Don't Ignore These Indigestion Symptoms

food, meal
Sellwell/Moment/Getty Images

No one likes to deal with indigestion. It's painful, inconvenient, and sometimes even embarrassing (although hey, society, if we could get to a place where we don't consider our regular bodily functions "embarrassing," that would be great). However, it's important to recognize the indigestion symptoms you should get checked out immediately, because issues with your digestions can be a sign that something is really up with your health.

What is indigestion? The National Institute of Health defines it as involving "one or more symptoms including a feeling of fullness during a meal, uncomfortable fullness after a meal, and burning or pain in the upper abdomen." It's quite common; in fact, according to one survey, 74 percent of Americans suffer from some degree of indigestion at any given point, and according to the National institute of Diabetes and Digeestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 20 percent are affected by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Luckily, though, researchers are making major progress with our understanding of indigestion and how it impacts our bodies. For instance, researchers out of the UT Southwestern Medical Center and Dallas VA Medical Center recently discovered that, contrary to popular belief, the "acid" in "acid reflux" may not be what's damaging our esophaguses.The real culprit? Researchers now believe the damage is an an inflammatory response prompted by the secretion of proteins called cytokines. Wild, right?

So, what are some signs of indigestion that you should seek a doctor's attention for immediately? Check out the list below as a starting place, but remember, you know your body best. If you ever feel like something isn't right, get to the doctor ASAP.

1. Difficulty Swallowing

If you experience difficulty swallowing, get thee to a doctor as soon as possible. Seriously: Even if you can, for example, swallow liquids or soft foods easily, but struggle to swallow certain food groups (acidic foods, sticky foods, etc.), this is not a sign that nothing is wrong with your health. Often, people experience difficulty swallowing when they've suffered from acid reflux over an extended amount of time: Your esophagus can become scarred from experiencing damage and healing repeatedly, which can also cause swelling, making the throat feel irritated or narrow. Doctors can treat this with a variety of medications and recommendations for lifestyle and food changes, but seriously: Do not wait on this!

2. Repeated Vomiting or Vomiting With Blood

If you find yourself vomiting after meals on a regular basis, or discover blood in your vomit, don't hesitate to seek medical attention. While vomiting is a symptom of simple indigestion, it's also potentially a sign that there is a serious, underlying issue with your health. Recurrent vomiting and vomit with blood in it are both signs of stomach ulcers, as well as stomach cancer. Of course, only a medical professional can diagnosis you with either of these things, but don't wait on making an appointment if these symptoms feel familiar.

3. Fatigue or Weakness

Initially, this symptom surprised me: What does feeling extra tired or weak have to do with indigestion? Interestingly, research shows the tie is pretty significant. Basically, if you experience indigestion, it's very likely you'll experience fatigue or feelings of weakness because your iron levels are low. Anemia is no joke, so make sure you get yourself to a doctor STAT if you realize you're uncharacteristically exhausted or weak.

4. The Inability To Finish Meals

You know how your loving grandparents always ask you why you haven't finished your plate? This could actually be a big clue that something serious is up with your digestion. If you notice a drop in your ability to eat meals that are of a standard size for you, definitely see a doctor as soon as possible. As the Mayo Clinic explains, this sensation is known as "early satiety" and is a common symptom of not only indigestion and acid reflux, but sometimes even of more serious conditions like pancreatic cancer.

5. Dramatic Weight Loss

Frequently associated with indigestion is dramatic weight loss — it could be a sign that your body is not processing the nutrients that it needs. It can also be a sign that there are more severe underlying health issues, like gastritis, pancreatitis, and other forms of cancer.

Images: Sellwell/Moment/Getty Images; Giphy