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Causes of stomach ache after eating

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Growing up, we were taught many “rules” regarding how and what to eat. We were also told what habits to avoid while eating such as drinking water in the middle of a meal. While most of them are unfounded (ex: if you eat an orange seed you will grow an orange tree from your stomach), some of them are quite relevant (ex: don’t lie down right after a meal). 

Whatever said and done, stomach pains after a hearty meal are the worst! Especially for all the foodies out there. What’s more, pinpointing the exact cause of the stomach ache is quite challenging as the abdominal cavity houses so many organs. To make things a little simple, we have compiled a list of possible reasons for a stomach ache right after a meal.  

Diet-related stomach aches 

We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat”. There is no doubt that whatever we consume has an extremely significant impact on how we feel. Here are a few reasons you might be feeling uneasy or queasy because of what you eat: 

  1. Food poisoning: This usually occurs after eating food containing toxins or germs. Such as undercooked or spoilt food and food cooked and/or stored in unhygienic conditions. It can also be a result of consuming water from unreliable sources. Common symptoms of food poisoning include pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.   
  2. Irritating foods: Some types of food can irritate the stomach lining and result in its inflammation. This includes extremely spicy food, acidic food, coffee and alcohol. The type of food that irritates the stomach can vary from person to person. 
  3. Allergies and intolerances: Eating anything you are allergic or intolerant to can result in stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea after eating. The most common example of this is the consumption of dairy by a lactose intolerant person.  
  4. Overeating: We are all guilty of binging once in a while. Overeating causes the stomach to stretch beyond its natural capacity resulting in pain, gas, discomfort and bloating.  

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Medical conditions responsible for stomach ache

Some types of stomach pain need not be linked to “what” you eat. They can be caused by conditions that are triggered by “when” you eat. These include: 

  1. Indigestion: This condition is best described as a feeling of fullness/bloating and/or abdominal pain right after you eat. We have all experienced it one time or the other and can vouch for how uncomfortable it feels. The reasons for indigestion vary from food choices to lifestyle and even medications that you may be consuming (such as certain painkillers or antibiotics). 
  2. GERD: GERD is the acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is a condition that occurs when gastric fluids start flowing up the oesophagus (food pipe) and cause discomfort and tightness in the chest. This symptom is commonly called a “heartburn”, severe cases of heartburn can be confused with a heart attack. Another symptom of this condition is chronic acid reflux (throwing up bitter liquid in the mouth) right after eating.  
  3. Gastritis: Gastritis is a condition characterised by swelling and inflammation of the stomach lining. It is usually caused by an infection and is exacerbated by diet, lifestyle and/or long-term use of certain medications.  
  4. Peptic ulcer: Peptic ulcers are open sores which develop in the inner lining of the stomach or the small intestine. The symptoms are exacerbated when stomach acids are produced which is why they cause more pain right after meals.  
  5. Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas. It can be chronic or acute and is caused by the action of digestive enzymes on the pancreatic cells. One of the common symptoms of pancreatitis is stomach pain which worsens after eating. The pain often feels like it starts in the stomach and radiates to the back.  
  6. Biliary tract disorders and gallstones: Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder that can result in the production of gallstones. These can in turn cause blockages that cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, a build-up of bile and in extreme cases, jaundice.  
  7. Constipation: Constipation may not always be related to stomach pain after eating, but it can cause a feeling of discomfort or bloat in the stomach especially after a heavy meal.  
  8. Gas: In some cases, especially if you eat extremely fast, you can experience pain caused due to a build-up of gas in the stomach and/or intestinal tract.  

Read: Gallbladder Stones – Everything you need to know

Final thought

If you are experiencing chronic pain or pain that seems to be intensifying with time, consult your doctor to seek the appropriate treatment. Many a time, the conditions can be managed by dietary and lifestyle choices provided they are diagnosed before they cause long term damage. If you are on any medications that seem to be causing stomach problems, consult your doctor for alternatives or supplements to manage symptoms.