Manhattan Gastroenterology
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Stomach pain or discomfort after eating is not a good feeling. If the pain occurs mostly after eating and goes away on its own, it is usually caused by food. However, if you have other symptoms or the pain occurs every time you eat, it may be an underlying medical condition, and seeing a gastroenterologist may help you feel better. The expert doctors determine the exact causes of your pain and provide highly personalized and comprehensive care to ensure your overall wellbeing. The board-certified specialists at Manhattan Gastroenterology offer exceptional, high-quality individualized care to ensure you find relief from discomfort and continue to enjoy the foods you love without falling sick or feeling uncomfortable afterward.

The little tummy ache is often attributed to common issues like overeating or eating too fast, but persistent and increasing pain in the stomach could be a sign of some health problem. Abdominal pain should not be taken lightly if it persists. It should be evaluated with a thorough consultation by a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

Here are a few possible causes of stomach pain after eating.

Food

In many cases, the foods you choose to eat may lead to pain in the stomach after a short time. They include:

Eating Too Much or Too Fast

Common causes of stomach pain after eating
Stomach pain

You may experience stomach pain if you have eaten a lot or eaten the food too quickly. These are two of the primary triggers for abdominal pain after a meal. When you overeat or eat too fast, you do not take sufficient time to chew the food properly, and it causes trouble later on. An average stomach has a capacity of accommodating 2 to 4 liters. When you try to exceed this limit, the stomach is forced to make room for extra food, which can cause discomfort or pain.

Also, when you eat too fast, you end up overeating and swallowing extra air, which results in bloating and gas. Slowing yourself down while you eat, chewing well, or taking intermittent sips of water between meals can help you avoid eating too much or too fast. You could also try setting your fork down after taking a bite and chewing completely before picking up the fork again.

Food Intolerances

According to health experts, food intolerances are very common and a large majority of the population is either intolerant or sensitive to certain foods. Food intolerances or sensitivities are caused by the body’s inability to digest or break down a particular ingredient in food that results in an unpleasant physical reaction to them.

Stomach pain and cramping are commonly experienced symptoms of food intolerances or insensitivities, often associated with dairy, gluten, nuts, yeast, and tomatoes. Statistics also show that most people develop food tolerances as they age and by the age of 40, 75% people become intolerant to lactose. Food intolerance is a digestive system reaction rather than an immune system response. Consuming smaller portions or a product free of a specific ingredient can prevent stomach pain.

Food Allergies

Food allergies occur when your body mistakes a food, usually a protein, for a harmful foreign invader, and your immune system releases antibodies to fight it. The immune response battles the invading object, which results in various symptoms, including stomach pain.

You must avoid foods or ingredients that cause allergies altogether as they can set off an abnormal immune response that, in some cases, can be life-threatening. Allergies to eggs, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, corn, gluten, and wheat are the most common food allergies that cause stomach pain.

Many people confuse food allergies and intolerances. It is because many of the symptoms, such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting, are similar. It is best to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider so that they can determine the causes of stomach pain and help you deal with the problem effectively. A food elimination diet or an allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody test can determine whether you are allergic to a particular food or substance.

Stomach pain can be kept away by eating a balanced and healthy diet that contains a good serving of fresh vegetables and fruits. Avoiding spicy or fatty goods and cutting down on sugary drinks and caffeine can make you feel better.

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions can also make your stomach hurt after you have consumed a meal. They include:

Celiac Disease

Stomach pain is the most common symptom of celiac disease, a disorder of the digestive system. People with celiac disease will immediately react to a specific protein found in gluten called gliadin. This protein is present in rye, barley, oats, spelt, and wheat.

Celiac disease has some features of a food allergy as it involves the immune system. Most frequently experienced symptoms of celiac disease include gastrointestinal issues such as stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. Removing gluten from the diet can stop the effects of this condition.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a condition that affects the digestive system. According to health experts, about 15% of the population suffers from this gastrointestinal disorder. The symptoms can last for days, weeks, or even months, and they may not always occur after eating. Symptoms also vary from person to person and are triggered by food, stress, constipation, and diarrhea.

Common symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Cramping
  • Stomach pain after eating
  • Fullness after eating

Food allergies and food sensitivities are also associated with irritable bowel syndrome. There is no cure for IBS. Lifestyle changes can help prevent the symptoms or keep them from turning painful, but it generally requires long-term management.

Pancreatitis

The stomach pain could be a sign of pancreatitis, especially if the pain lasts for more than six hours. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas and the leading cause of hospitalization for gastrointestinal issues. It occurs when your pancreas, the organ that aids the body process sugar and digest food, gets inflamed. You may feel pain in the upper belly that worsens after eating.

People suffering from pancreatitis experience pain that begins in the upper abdomen and radiates to the back. Other symptoms of pancreatitis include fever, nausea, and vomiting. Pancreatitis can result from gallstones, high triglycerides, and alcohol consumption. An experienced doctor can diagnose your condition with the help of a blood test or a CT scan and recommend the best treatment to relieve stomach pain.

Diverticulitis

It is a condition in which small, sac-like pouches, known as cysts or diverticula, form in the lining of the digestive system, usually in the lower part of the large intestine. If these pouches get inflamed or infected, they can result in changes in the bowel movement patterns as well as severe abdominal pain around the lower left side, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or rectal bleeding.

Stomach pain after eating is also a common symptom of diverticulosis.

Intestinal Obstruction

If there is any blockage in your colon or small intestine, it can become difficult for foods to digest properly. When you eat too fast, large pieces of food may not break down the right way, leading to stomach pain. In some cases, a hernia or tumor can also lead to intestinal obstruction.

Heartburn

Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid indigestion, heartburn occurs when acid comes up from the stomach into the food pipe. You will experience a burning sensation or discomfort in the chest and throat. You may also feel the food coming back up after being swallowed if you lie down or bend over. Heartburn is sometimes linked to chest pain too.

It may last for only a few minutes or up to several hours. Recurring acid reflux can irritate the lining of your esophagus and cause lasting damage. Avoiding spicy food, and alcohol and losing the extra pounds can keep the heartburn down.

Stomach Ulcer

A stomach ulcer is a sore that develops on the inside lining of the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine or the duodenum. The most common symptom of an
ulcer
is burning pain in the middle of the stomach. The pain can worsen with spicy foods and alcohol.

Stomach ulcers are often caused by infection. They also result from excessive use of medications, even aspirin, when it is taken for a long time. Doctors recommend treating stomach ulcers with acid-suppressing medications, often combined with antibiotics.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD has two forms, ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. In both these conditions, the immune system seems to overreact and causes inflammation in the intestinal tract. It may not affect the stomach directly, but it can result in pain and nausea, along with diarrhea, joint pain, fever, skin rashes, and other symptoms.

IBD is a long-term condition. It can be treated and managed with specific medications and lifestyle changes.

Gallstones

Gallstones are small, hard, crystal-like deposits that can form in the gallbladder or bile ducts within the liver. They can occur due to too much cholesterol in your bile, abnormal gallbladder functioning, or other reasons. Gallstones often cause pain after eating, especially if a meal was large or high in fat. They can also lead to sharp, sudden pain if they block a bile duct.

Other symptoms associated with gallstones include nausea and vomiting.

Gastritis

It causes inflammation in the lining of the stomach, which results in stomach pain, sickens, vomiting and indigestion. Mild gastritis can be treated at home with medication and changes in diet. Staying away from acidic foods and eating smaller meals throughout the day can help.

Overactive Thyroid

The thyroid gland produces a hormone that helps the body function normally. An overactive thyroid can cause medical problems that affect the bones, muscles, and heart. Stomach pain and diarrhea are also frequently experienced symptoms of an overactive thyroid accompanied by trouble sleeping, weight loss, and a rapid heartbeat.

Other Causes of Stomach Pain After Eating

Several other lifestyles and health issues may cause pain in the stomach after eating a meal. They include:

Stress – Muscles can tense up due to stress, which leads to pain or discomfort in the stomach. Eating slowly and calmly can help avoid stomach pain, or a few deep breaths before eating can relax the tensed muscles.
Obesity – You are at risk of developing conditions such as heartburn or stomach ulcer if you are overweight. Shedding excessive pounds can prevent stomach pain after eating.
Constipation – Stomach pain and bloating are common symptoms of constipation that occur when there is not enough bowel movement, or the stool is hard and becomes difficult to pass. Taking in a high-fiber diet and drinking plenty of fluids can help to ease constipation and stomach pain.
Blood pressure medicines – Some medications prescribed for treating blood pressure can cause side effects like constipation and stomach pain. If you are experiencing stomach pain due to blood pressure medications, consult your doctor for a change in medicine.

When to See a Doctor for Stomach Pain?

If you have been suffering from stomach pain accompanied by other symptoms that fail to subside despite a change in diet, lifestyle modification, and over-the-counter medication, you must consult a doctor. Your symptoms may be a warning sign of an underlying medical problem that needs proper treatment.

Many digestive problems can cause pain in the stomach after you have eaten. Indigestion, GERD, gallstones or IBS, and pancreatitis are some of the common causes, while there are some less common causes too. Experiencing pain in the stomach now and then is not a cause for concern. However, if it is disturbing your life and routine and you cannot pinpoint what may be causing it, it is best to see a doctor for complete evaluation and tests.

Severe stomach pain followed by fever, vomiting, chills, a fast heartbeat, or yellow eyes and skin should not be ignored. Call your healthcare provider immediately or visit a hospital emergency.

Schedule an appointment with board-certified and award-winning gastroenterologists in NYC to learn about the possible causes of stomach pain. The top-rated specialists at Manhattan Gastroenterology utilize the latest technological advancements and high definition imaging to optimally visualize the digestive tract and determine the reasons behind your stomach pain. They strive to prevent and diagnose all types of gastrointestinal disorders with their unmatched expertise and experience and come up with the best treatment to put you back on the road to wellness.

Updated on May 9, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology