. Acid reflux often presents with a burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn, which may worsen after eating or when lying down. Other symptoms may include regurgitation of acid into the throat, difficulty swallowing, and a sour taste in the mouth.

Indigestion, on the other hand, typically manifests as a feeling of fullness or discomfort in the upper abdomen. It may be accompanied by bloating, belching, nausea, and a general sense of unease. Unlike acid reflux, indigestion does not usually cause a burning sensation in the chest.


Diagnosing acid reflux and indigestion often involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. Doctors may ask about the frequency and severity of symptoms, as well as any triggers or patterns. They may also perform a physical examination to check for signs of inflammation or other abnormalities.

In some cases, additional tests may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. These can include an upper endoscopy, which allows the doctor to visualize the esophagus and stomach using a flexible tube with a camera, or a pH monitoring test to measure the amount of acid in the esophagus over a 24-hour period.


Treatment options for acid reflux and indigestion vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. Lifestyle modifications are often recommended as a first-line approach. These may include avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and managing stress.

Over-the-counter antacids can provide temporary relief for both acid reflux and indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid. However, for more persistent or severe cases, prescription medications may be necessary. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers are commonly prescribed to reduce stomach acid production and alleviate symptoms.

In addition to medication, certain dietary changes can be beneficial. For acid reflux, it is recommended to avoid acidic and spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and fatty meals. For indigestion, it may be helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid trigger foods that cause discomfort.


While acid reflux and indigestion share some similarities in terms of symptoms, they have distinct causes and treatment approaches. Acid reflux is caused by the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, often due to a weakened LES, while indigestion is a broader term that encompasses various symptoms related to digestion. Proper diagnosis and understanding of these conditions are crucial for effective management and relief of symptoms. If you experience persistent or severe digestive issues, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.