Stomach pain and dizziness have a wide range of potential causes, including dehydration, anxiety, and food poisoning. In some cases, they may indicate a more serious condition.

This article will examine the many causes of stomach pain and dizziness and briefly outline the symptoms and treatments for each condition.

A man with stomach pain and dizziness sits on the sofa holding a glass of water.Share on Pinterest
Stomach pain and dizziness tend to have mild causes, but they can signal something more serious.

Hangovers

People experience hangovers as a result of drinking a lot of alcohol. Some common hangover symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • thirst
  • a headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sweating
  • stomach pain
  • vertigo, or dizziness
  • sensitivity to light and sound

Treatment involves drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest. Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce headaches. Most people with hangovers feel better after 24 hours or more.

Dehydration

A lack of fluids in the body can cause dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration include:

A 2004 study into abdominal pain found a link between fluid loss and stomach cramping, which may mean that a person with dehydration also experiences stomach pain.

Treatment for mild dehydration involves drinking fluids, electrolyte replacements, or oral rehydration solutions. If someone has severe symptoms of dehydration — such as confusion, lethargy, or loss of consciousness — they need emergency help.

Stomach flu

Stomach flu is the common name for gastroenteritis, which is an infection in the intestines. Gastroenteritis can develop due to viruses, bacteria, or parasites, but one of the most common causes of vomiting and diarrhea due to acute gastroenteritis is norovirus. Norovirus is highly contagious.

The symptoms include:

Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration, which leads to dizziness and lightheadedness. Eating contaminated food may also lead to food poisoning, which causes very similar symptoms.

Norovirus typically improves within 1–3 days. Staying hydrated can prevent dehydration. However, if a person struggles to keep fluids down or does not get better, they should see a doctor.

Menstruation

A 2012 study into lightheadedness at different stages of the menstrual cycle found that healthy females were most likely to feel lightheaded during their period.

Because the time before and during a period can also be when menstrual cramps occur, it may be possible for someone to experience stomach pain and dizziness as a result of their hormone levels.

Menopause

One 2014 study found that perimenopausal females were especially likely to experience benign vertigo when compared with older males and people of other age groups.

As menstrual cramping can continue during perimenopause, some females may experience both. Typically, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 58.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, and in some cases, it helps people respond to danger. However, people with anxiety disorders feel anxiety in situations that are not truly dangerous, such as social gatherings.

Anxiety can cause a range of physical symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • sweating
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • dizziness
  • muscle tension

Anxiety treatments include talk therapy and stress management techniques such as mindfulness. Medications can also help reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Dumping syndrome

Dumping syndrome occurs when food in the stomach empties into the small intestine too quickly. It is a common side effect of gastrectomy, which is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the stomach.

Some symptoms of the condition include:

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • cold sweats

A person can manage dumping syndrome by making certain dietary changes and, sometimes, by taking medications that slow stomach emptying.

Rarely, doctors will recommend surgery as a last resort.

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis occurs due to sudden inflammation of the pancreas. This could be due to gallstones, alcohol misuse, infections, or certain genetic disorders.

The symptoms include:

  • pain in the upper abdomen that may spread to the back
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • a fast heartbeat
  • a swollen or tender abdomen

If a person with pancreatitis becomes dehydrated, they may also feel dizzy.

People with pancreatitis need medical treatment right away. Typically, acute pancreatitis will get better after several days of treatment, but some people may develop more severe symptoms that require a hospital stay.

Gastrointestinal bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding is a serious condition with a variety of potential causes, including peptic ulcers.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding include:

  • tarry or bloody stools
  • bloody vomit, or vomit that looks similar to coffee grounds
  • abdominal cramping
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • weakness

People who are experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding should see a doctor. If the bleeding is sudden, it is an emergency.

Heart attack

Some people have stomach pain when they are experiencing a heart attack. In this case, the pain may travel from the chest area to the upper stomach region.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), women are more likely than men to experience symptoms other than chest pain during a heart attack.

Someone should call the emergency services immediately if a person experiences:

  • a sensation of pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of the chest
  • pain in the chest, one or both arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweats
  • nausea or vomiting
  • lightheadedness

Rare causes

  • Cancer: Some forms of cancer may cause dizziness, stomach pain, or both. People with lymphoma, for example, may experience dizziness and pain behind the ribs.
  • Acute adrenal insufficiency: This occurs when the adrenal glands stop working, causing a shortage of cortisol. Symptoms include fatigue, low blood pressure, dizziness, and muscle spasms in the legs or back.
  • Toxic megacolon: This condition causes the large intestine to dilate. It is a complication of infectious colitis, which may occur due to inflammatory bowel disease or infection. Symptoms include fever, a fast heart rate, dehydration, and an enlarged colon.

These conditions can be very serious and require immediate treatment.

To diagnose the cause of stomach pain and dizziness, a doctor will perform a physical examination and take a person’s medical history. They may also request medical imaging or blood tests.

Because there are so many potential causes of these symptoms, it is a good idea to describe the symptoms to the doctor in as much detail as possible.

Anyone with persistent or severe stomach pain should see a doctor. A person needs immediate help if they experience:

  • fever or sweating
  • paleness or feeling clammy
  • blood in the urine or stool
  • an inability to pass gas, urine, or stools
  • pain that spreads to the chest, neck, or shoulders
  • pain, vomiting, and shortness of breath
  • pain and vomiting blood
  • pain in the scrotum
  • pain with vaginal bleeding, if pregnant

If the cause of stomach pain and dizziness is not serious, a person can get symptom relief by trying some home remedies.

For example, people can try:

  • getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids
  • applying heat to the stomach
  • taking a warm bath
  • avoiding foods and beverages that may irritate the stomach, such as coffee, alcohol, and spices

It is worth noting that these remedies are not substitutes for medical treatment.

Stomach pain and dizziness have a wide range of potential causes. Many, such as hangovers and mild dehydration, are treatable at home. Staying hydrated, resting, and using heat therapy can help ease symptoms.

However, if someone experiences persistent or severe symptoms, they should seek advice from a doctor.