Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache After Eating
Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

The function of the stomach is to digest food which you have consumed. It is located in the upper left side of the abdomen. Abdominal pain or Stomach Ache after eating can occur from various causes. It could be from food poisoning, stomach flu or from something as simple as overeating. Abdominal Pain or Stomach Pain after eating can be severe or mild. Treatment depends on the cause of the pain.

Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache After Eating

9 Causes of Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache After Eating & Its Symptoms, Treatment

#1. Stomach Flu/Gastroenteritis:

This is a stomach infection resulting from consuming contaminated food or water and is a common cause for abdominal pain or stomach pain after eating.

Symptoms: Watery diarrhea, pain and cramping in the abdomen, headache, body aches and fever are some of the symptoms of stomach flu.

Investigations: Physical exam, medical history, stool exam.

Treatment: Viral gastroenteritis doesn't benefit from antibiotics. Drinking lot of fluids, plenty of rest, anti-diarrheal medications should be taken to deal with stomach fly or gastroenteritis causing abdominal pain or stomach ache after eating.

#2. Lactose Intolerance:

This is a condition where a person doesn't have the enzyme lactase resulting in their being lactose intolerant. Person having lactose intolerance may get abdominal pain or stomach ache after eating milk products or consuming milk.

Symptoms: Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, pain and cramping in the abdomen, bloating and flatulence are some of the accompanying symptoms of abdominal pain caused due to lactose intolerance.

Investigations: Lactose tolerance test, hydrogen breath tests and stool acidity test.

Treatment: Currently there is no treatment for lactose intolerance. Patients should avoid products containing lactose to prevent and alleviate abdominal pain or stomach pain after eating.

#3. Ulcers in the Stomach:

Ulcers in the stomach can cause abdominal pain or stomach ache after eating. Ulcers are erosions in the soft lining of stomach or intestines. Foods with high acid content aggravates the ulcers and cause pain in the abdomen.

Symptoms: Abdominal pain after eating caused due to ulcers in the stomach can be of burning nature and can be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, black or tarry stools.

Investigations: Blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy and x-ray.

Treatment: Antibiotics are given if there are H. pylori present. Proton pump inhibitors are given to decrease stomach acid and antacids.

#4. Celiac Disease:

Celiac disease is another common condition which can be the reason for abdominal pain or stomach pain after eating. This is an immune system reaction which occurs after consuming gluten. Gluten is a protein present in barley, wheat, malt, semolina and rye.

Symptoms: Pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, weight loss, osteoporosis, pain in the joints, erosion of the enamel, fatigue, headache and acid reflux.

Investigations: Blood tests, endoscopy and capsule endoscopy.

Treatment: Patient should follow a diet which is gluten free in order to avoid getting abdominal pain or stomach pain after eating. Steroids may be given to relieve the inflammation and vitamin supplements also help.

#5. Food Poisoning:

Food poisoning occurs after consuming contaminated food and drinks. This is a very common cause of abdominal pain or stomach ache after eating stale foods or contaminated food and drinks.

Symptoms: Symptoms of food poisoning appear after a couple of hours of consumption of the contaminated food or liquid and comprise of: Pain and cramping in the abdomen, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.

Investigations: Medical history, physical exam, blood tests, stool tests and culture.

Treatment: Patient should have lots of fluids, electrolytes and rest. Antibiotics are given if the symptoms are severe and if there is a bacterial infection causing abdominal pain.

#6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

This is a disorder of the large intestine and causes abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas after eating.

Symptoms of IBS: Abdominal cramping and pain, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, mucus in the stools are some of the symptoms which an IBS patient may experience after eating.

Investigations: Medical history, physical exam, blood tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan and lactose intolerance tests

Treatment: treatment for abdominal pain or stomach ache caused due to Irritable bowel syndrome includes dietary changes by taking more fiber or fiber supplements, cutting down on gas forming foods, taking anti-diarrheal medications or anticholinergic medications or antidepressant medications (as per your physician's recommendation) and antibiotics if there is bacterial overgrowth.

#7. Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache after Eating Caused Due to Gallstones:

Stones in the gallbladder are formed upon hardening of the digestive fluids. Presence of gallstones causes excruciating abdominal pain or stomach ache after eating.

Symptoms: Acute pain in the right upper quadrant of abdomen, pain between the shoulder blades and right shoulder pain are some of the symptoms of gallstones.

Investigations: CT scan of the gallbladder, HIDA scan, MRI, ERCP and blood tests.

Treatment: Surgery, i.e., cholecystectomy is done for larger stones. There are also medications available which disintegrate the stones. Fiber rich diet should be followed.

#8. Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache Caused Due to Overeating:

This is a condition where an individual consumes excess food than he/she needs or expends. Eating more than required or eating too fast results in indigestion, this in turn results in pain in the abdomen.

Symptoms: Abdominal pain/discomfort, indigestion and flatulence are some of the symptoms of overeating.

Treatment: Eat small portions of meals every 2 hours. Follow a healthy diet. Eat your meals on proper time. Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid drinking too much water immediately after a meal. Engage in mild activity, such as walking after eating, especially a large meal to help with digestion.

#9. Heartburn:

Heartburn is felt as a burning sensation below the sternum and causes pain in the abdomen after eating.

Symptoms: Pain which is burning in nature in the chest and which worsens upon lying or bending. Severe abdominal pain can occur immediately after eating.

Investigations: X-ray, endoscopy, esophageal motility test and ambulatory acid (pH) probe tests.

Treatment: Treatment of abdominal pain or stomach ache caused due to heartburn comprises of antacids, H-2-receptor blockers, which decrease acid production, proton pump inhibitors. Making lifestyle and dietary changes is important. Fatty and acidic foods should be avoided. Tea, coffee and alcohol consumption should be cut down. Smoking should also be avoided. Small meals every couple of hours are better than consuming 3 heavy meals a day. Doing regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is important.

Other Causes of Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache after Eating are:

If you are suffering from severe abdominal pain accompanied with blood in the stool, vomiting, pallor, acute abdominal tenderness, then consult your doctor immediately without further delay.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: December 5, 2017

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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