Pizza is a beloved food for a reason — after all, it's delicious. But for some, a tasty slice can lead to digestive discomfort. So, why does pizza make you sick (and how do you get rid of stomach pain after eating pizza)?
Well, there are a number of reasons why pizza can make your stomach hurt. Below, learn the common causes of stomach pain after eating pizza.
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1. You're Lactose Intolerant
One possible reason why your stomach hurts after eating pizza is that you're lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body doesn't produce enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose from dairy products like the cheese on top of your pizza, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK).
Symptoms of lactose intolerant often begin a few hours after eating dairy and can include:
- Pain in your abdomen
- Stomach growling or rumbling sounds
Fix it: If you experience stomach pain after eating pizza and other dairy products, you can avoid symptoms by limiting or avoiding dairy, according to the NIDDK. You can also try over-the-counter lactase pills or powders, which could help you better digest lactose.
Does Pizza Cause Gas?
Short answer: Yes, it can.
Lactose intolerance may be to blame for this symptom, per the NIDDK. Certain pizza toppings are also gas-inducing, including onions and high-fiber vegetables like artichokes or kale, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
2. You're Sensitive to Gluten
If pizza gives you diarrhea but milk doesn't, then lactose might not be to blame — you could have a different type of intolerance instead.
Indeed, another potential reason why pizza makes you sick is that you're sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains like wheat, barely, rye and — you guessed it — the flour in your pizza dough, per the Cleveland Clinic. And if your body can't digest it properly, it can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhea after eating pizza.
Some people have a gluten intolerance, which causes trouble digesting glutinous foods and, as a result, could be the reason why your stomach hurts after eating pizza.
Others have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that causes your body to fight gluten and harm your digestive tract, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The result is similar: Pizza is hard to digest and can make you sick.
Both conditions can cause similar symptoms, including:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Skin rash
Fix it: If gluten-containing products like pizza are giving you diarrhea, visit your doctor to determine the underlying cause. If an intolerance or celiac disease is to blame, it's best to avoid gluten to keep symptoms at bay. That said, there are potential health pitfalls to a gluten-free diet, so it's best to check in with your health care provider before making dietary adjustments, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Celiac disease can cause lasting damage to your digestive tract, so it's important to cut out gluten if you're diagnosed with the condition, per the Cleveland Clinic.
3. You Have a Food Allergy
Lactose and gluten aren't the only ingredients that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea after eating pizza. Another potential reason why pizza upsets your stomach is that you have a food allergy.
If you're allergic to one or more pizza ingredients, eating it could cause mild to severe symptoms within minutes or hours, according to the Mayo Clinic. Milk, wheat, eggs and shellfish are a few of the common food allergens that can be linked to ingredients found in pizza.
If you experience diarrhea after eating pizza, that could be a sign of a food allergy, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms like:
- Itchy skin, eczema, hives or redness around mouth or eyes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Tingly or itchy mouth
Fix it: If pizza hurts your stomach and causes other allergic symptoms, it's possible you're reacting to something in your pizza. Visit your doctor to determine the ingredient that's causing the reaction, and then avoid it to prevent allergic symptoms. Expect to be asked many specific questions about what you ate and when your symptoms occurred (and for how long), per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAA). Consider keeping a food diary before the appointment so you have these details at your fingertips.
Diarrhea after pizza isn't the only allergic symptom to be concerned about. If you have trouble breathing, swollen airways and a rapid pulse after eating an allergen, these are signs of anaphylactic shock, per the Mayo Clinic. Anaphylactic shock can be fatal if you don't get emergency treatment right away.
4. You Have Acid Reflux
Acid reflux — or gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), the chronic form of the condition — might also be the reason why pizza hurts your stomach. Reflux occurs when acid from your stomach washes backwards into your esophagus, per the Mayo Clinic, causing symptoms like:
- Trouble swallowing
- Chest pain
- Feeling of a lump in your throat
Certain foods can trigger acid reflux, including common pizza ingredients like fatty meats, tomatoes and alliums (like garlic and onions).
Fix it: Here's how to get rid of stomach pain after eating pizza if acid reflux is to blame: Limit or avoid the ingredients that trigger your symptoms, or take antacids to ease your discomfort, per the Mayo Clinic.
If reflux is a regular problem, you can also visit your doctor to determine if you have GERD and whether prescription medication could help your condition.
Can You Eat Pizza With Gastritis?
Gastritis occurs when your stomach lining becomes inflamed, and can feel similar to acid reflux due to symptoms like burning stomach pain after eating, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you have this condition, it's best to avoid fatty foods (including pizza) so that you don't aggravate your symptoms.
5. You Have Food Poisoning
Unfortunately, undercooked pizza can make you sick — more specifically, you can get food poisoning from pizza if it contains ingredients that are raw, undercooked or spoiled, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Meat and fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly to blame. This can also happen if your fully cooked pie touches a surface that came into contact with undercooked meat or other contaminated food.
Foodbourne illness could be the reason why pizza makes you poop — indeed, if pizza gives you diarrhea or bloody stool, that can be a sign of food poisoning, per the Mayo Clinic. Other potential symptoms include:
- Upset stomach or cramping
Fix it: How you handle food poisoning depends on factors like the severity of your symptoms and the type of contaminant that caused your illness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Tell your doctor about your symptoms to determine the best treatment.
In general, though, if you get symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea from pizza, stay well-hydrated with water and electrolyte-rich fluids to prevent dehydration.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders: "Symptoms & Causes of Lactose Intolerance"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gluten Intolerance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food Allergy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gas and Gas Pain"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food poisoning"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gastritis"
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Food Allergy"
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.