Why Does Your Stomach Hurt After Eating?

Stomach pain that occurs after eating can have many causes, ranging from digestive issues to consuming specific food. The various causes also means that there is a range of treatments that can help you feel better and certain actions you should take to prevent future stomachaches.

Causes of Stomach Pain After Eating

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning occurs when you ingest spoiled, contaminated, or toxic food. One of the most common symptoms of food poisoning is stomach pain, but you may also experience diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and lack of energy as the body attempts to expel the hazardous food from the body. 

If food poisoning is the cause of your stomach pain, symptoms typically appear a few hours after eating, although in some cases, it may take days or weeks until they surface. In addition, food poisoning will typically last only a few days.

Bloating

Bloating results from gas that becomes trapped in the digestive system, which can be quite painful and uncomfortable. Some people may experience a stomach that is uncomfortably stretched, while others may feel sharp pains.

Some things that commonly cause bloating include:

  • beans
  • onions
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • sugary drinks

In addition, habits such as chewing gum, drinking through a straw, or eating with your mouth open can lead to you swallowing air. The swallowed air can become trapped, causing bloating and potential stomach pains.

Eating Certain Foods

Some foods can cause stomach pain as they are digested. Spicy and fatty foods, in particular, are commonly the cause of stomach pain that develops after eating.

Food Allergy or Intolerance

If you have a food allergy, ingesting that food can irritate the stomach, leading to stomach pain, among the other possible symptoms of an allergic reaction.

In comparison, a food intolerance is a milder form of an allergy and often means that your body has difficulty digesting that food. Common food intolerances include wheat, lactose, and gluten. Eating these foods can often cause bloating and abdominal discomfort.

Overeating

If you consistently have a stomachache after eating, no matter what you eat, you may be eating too much. Not only can overeating cause stomach pain, but it can also lead to other health problems.

Indigestion

The stomach is full of acid that helps to break down food. However, in some cases, this acid irritates the stomach lining, resulting in indigestion. Some foods which commonly cause indigestion include rich or fatty foods, sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol.

Some symptoms of indigestion, in addition to stomach pain, include:

  • bloating
  • a burning feeling in the upper abdomen
  • feeling uncomfortably full after eating
  • feeling full after eating only a small amount
  • burping
  • nausea
  • heartburn

Stress

When you are stressed, your muscles become tense, which can result in pain or discomfort in your stomach after eating.

Medical Conditions

There are some medical conditions that can lead to stomach pain, including:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): leads to an inflamed gut, one of the complications of which is stomach pain.
  • Gastritis: an inflammation of the stomach lining. 
  • Stomach ulcer: a sore that develops on the stomach lining, causing a burning pain.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): a condition affecting the digestive system that can cause constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and bloating.
  • Gallstones: hard pieces of material that form in the gallbladder, causing sharp, sudden pain if they block a bile duct.
  • Heartburn: also known as acid reflux; results from acid coming up from the stomach into the esophagus.
  • Celiac Disease: an allergy to gluten.
  • Overactive Thyroid: the thyroid produces hormones, but if it is overactive (i.e., producing too many hormones), stomach pain and other digestive problems can result.
  • Lactose Intolerance: the inability to digest lactose.

Symptoms of Abdomen Pain After Eating

Abdominal pain includes any pain felt between the chest and pelvic regions, so it encompasses a large portion of the body.

The type of abdominal pain that you experience can also feel many different ways. Some common terms used to describe stomach pain include:

  • achy
  • crampy
  • dull
  • sharp
  • intermittent
  • burning 

Common Foods That Can Cause Stomach Pain After Eating

Spicy Foods

Many spicy foods contain the chemical capsaicin, which provides them with that hot and burning sensation. However, capsaicin can also irritate the sensitive parts of your body, which includes the stomach. When this happens, you may experience abdominal pain.

Fatty Foods

Fatty foods take much longer to digest when compared to other types of food, meaning fatty foods remain in the stomach for a longer amount of time, which can cause stomach pain, nausea, and bloating. In addition, fatty foods can trigger problems in people with certain conditions, such as IBS or chronic pancreatitis.

Gluten

Some people are intolerant to gluten, which is the name for proteins found in barley, wheat, and rye.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the small intestine when someone eats gluten, causing quite a bit of damage to the digestive system.

Other conditions involving gluten intolerances include wheat allergies and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The best way to manage stomach pain for those with these conditions is to cut gluten out of your diet.

Dairy Products

Dairy products contain the sugar lactose, which the enzyme lactase breaks down. However, some people have a shortage of this enzyme, which results in them being unable to break down and digest lactose. This can cause digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea.

Lactose intolerance is a very common condition, and so if you notice that you frequently develop an upset stomach after eating dairy products, it may be worthwhile to discuss the possibility of lactose intolerance with your doctor.

How to Prevent Stomach Cramps After Eating?

In most cases, abdominal cramps that occur after eating can be prevented by eating a healthy and balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Taking care to avoid foods that are too fatty or spicy can also help with the health of your stomach.

Making sure to eat slowly and stop once you are full can help to prevent overeating, and the potential stomach pain that often accompanies it.

What to Do If Your Stomach Hurts After Eating?

Get Moving

If your stomach hurts because you have overeaten, going for a leisurely walk can help induce the process of pushing your food down the gastrointestinal tract. However, you don’t want to do any strenuous exercising as that will actually slow down digestion and potentially make your stomach pain worse.

Drink Water

Water is essential for the process of digesting food, so being dehydrated can make it more difficult for the body to digest food, which increases the chances of stomach pain. If you are experiencing stomach pain, try drinking some water to see if that helps your digestive system. In addition, if your stomach pain is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, drinking water is even more critical as these symptoms can lead to dehydration.

Don’t Lay Down

As much as you may want to lay down after eating too much, this can make conditions, such as acid reflux, worse, as it is easier for the stomach acid to creep up the esophagus when lying flat.

Try An Over the Counter (OTC) Medicine

Depending on the symptoms of your stomachache, an OTC medication may help relieve your symptoms. Some medicines can help relieve and prevent gas, while others help neutralize stomach acid or reduce its production.

Antidiarrheals may be beneficial if you are also suffering from diarrhea, while laxatives can help with constipation.

Natural Remedies

Ginger is a common natural remedy for an upset stomach, and can help reduce nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. In addition, ginger contains chemicals that help speed up your stomach contractions, which means that foods causing problems will be moved through the digestive system more quickly.

Mint is another natural option that can help relieve stomachaches due to the menthol it contains.

Both ginger and mint are commonly used in teas, which allow you to enjoy their benefits while also hydrating your body.

When To See a Doctor?

In most cases, mild abdominal pain will go away on its own without needing a doctor. However, if your abdominal pain is severe or begins after enduring an accident or injury, seek emergency medical services right away. In addition, if your stomachache is accompanied by pressure or pain in the chest, it is crucial to see a doctor right away.

Get Help From an Online Doctor

If you are not sure about the cause of your stomach pain, an online doctor is an excellent source to get a quick, professional opinion. With DrHouse, you can meet with a doctor virtually and discuss what your stomach pain feels like. With this information, your doctor can provide some treatment options to ease your pain and get you feeling better.

Key Takeaways

A stomachache that occurs after eating a meal can have many causes, including gas buildup, digestive disorders, food allergies, and overeating, among others. In addition, the food that you eat can cause a stomachache, especially if your body has a hard time digesting it. Dairy products and gluten are two foods that commonly cause digestive issues.

If you experience stomach pain after eating, it’s usually something that clears away on its own. Gentle exercises, staying upright, and drinking water or herbal teas can help ease your symptoms. An online doctor is an excellent source to discuss the cause of your upset stomach and provide guidance on when the pain warrants emergency medical attention.

Sources

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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