Stomach pain or discomfort after eating has many causes. If stomach pain happens after eating and then goes away, it is usually caused by food.
If a person has other symptoms or ongoing discomfort despite making changes to their diet, it may be a medical condition.
Stomach pain can be prevented by an individual eating a balanced, healthful diet with fresh fruits and vegetables. Not eating spicy or fatty foods and cutting down on sugary drinks or caffeine, may also help.
In this article, we list 21 reasons why a person's stomach may hurt or feel uncomfortable after they eat, including food and medical causes.
For many different reasons, the food that a person chooses to eat may lead to their stomach hurting afterward.
1. Food poisoning
One of the key symptoms of food poisoning is stomach pain. Other symptoms include:
- lack of energy
- high temperature
Symptoms can appear a few hours after eating, but they may take days or weeks to surface.
Food poisoning normally only lasts a few days. It can usually be treated at home with rest and fluids.
2. Acidic foods
Acidic foods that can irritate the stomach include fruit juices, processed cheese, and tomatoes.
Finding alternatives, such as replacing fruit juices with water or tea, may help to cut down on stomach pain.
3. Trapped wind
Trapped wind in the digestive tract can cause discomfort. The stomach may feel stretched and uncomfortable, or there may be a sharp pain.
Sugary drinks and certain foods can cause bloating and wind. These include:
When someone chews gum, sucks sweets, or eats with their mouth open, it can lead to them swallowing air. This can be another cause of wind.
4. Spicy foods
Chili peppers are often used to flavor spicy food. They contain capsaicin, a chemical that causes the hot or burning sensation. Capsaicin may irritate sensitive parts of the body, including the stomach.
A person can suffer indigestion after eating or drinking. As well as stomach ache, they may feel bloated or sick.
The stomach contains acid to break down food. Sometimes, this can irritate the stomach lining and cause indigestion.
Rich or fatty foods, caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol can make indigestion worse.
Over-the-counter medication, which is available online and known as an antacid, may help if cutting out certain foods and drinks makes no difference.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea and coffee. It can irritate the stomach and cause discomfort for some people.
People can choose alternatives and still enjoy hot drinks. Decaffeinated tea and decaffeinated coffee are available online. Fruit teas or hot water with a slice of lemon are also healthful to help people stay hydrated during the day.
Alcoholic drinks can cause bloating. This is especially true if they are carbonated, such as beer or sparkling wine. They may also make heartburn worse.
If someone cuts down on the amount of alcohol they drink, it can have many health benefits. Drinking a soft drink or water between alcoholic ones or choosing alcohol-free wine or beer are ways to reduce alcohol consumption.
8. Food allergy or intolerance
Some people may be allergic to certain foods. These can irritate the stomach and may cause pain after eating.
An intolerance is a milder form of an allergy. Both allergies and intolerances can be caused by many different foods.
Common intolerances include gluten, wheat, and lactose.
People can keep a food diary if they think they might have an allergy.
A food diary is a written record of what they have consumed at each meal, including drinks and snacks. They should also include a note of when their stomach hurts.
Keeping a diary can help determine the foods causing an issue. People can then cut this food out of their diet.
9. Eating too much
Overfilling the stomach on a regular basis is not good for health. Discomfort after eating may be a sign that a person is eating too much.
People can find guidance on healthy portion sizes from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Here, we give some of the medical conditions that can also make someone's stomach hurt after eating.
Gastritis causes the lining of the stomach to become inflamed. It can cause stomach pain, sickness, vomiting, and indigestion.
Mild gastritis can be treated at home with medication and changes to diet. Cutting out acidic foods and eating smaller meals throughout the day can help.
11. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
IBD causes the gut to become inflamed. IBD can lead to a range of symptoms, with one being stomach pain.
IBD is a long-term condition that requires treatment with medication and lifestyle changes.
12. Stomach ulcer
A stomach ulcer is a sore that develops on the stomach lining. It will cause a burning pain in the middle of the stomach.
Stomach ulcers are often caused by an infection. They can also be the result of medications that include aspirin if it is frequently taken over a long period. Treatment is with acid-suppressing medication, with or without antibiotics.
13. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a condition affecting the digestive system. As well as constipation and diarrhea, it can cause stomach cramps and bloating.
Symptoms can last for days, weeks, or months, and may not always happen after eating.
Although there is no cure, lifestyle changes can help. These include:
- eating slowly
- avoiding fatty and processed foods
- getting plenty of exercise
- cutting out alcohol and sugary drinks
- eating meals at regular times and not skipping meals
Gallstones are hard pieces of material that form in the gallbladder. If they block a bile duct, they can cause sharp, sudden pain.
Treatment is with medication or surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.
Heartburn is known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in medical terms. It can also be called acid reflux.
GER is caused by acid coming up from the stomach into the food pipe. It feels like a burning sensation in the chest and throat. It can also cause a burning feeling in the stomach.
Eliminating alcohol, spicy foods, and losing weight if needed can help control heartburn.
16. Overactive thyroid
The thyroid gland produces hormones that tell the body how to work. An overactive thyroid can cause medical problems that may affect the bones, muscles, and heart.
One symptom of an overactive thyroid is stomach pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, weight loss, and a rapid heartbeat.
17. Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a disorder of the digestive system. It is caused by an allergy to gluten, found in rye, barley, and wheat.
Symptoms include stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and bloating. Cutting gluten out of the diet can stop the effects of the condition.
Lastly, there are several other lifestyle and health reasons why someone's stomach can hurt after eating.
Stress can cause muscles to become tense, which can create pain or discomfort in the stomach.
A few slow, deep breaths before eating can relax the muscles. Eating slowly and calmly can help to avoid stomach pain.
19. Being overweight
Being overweight can mean that a person is more likely to develop conditions such as heartburn or a stomach ulcer.
When an individual loses some excess weight, it can help avoid their stomach hurting after eating.
Not having enough bowel movements or having stool that is hard and difficult to pass is likely to be caused by constipation. Stomach pain and bloating are other common symptoms of constipation.
People can treat constipation by eating a diet that is high in fiber and drinking plenty of fluids.
21. Blood pressure medication
Medication used to treat blood pressure can cause side effects. These include constipation and sometimes stomach pain.
If a person experiences side effects from this medication, they can speak to their doctor about switching to an alternative type.
If someone has any symptoms of the medical conditions listed here, they should seek medical advice.
If stomach pain after eating continues for a long time, and lifestyle and diet changes do not work, people are advised to see a doctor.