Stomach Pain After Eating


 

Overview

Stomach pain after eating or postprandial pain, is often very uncomfortable and could be a cause for concern. Postprandial pain is defined as any bodily changes that occur after eating and could be an indicator for other digestive issues. 

 

What does a gastritis attack or postprandial pain feel like?

The pain may feel like a gripping or severe tightening of your stomach muscles and onset normally takes place within two hours post meal consumption.

 

When should I become concerned about stomach pain?

Any pain that is chronic in nature or atypical should be addressed as it could be a sign of something more serious. Visiting a specialist may help uncover the exact cause and need for further treatment. Some of the warning signs may include:

●        Persistent nausea

●        Vomiting with or without blood

●        Unable to eat or drink

●        Bloody emesis

●        Fever

●        Dark urine

●        Yellowing of the skin or whites of eyes
 

What are some of the possible causes of stomach pain after eating?

Indigestion or dyspepsia: Overindulging on food or beverages can often cause uncomfortable abdominal symptoms such as: belching, gas, bloating. Foods like onions, cabbage, broccoli, beans can cause discomfort.  Spicy food and caffeine can also cause pain and gas. Indigestion is more of a symptom than an illness. Smoking and alcohol consumption may also aggravate symptoms.

 

Heartburn: Heartburn is a burning pain in your chest, just behind your breastbone. The pain is often worse when lying down or bending over, after eating, and in the evening. Intermittent heartburn is generally no cause for concern. However, if symptoms occur more than 2 days a week or interrupt activities of daily living, a visit to your practitioner may be warranted.

 

GERD (gastroesophageal disease): Occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. When this happens, it (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Reflux can be exacerbated by obesity, smoking, alcohol, fatty or spicy food. Over-the-counter medications may help alleviate symptoms.

 

Ulcers:  Open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine. Peptic ulcers can include both gastric (inside of stomach) and duodenal (upper part of your small intestine) ulcerations. Symptoms can include: burning stomach pain made worse by eating, feeling full, heartburn, nausea, etc. The most common peptic ulcer symptom is burning stomach pain. Stomach acid makes the pain worse, as does having an empty stomach. The pain can often be relieved by eating certain foods that buffer stomach acid or by taking an acid-reducing medication, but then it may come back. The pain may be worse between meals and at night.

 

Gallbladder disease and/or Gallstones: Caused by digestive fluid which hardens, these “stones” can cause blockages which may not allow your biliary tract to drain properly which may elicit sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen, sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the center of your abdomen, just below your breastbone, back pain between your shoulder blades, nausea or vomiting, fever, etc.

Risk factors for gallbladder disease are extensive and include:

      o   Being age 40 or older

      o   Being female

      o   Being a Native American or Mexican American

      o   Being overweight or obese

      o   Being sedentary

      o   Being pregnant

      o   Eating a high-fat diet

      o   Eating a high-cholesterol diet

      o   Eating a low-fiber diet

      o   Having a family history of gallstones

      o   Having diabetes

      o   Having certain blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia or leukemia

      o   Losing weight very quickly

      o   Taking medications that contain estrogen, such as oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs

      o   Having liver disease

Gallstones may form if bile contains too much cholesterol, too much bilirubin, or not enough bile salts.

 

Pancreatitis:

The pancreas is a long, flat gland that sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. The pancreas produces enzymes that help digestion and hormones that help regulate the way your body processes sugar (glucose). When this process is disrupted, pancreatitis can be the result.

Pancreatitis can be classified as either acute or chronic. Mild cases of pancreatitis may go away without treatment, but severe cases can cause life-threatening complications. Acute pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:

      o   Upper abdominal pain

      o   Abdominal pain that feels worse after eating

      o   Abdominal pain that radiates to your back

      o   Fever

      o   Rapid pulse

      o   Nausea

      o   Vomiting

      o   Tenderness when touching the abdomen

Chronic pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:

      o   Upper abdominal pain

      o   Losing weight without trying

      o   Oily, smelly stools (steatorrhea)

 

Food Intolerance/Allergy:

Food intolerances and food allergies are often confused for being the same, however, they are very different. In general, food allergies are considered more dangerous than food intolerances. An allergy can develop into a severe reaction that is life threatening. Although intolerances can cause difficult, recurring symptoms, they are rarely serious.

*Food allergies are an immune response to a protein in substance being ingested.

*Food intolerances are not an immune response and may not occur every time the substance is ingested.

 Symptoms of allergic reactions to foods are generally seen on the skin (hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin). Gastrointestinal symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea. Respiratory symptoms may accompany skin and gastrointestinal symptoms, but don’t usually occur alone.
 

Common Treatments

Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause. For instance, if you know that a particular food causes stomach pain, diet modification to eliminate the offending substance may be effective. Over-the-counter products may help alleviate temporary heartburn, nausea, indigestion symptoms. Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, may also be beneficial.
 

Consulting with Your Local Gastroenterologist

Most symptoms of stomach pain after eating may be alleviated with dietary and lifestyle changes. However, it is always best to have any persistent or troublesome symptoms evaluated by a medical professional. 

As the leading gastroenterology specialists in our community, Saratoga Schenectady Gastroenterology Associates, we aim to provide the best in care standards to our local patients. Setting up an appointment is easy and convenient, and we look forward to meeting with you.