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Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?

by
author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?
Stomach pain after eating coincides with a number of diseases. Photo Credit Igor Mojzes/iStock/Getty Images

Stomach pain is a common and usually short-lived, benign symptom. Almost everyone has experienced a bout of stomach pain after eating, often as a result of dietary indiscretions. But if you frequently have stomach pain after eating, or if pain is severe, see your medical practitioner; recurring stomach pain after eating can coincide with potentially serious health issues.

Types

Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?
Simple overeating can cause dull abdominal pain. Photo Credit AnaBGD/iStock/Getty Images

Stomach pain after eating can be dull, such as a feeling of fullness, or sharp as a stabbing pain. Simple overeating can cause dull abdominal pain, while a sharp pain after eating may indicate food poisoning or gastroenteritis. Stomach pain described as “burning” may occur with ulcers or with gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD. Colicky pain comes in waves; gallstones can cause colicky pain in the abdomen.

Timing

Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?
Timing of your stomach pain can indicate its cause. Photo Credit michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

Timing of stomach pain can supply your practitioner with clues about the cause. Recurrent stomach pain only after eating certain foods indicates intolerance or allergy. Pain that occurs a few hours after eating and temporarily improves when you eat can indicate a stomach ulcer. Food poisoning often occurs within hours of eating contaminated food. Gastroenteritis can occur fairly soon after eating because any activity in the intestinal tract irritates the inflamed tissues. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs more often if you lie down after eating. Heartburn often occurs after a large meal; alcohol exacerbates heartburn and GERD.

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Location

Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?
Different people may experience pain in different areas. Photo Credit ron sumners/iStock/Getty Images

The location of your pain after eating also provides clues to the cause. Stomach and intestinal pain can affect the abdomen anywhere from the chest to the navel. Lower abdominal pain after eating more often indicates gastroenteritis or food poisoning, especially if accompanied by diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. Pain in the center of abdomen a few hours after eating may indicate an ulcer, while gallstone pain often occurs in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. Different people may experience pain in different areas; there are no hard and fast rules.

Diagnosis

Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?
Most of the time, your medical practitioner can determine the cause of your pain from your medical history. Photo Credit Catherine Yeulet/iStock/Getty Images

Most of the time, your medical practitioner can determine the cause of your pain from your medical history. In some cases, blood tests or more invasive tests such as x-ray studies, ultrasound, dye tests or endoscopy, looking into the gastrointestinal tract with a lighted scope, may become necessary to make the diagnosis or assess the severity of the problem.

Considerations

Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Eating?
Consider keeping a food diary to see if certain foods are triggering your pain. Photo Credit 3c43f815_774/iStock/Getty Images

Stomach pain after eating has numerous causes, most benign, but some serious. Any pain that recurs frequently after eating needs medical investigation. Severe pain after eating also needs diagnosis. Keeping a food diary to see if your stomach pain occurs only after eating certain foods can help diagnose lactose intolerance, food allergies or other food sensitivities.

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