Belly button or umbilicus pain may be caused by a variety of factors, including abdominal hernias, umbilical infections, gastroenteritis, appendicitis or other gastrointestinal disorders. But if the pain primarily occurs after eating, indigestion is a common culprit. Since many digestive system disorders have overlapping symptoms, it can be hard to pin down the precise cause of this pain. So if you have any severe or ongoing gastrointestinal discomfort, see your doctor.
Indigestion, also referred to as functional dyspepsia, is a common cause of pain in the upper abdomen and belly button area. This discomfort, which is common after eating, is typically accompanied by fullness, early satiety, and a burning sensation. Dyspepsia can overlap with symptoms of reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome, so a medical evaluation is important for an accurate diagnosis. Treatment includes diet modifications, specifically eating small, lower fat meals and avoiding any foods that worsen symptoms, along with medications that block or neutralize acid production.
Gas and Bloating
Gas is a normal part of digestion, and often linked to eating certain foods, including beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, and many other fruits and vegetables. Excess gas is also produced when foods are not properly digested, as occurs with intolerance to the lactose, the natural sugar in milk. When gas builds up after meals, pain, discomfort and bloating can follow. This gas can also make the abdomen more firm or hard, which can aggravate pain from another condition -- such as an infection in the naval area, surgical incision pain, or a painful inguinal hernia, a condition in which soft tissue in the belly button area bulges out of weak abdominal muscle.
Other Gastrointestinal Causes
Pain felt near the naval may also be a sign of a stomach ulcer, although this ulcer pain can occur before or after eating. Most stomach ulcers are the result of erosion of the stomach lining from an infection or irritant. Gallstones, which are collections of solid material in the gallbladder, may lead to pain in the navel area. This pain can occur at any time but may worsen after eating fatty meals. Constipation may also lead to pain around the belly button, although this pain may not be specific to meal timing.
If you have belly button pain that is ongoing or severe, see your doctor. Although this pain could be related to a manageable condition such as indigestion, it could also be a sign of Crohn disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, or another serious disorder. Belly button pain could also signal a medical emergency, such as appendicitis, pancreatitis or a hernia complication. If you experience severe pain, vomiting, bloody stools, or pain due to abdominal injury, see your doctor right away.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD