What is Nervous Indigestion?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Nervous indigestion is a type of gastrointestinal distress that is triggered by prolonged exposure to stress and fatigue. While over-consumption of food may be involved, people who suffer from this condition may experience an episode by consuming a snack or drinking certain types of liquids. In many instances, changes in diet coupled with addressing and resolving the issues that caused the underlying stress will effectively end the bouts of nervous indigestion.

Changing one's diet may help treat nervous indigestion problems.
Changing one's diet may help treat nervous indigestion problems.

In situations where stress, fatigue, and a poor diet have led to the development of an anxiety disorder, there is an excellent chance that the individual will also suffer from nervous indigestion. This is because the over-excited nervous system is causing the stomach to produce excessive amounts of acid. As a result, the acids often escape into the esophagus, causing both indigestion and heartburn that can be extremely painful.

Eating sweets may cause isolated bouts of nervous indigestion.
Eating sweets may cause isolated bouts of nervous indigestion.

There are other factors that can cause isolated bouts of nervous indigestion. For example, the consumption of foods and beverages containing caffeine may cause a temporary level of excitement to the system that triggers the production of excess stomach acid. Starches, sweets, and foods with a high acidic content may be the root of the problem. In addition, the use of some prescription medications can also lead to this type of indigestion.

Stress and fatigue can cause nervous indigestion.
Stress and fatigue can cause nervous indigestion.

When an anxiety disorder is present, nervous indigestion is one of the many ways that the emotional condition may trigger a physical response. The indigestion may be present for most of the day, causing an ongoing sense of discomfort. If the individual is also experiencing panic attacks, it is not unusual for indigestion to occur during or after an attack. When the anxiety and indigestion are connected, taking medication that helps to soothe the over-excited nerves will often subdue the stomach discomfort.

A concoction of baking soda and water can ease indigestion.
A concoction of baking soda and water can ease indigestion.

Since there is no single cause for nervous indigestion, the range of treatment may include limiting or omitting certain foods from the diet, counseling to aid in dealing with ongoing stressful situations, and even the use of medication to manage the condition. In some cases, the physician may have reason to believe that some abnormality in the stomach led to the development of the indigestion, prompting tests to determine the presence of any masses or evidence of blood in the digestive tract. For the most part, nervous indigestion can be effectively treated without the need for any type of surgery, and provide the sufferer with relief in a short period of time.

A person who suffers from panic attacks may also experience nervous indigestion.
A person who suffers from panic attacks may also experience nervous indigestion.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know all the aspects of nervous indigestion. But stress can "do a number" on many of your body systems. Anxiety can cause excess amounts of stomach acids. I remember a few times when I was a child, I actually vomited from the nervousness upsetting my stomach. I wonder if some of the distress is from muscle tension?

People with nervous indigestion can take medicine to subdue the symptoms, but I think it is best to get at the bottom of the anxiety through counseling or a support group. Exercise, yoga and meditation can help too.


If you are experiencing symptoms of stomach upset and nervous stomach - like when your stomach is squirming around and you can't seem to eat much, and maybe have some heartburn - check in with your doctor. There are other conditions with similar symptoms that can be serious. One of them is ulcers of the stomach, and the other is esophagus problems. Sometimes the opening from the esophagus tube into the stomach doesn't stay close and stomach acid splashes up into the tube and can make sores in the esophagus.

If you have a nervous stomach, don't take too much ibuprofen as it can cause ulcers. It's better to try exercise, yoga or meditation.


I first began to deal with this kind of indigestion pain at an early age; about 15 or 16 actually. I was very active in school, with very good grades. I was that complete overachiever that you read about.

I also had a lot of home responsibilities, including cooking family meals, washing all laundry, handling the day to day cleaning and taking care of my two younger siblings while my parents worked.

I got maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night keeping up with everything. I thought I was managing fine.

It wasn’t long until my stomach began to hurt all of the time, though. My mom and dad were not cuddly parents who thought that a child should be taken to the doctor for a stomachache, and they really didn’t have any idea that it was more serious than that. I didn’t want to upset or worry them, so I kept it to myself.

Now that I'm grown, however, I know what caused the pain and discomfort. So, when I’m getting sucked into a sticky and stressful situation, I try not to indulge in comfort foods. Grease and sugar and fat just make it worse.


My doctor told me that nervous indigestion is a term often used to refer to things like IBS. If you have stomach bloating and gas you could well have this condition. It is made worse by stress and sometimes diet.

I can understand why people use the term nervous stomach to explain symptoms of indigestion. Most people would feel uncomfortable giving graphic explanations for the causes of their stomach gas!


If you are suddenly getting bad acid and an upset stomach at the same time as stress is flaring up in your life, it is probably a case of nervous indigestion.

I used to get these symptoms during my exam times, and my doctor told me that the combination of stress, fatigue, and poor diet can really wreck havic on your body. Constantly feeling tense is a good recipe for heartburn.

I found that popping antacids, drinking cool water and learning to mediate really helped calm my nerves (and stomach) during difficult times.

I still get nervous indigestion at times, but it gets easier to control now that I know what is causing my problems.


If you suffer from what you believe to be nervous indigestion it is a good idea to consult a doctor and make sure that what you are experiencing is really a psycho-symptomatic event. There are many different kinds of medical conditions that can cause indigestion and it is important to rule out anything that needs specific treatment first.

If you do have nervous indigestion your doctor may suggest learning some relaxation techniques, similar to what they teach those who get panic attacks. This ability to control your mental responses to external stimuli can really help improve your overall health and reduce symptoms.

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