Have you ever experienced stomach pain after eating?
The other evening, my friend Anne and I ate dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant.
Our delicious meal consisted of several courses—there was the antipasto platter filled with a variety of deli meats, veggies, and cheeses; a Caprese salad drizzled with flavorful balsamic vinegar; and a large gourmet pizza topped with bocconcini cheese balls, grilled zucchini, and eggplant.
Needless to say, the meal was to die for! I sampled a little of each food and Anne stuffed herself with everything.
Unfortunately, she ended up with a stomach pain after eating. In particular, she experienced cramping in her abdominal area—so much so that she couldn’t move for several minutes.
“I guess the food really was to die for,” she joked.
Causes of Stomach Pain after Eating
There can be multiple causes of stomach pain after eating. Some people are so used to binging through every meal that a stomachache almost becomes part of their daily lives. “It’s just a tummy ache,” you might say.
Yes, the little “tummy ache” could be attributed to eating too much or too fast, but it could also be a sign of a more serious health problem. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of stomach pain after eating:
1. Overeating: Stomach pain can result when you consume your food too fast. When you overeat, you might not take the time to chew through your food properly and you might notice that the food generally disappears from your plate very quickly.
2. Food intolerances: It is estimated that up to 20% of the population is intolerant or sensitive to certain foods. Stomach pain and cramping are common symptoms of food intolerances or sensitivities, which are often associated with dairy, gluten, nuts, yeast, and tomatoes.
3. Food allergies: Dairy products, nuts, eggs, peanut butter, soy, corn, wheat, and gluten are common food allergies that can cause symptoms such as stomach pain. A food elimination diet or an allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody test can be conducted to determine whether you are allergic to a particular food or substance.
4. Celiac disease: Stomach pain is a common symptom of celiac disease. The condition is characterized by gluten sensitivity. People with celiac disease will immediately react to a specific protein found in gluten called gliadin—it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, oats, and Kamut.
5. Irritable bowel syndrome: This is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects approximately 15% of the population. Some symptoms include gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, abdominal pain, or stomach pain after eating. Candida, food allergies and food sensitivities are also associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
6. Pancreatitis: Stomach pain after eating can also indicate pancreatitis, especially when the pain lasts for over six hours. Pancreatitis is known as pancreas inflammation. People with pancreatitis will experience pain that begins around the upper abdomen; the pain will then spread to the back. Other pancreatitis symptoms include fever, nausea, and vomiting.
7. Diverticulitis: Diverticulitis is a condition where pouches in the colon become inflamed from bacteria. The pouches are also known as cysts or diverticula. Some symptoms include fever, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, bowel habit changes, and cramping pain, especially around the lower left area of the abdomen. Stomach pain after eating is also common.
8. Intestinal obstruction: When there is a blockage in your colon or small intestine, it can be difficult for foods to be digested properly. When you eat too fast, large pieces of food may not be broken down. A hernia or tumor can also lead to intestinal obstruction.
9. Chronic candida: Abdominal pain can also be a symptom of chronic candida—a condition also known as yeast overgrowth. Other common symptoms associated with candida include chronic fatigue, bloating, gas, and depression.
10. Heartburn: Heartburn is also sometimes referred to as acid reflux or acid indigestion. Heartburn is the result of too little stomach acid, and it can produce burning chest pain after eating. The pain may only last a few minutes, or up to several hours.
11. Food poisoning: Food poisoning, or a foodborne illness, occurs after consuming food or drinks containing harmful pathogens that have contaminated the product during processing or cooking. This can include dangerous parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Symptoms of stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea may be seen within two to four hours after eating.
12. Peptic ulcer: A peptic ulcer, or stomach ulcer, is the result of stomach acid damaging the lining of the digestive tract. This creates open sores in the protective mucous membrane lining, and may present stomach pain after eating. A burning sensation in the pit of the stomach may develop, and bleeding can occur in severe cases of a peptic ulcer.
13. Gallstones: Gallstones are small, hardened forms of bile or cholesterol that build up in the gallbladder. While most cases are asymptomatic, there may be sudden, sharp stomach pain after eating; back pain situated on the right side; nausea; and vomiting.
14. Blocked blood vessels: Blocked blood vessels in the abdomen may cause stomach pain within 30 minutes of eating every meal. As with arteries in other areas of the boy, the blood vessels in the stomach can narrow with plaque buildup. This is commonly seen in past and present female smokers. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
15. Appendicitis: Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. This may cause aches and pains in the abdomen before traveling to the area over the appendix, on the lower right side. At this point, the pain may become severe and worsen with movement. Other symptoms may include diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite.
16. Pelvic inflammatory disease: Pelvic inflammatory disease, known as PID, is an infection that is sexually transmitted by bacteria crossing from the vagina to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the uterus. As it invades the female reproductive organs, it may either be asymptomatic or cause severe pain in the stomach region.
Foods That May Cause Stomach Pain after Eating
1. Food Allergies
A food allergy is the overactive response of the immune system to a specific food or ingredient found within that you consumed.
Why Do Bananas Cause Stomach Aches?
Bananas have a protein called chitinase that may cause an allergic response in those with a pollen-food allergy syndrome. Stomach pain after eating a banana may happen with someone with hay fever, birch, or latex allergies.
Peanut Allergies Cause Stomach Aches, Too
Peanuts contain similar proteins that may cause an allergic response such as stomach pains. For some, consuming, touching, or even inhaling products with peanuts or peanut-flavoring may trigger a response. Peanuts are one of the nut allergies that can cause the life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis.
Allergic to Eggs? Stomach Pain May Result
Eggs are another common food-induced allergy trigger. Stomach pains, rashes, congestion, and vomiting may occur after eating an egg. Eggs have the sensitive protein in the yolks and whites the body reacts to, and this allergy is usually seen in childhood. The reaction may dissipate over the years.
Pain in the stomach after eating bread, cereal, pasta, some soups, salad dressing, and beverages such as beer may be caused by a common protein called gluten. This is found in wheat, rye, and barley. This intolerance may be celiac disease, which damages the lining of the intestines due to the gluten.
3. Fruit Intolerance
Problems digesting fruit may be due to an intolerance to the fructose content. Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruit. Stomach pains after eating fruit such as apples may indicate that the digestive tract is unable to break down and properly absorb the natural sugar. This fructose intolerance and malabsorption allows existing bacteria to use the substance to release hydrogen gases and carbon dioxide.
4. Meat Intolerance
A meat intolerance may be due to a sensitivity to a protein in the meat itself. Small meat particles seep into the bloodstream, triggering the immune system to release lgG antibodies to fight the invader. In response, stomach pain after eating meat may occur.
With chicken, the response may be caused by the additives within the meat alone, or by the allergens added to the dish. Many cases are caused by food poisoning due to chicken contaminated with bacterial strains.
5. Sugar Intolerance May Result in Stomach Ache
The sweet taste of sugar may cause severe pain in stomach after eating too much of it. This may be caused by poor digestion of the sugar, and it eventually breaks down in the lower intestine, producing gas. In carbohydrate form, the sugar may stimulate pain if not expelled. A sugar intolerance may also be seen with the use of milk products, as milk contains sugar in the form of lactose.
Weather also may initiate sugar-induced stomach pain as extremely high temperatures may cause you to reach for cold, sweet drinks such as soda, iced tea, lemonade, and alcohol. The high content of sugar may cause pain and bloating from gas formation.
Stomach Ache after Eating during Pregnancy
Among the numerous minor complications of pregnancy, you may also experience stomach pain after eating. This discomfort may be caused by more than just the type of food you have consumed.
During pregnancy, the digestive process slows down, and there is an increase in the production of stomach acid. This may stimulate gas, bloating, and constipation, all leading to stomach cramping.
Incidences of acid reflux may also occur, causing pain. This happens when the esophageal sphincter loosens, allowing the excess acid to enter the esophagus.
Stomach pain after eating may also be caused by the decreased amount of space in the stomach as the fetus continues to grow.
Each pregnancy is different, and by maintaining a food journal of products that cause pain after eating, you may narrow down the culprit.
How to Treat Stomach Pain after Eating
1. Consume Lactose-Free Products
For stomach pain after eating due to lactose intolerance, there are many lactose-reduced and lactose-free products on the shelf. These include milk, coffee creamers, ice cream, whipped cream, and butter. Use these products in your favorite recipes or consume them on their own.
Pregnant women in particular need to retain sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D in their diets while avoiding lactose products.
Severe cases of stomach pain may require the use of over-the-counter and prescribed medications. The lesions of peptic ulcers may be healed with antibiotics or antacids to neutralize or reduce stomach acid and related heartburn.
Gallstones may require prescription medication to dissolve large stones. Other painful stomach issues may be resolved with anti-diarrheal drugs, anticholinergic drugs, or fiber supplements.
The gluten protein found in many foods may need to be removed to treat the stomach pains after eating. Symptoms may be alleviated by following a celiac disease diet.
Switch to a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, rice, quinoa, arrowroot, amaranth, cornmeal, and corn products. Choose gluten-free alcoholic beverages such as wine and distilled liquors in place of beer.
4. Drink Plenty of Fluids and Rest
With stomach pains after eating resulting from food poisoning, rest and drinking plenty of fluids are key treatments. This allows the body to flush out the toxins that have gathered in the gut.
Maintaining hydration with water is important at any time, but it is recommended to wait at least an hour before drinking water after meals if too much food has been consumed in one sitting.
5. High-Fiber Diet
Following a high-fiber diet is essential for good health, and may help to prevent conditions that cause stomach pain such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Studies have also shown that following a diet low in fat and high in fiber may also help prevent sacs from forming on the intestinal walls, known as diverticular disease, which can also cause severe abdominal pain.
Stomach pains after eating due to gallstones may require surgery to remove the gallbladder. This surgery, known as a cholecystectomy, is relatively common, as the gallbladder is a non-essential organ.
Doctors may perform a cholecystectomy as a laparoscopic procedure, in which a tiny camera on a scope is inserted through a small incision to monitor the removal of the gallbladder.
The removal of a gallbladder may be done as an open cholecystectomy. This involves a regular incision and is necessary if the gallbladder is damaged or inflamed, or when complications from a laparoscopy arise.
7. Healthy and Timely Eating
Consuming healthy foods while limiting or avoiding fried, greasy, and high-fat foods may help in the treatment of stomach pains after eating.
Regarding overeating, it is ideal to eat smaller portions and eat small meals five to six times throughout the day. Plan meals ahead of time.
8. No Smoking
Smoking has been shown to increase stomach acid, hinder the lower esophageal sphincter function, and possibly damage the abdominal and esophagus linings. It can also cause a reduction in the production of saliva.
In addition to all of the harmful effects on the body, smoking may also trigger heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Probiotics have been shown in clinical trials to treat inflammation and fight damaging H. pylori bacteria by releasing natural antibiotic agents.
A report published in the April 2006 issue of Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics supports the effectiveness of probiotics for treating and strengthening the damaged stomach lining in peptic ulcers.
10. Peppermint Oil and Aloe Vera
Both peppermint oil and aloe vera have been clinically proven in separate studies to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as painful cramping.
The peppermint oil study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology advises that more research is needed to determine the effects of the oil in conjunction with other treatments involving antispasmodic and antidepressant drugs.
11. Warm Compress
Use a warm compress to relax tight muscles that may be creating the abdominal pains after eating. Apply a hot water bottle or a heating pad to the stomach region where cramping is felt for 20 minutes. Reapply as needed.
Relieve stomach pains with a gentle massage. Manipulation with the hands and fingers may help to promote proper digestion and ease bowel movements.
Stop the massage if pain worsens.
Tips to Prevent Stomach Pain after Eating
- Keep a food journal to identify what may irritate your stomach.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Adhere to a regular eating schedule every day.
- Avoid eating within two hours of bedtime.
- Take small bites of food.
- Eat slowly.
- Manage small portions.
- Limit or avoid foods that are spicy, fried, and have high-fat content.
- Avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks.
- Remain in an upright position for at least 30 minutes after eating.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Is stomach pain after eating a regular occurrence for you?
It may be time to visit a medical professional, naturopathic doctor, or holistic nutritionist. A stomachache after eating should go away after a few hours, but if your pain has lasted for more than a week or if a stomachache occurs after every meal, speak with your doctor.
Find the Cause of Your Stomach Pain after Eating
It’s important to remember that stomach pain after eating is a common problem that may stem from an underlying health condition such as pancreatitis or diverticulitis, or food sensitivity. Your pain can range from mild to severe, and depending on the cause, it may indicate damage to the lining of your gut.
The pain may occur within a few minutes to hours after eating, and the timing of the painful discomfort may help you to narrow down what food or disorder caused the agony. The location of the pain may also determine if the pain is caused by a serious event such as appendicitis.
Stomach pain after eating may be the result of an intolerance to foods like bananas, eggs, or peanuts and may be prevented by avoiding the culprits.
Pain may also be prevented by changing your overall eating habits. You can start by maintaining a regular eating routine of healthy foods and avoiding triggers that may be causing the pain.
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