Stomach pain after eating may occur simply because you ate more than you should have, ate faster than you should have, or ate something you shouldn’t have eaten in the first place. For these reasons, stomach pains after eating often happen during the holiday season. You feel better in a few hours or the next day. But stomach pain after eating can happen any day of the year if you have stomach problems or some type of digestive disorder.
Before describing these, it should be noted that there’s a type of stomach pain after eating that’s commonly called stomach cramps. Stomach cramps actually take place in the muscles of the upper abdomen, not in the stomach itself. If you eat a big meal and you go jogging, you may find yourself with this kind of stomach cramps. There’s a reason your mother told you never to go swimming right after you eat.
Here are the main causes of stomach pain after eating that may require medical attention.
Ulcers – If you have an ulcer, any food you eat may irritate it, causing stomach pains after you’ve eaten. You can get ulcers in the lining of stomach itself, or you can get them in the upper part of the intestine known as the duodenum.
Stomach cancer – Unfortunately, stomach pains after eating may indicate that there’s a tumor in your stomach. Incidence of stomach cancer has been dropping for decades in the United States, but it’s still a possibility.
Gastroenteritis or “stomach flu” – Vomiting and stomach discomfort are common when you have a stomach virus. Vomiting is a natural way of getting rid of the bacteria in your stomach. Of course it is not uncommon to experience some abdominal discomfort and nausea at the same time, especially after eating.
Often people use the words stomach pain when they’re not actually talking about the stomach at all. The pain is occurring in the abdominal area, and the cause may not be related to the stomach.
Pain from diverticulitis is a good example. Diverticulitis is a colon condition in which small pouches form in the lining of the colon and then become inflamed. It is not uncommon for diverticulitis to cause abdominal pain after eating.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS – This condition is also commonly known as spastic colon. It occurs when the intestines and colon don’t properly absorb fluids from the food that passes through them. Symptoms include stomach pains after eating and bloating.
Chronic mesenteric insufficiency – This means there are some blocked arteries in your stomach. While we’re eating – and right after – the blood vessels in the digestive system are more active. If there’s some kind of obstruction in these blood vessels, you’re likely to experience pain. This is basically the same principle as chest pain that occurs when your heart is not getting enough blood.
Heart problems – Angina, which is better known as chest pain, is the most prominent symptom of an impending heart attack. But sometimes heart problems cause pain in the upper stomach area too. This is called referred pain, and it happens because certain types of food raise blood pressure, making your heart work harder. Heart attacks tend to happen when your blood pressure is up and your heart is working harder.
Gallbladder trouble – Gallbladder problems typically cause stomach pain after eating, especially if you’ve just consumed a fatty, high cholesterol meal. When a lot of cholesterol accumulates too quickly in the gallbladder, it becomes inflamed. This kind of event is described as a gallbladder attack. Gallstones can also cause sharp stomach pain after eating, and may last for a few minutes or a few hours.
Pancreatitis – The pancreas is another organ that is affected when food reaches the stomach and the digestive process begins. Pain starts in the upper abdomen and spreads to the sides and back. Pancreatitis usually strikes six-to-twelve hours after you eat. Other symptoms include nausea, a rapid pulse, or fever.
Lactose intolerance – When your digestive system has difficulty processing of dairy products, you are said to have “lactose intolerance.” Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal discomfort, bloating, and fewer than three bowel movements a week.
Food Poisoning – There are many, many ways to get food and poisoning. You’ll have pain, nausea and vomiting sometime after eating – the amount of time depends on the type food you’ve eaten and the germs that are cause the adverse reaction in your gastrointestinal tract.
Drinking too much fluid at mealtimes – Finally, it’s not always what you eat, but what you drink that causes stomach pain after eating. If you fill your stomach with lots of fluids during a meal, it inhibits the digestive process because excess fluids dilute stomach acids needed to process your food. This can lead to discomfort and temporary to stomach problems.