For many people, getting that familiar queasy feeling in the pit of their stomach is a harbinger of bad things to come, especially when it occurs after eating. Nausea and stomach pain following a meal could mean nothing more than the fact that you ate a few too many pieces of chocolate, but it could also point to a more serious health disorder. Find out the facts about these common symptoms of a digestive system gone awry, including common causes, accompanying symptoms and when nausea or stomach pain calls for a trip to the doctor.
Nausea and stomach pain are general signs that often indicate something is amiss in your digestive system. After you chew and swallow food, it travels to your stomach, where it mixes with stomach juices before entering the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, food and drink mix with bile, then finish breaking down and absorb into the intestinal wall to provide needed nutrients for your body. Gastrointestinal symptoms often first develop in the stomach or upper abdominal area, since that's where major food breakdown begins.
Nausea and stomach pain may arise from various health conditions, including indigestion, food poisoning, and viral gastroenteritis. Also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, indigestion is a common, short-term disorder that often occurs after eating too rapidly, overeating, or consuming a lot of fatty, spicy or greasy foods. Food poisoning develops when you consume germ-contaminated food or drink; according to Medline Plus, most cases of food poisoning occur as a result of bacteria-infected foods. Viral gastroenteritis causes inflammation of the lining of your stomach and intestines due to a viral infection.
Nausea or queasiness and pain in the upper abdominal area may be the only symptoms you experience if indigestion is the culprit. Other symptoms that could also arise with a case of indigestion include a feeling of fullness before you actually eat a lot of your meal, a burning sensation in your stomach and bloating. Although nausea and stomach pain may be your initial symptoms, food poisoning and viral gastroenteritis typically go on to produce more serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as a fever and chills, depending upon the severity of the infection.
You can prevent many cases of nausea and stomach pain by exercising good eating habits and practicing proper hygiene. As a rule, avoid eating a lot of greasy, spicy food, especially right before you go to bed. Limit your intake of caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and soda, especially if you notice your gastrointestinal discomfort showing up shortly after consuming one of these substances. When it comes to proper hygiene, washing is a key preventative measure when dealing with contagious gastric illnesses. Wash foods thoroughly during meal preparation and always sanitize work surfaces, particularly if you're preparing meat products. Frequent, thorough hand washing can also help minimize your chances of developing or transmitting severe gastrointestinal illnesses.
Nausea and stomach pain that lead to diarrhea or vomiting could cause severe dehydration, especially in babies, young children and elderly individuals. Avoid this potentially serious condition by monitoring your fluid intake. Stick with electrolyte fluids in order to best replace the salt and minerals leaving your body, recommends Medline Plus. Talk to your doctor if you have severe nausea and stomach pain that gradually worsens or doesn't go away after 24 hours, as it could indicate a more serious health condition, such as gall stones or stomach cancer.