What Causes Discomfort After Eating?

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If you’re experiencing , you’re not alone. Digestive discomfort affects millions of people across the world and there are a number of reasons why it occurs.

Although it’s natural to feel discomfort after eating an unusually large meal or foods that you don’t normally consume in your diet, feeling digestive discomfort after most meals is a cause for concern. You might take digestive enzymes or change your diet to relieve symptoms but if the problem is ongoing, it’s worth visiting the doctor.

There are a number of different things that can cause discomfort after eating. If the symptoms are mild, they can often be treated with over-the-counter medications. However, if the discomfort is severe, further assessment may be required to identify the cause of the pain.

Symptoms of Pain and Discomfort After Eating

Stomach pain and digestive discomfort can encompass a range of symptoms, including:

  • Acid reflux
  • Bloating
  • Burning sensation in the chest, arms, upper abdomen, or lower abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Excess gas
  • Feeling full and uncomfortable after every meal or snack
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Regurgitation of food when burping (sick burps)

If the pain is extreme and feels like a stabbing sensation, it’s vital that you seek medical help.

A man in grey t-shirt suffering from stomachache  - Discomfort After Eating

Common Causes of Discomfort After Eating

You can feel discomfort after eating for a range of different reasons. Here are some of the most common causes.

Certain Foods

Some foods can cause irritation and may lead to an inflammatory response in the digestive system. This can cause discomfort, cramping, and pain.

Foods that commonly cause stomach pains include those that are high in fat, fried, or acidic. Coffee, alcohol, and fruit juices can also irritate the stomach.

Sensitivities and Intolerances

Food sensitivities and intolerances don’t cause an immune response but they can cause a lot of digestive discomforts. If you can’t properly digest the food that you’ve eaten, the stomach and intestines can become irritated.

Common insensitivities and intolerances include:

  • Lactose – a sugar found in dairy products
  • Gluten – a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye
  • FODMAPs – foods that contain fermentable carbohydrates.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition that impacts the large intestines. Common symptoms of IBS include bloating, abdominal cramps, excess gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

IBS affects twice as many women as men, and symptoms can vary based on where they are in the menstrual cycle. It’s commonly self-diagnosed but there are specific diagnostic criteria.

To confirm an IBS diagnosis, you need to experience abdominal pain at least once a week accompanied by changes in the frequency or appearance of your stool.

Peptic Ulcers

Peptic ulcers develop on the lining of the stomach and the first part of the small intestines called the duodenum. It results from long term use of antacids and anti-inflammatory drugs or infection with the bacteria Helicobater pylori.

If you have a peptic ulcer, you will experience stomach pain that is particularly bad after consuming spicy foods or alcohol. It can be treated using medications that reduce acid production or neutralize the stomach acid, or antibiotics to get rid of the H. pylori infection.

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