What Causes Pain in Upper Abdomen after Eating?

There are numerous causes of upper abdominal pain, ranging from simple over-eating to serious ones such as pancreatitis. It becomes imperative to determine the cause of the pain so that you can take appropriate steps to ease your pain. A series of medical tests may be done by your physician to diagnose the cause. The pain may be relieved by a combination of medicines and lifestyle modifications.

Causes of Upper Abdominal Pain after Eating

  1. Over Eating

One of the most common causes of stomach pain is eating food very quickly, which leads to over eating. When you eat food very fast, you do not spend time in chewing your food thoroughly and the food disappears from the plate in a jiffy. Hence, it is recommended that you should spend some time in eating your food and chew slowly and properly, enjoying every morsel of your food.

  1. Food Allergies

They are another cause of stomach pain after eating certain foods, which your body mistakenly considers as a harmful agent and the immune system secretes antibodies against them. Due to this, several symptoms of allergy can occur, stomach pain being one of them. Food allergies commonly occur due to the following foods:

  • Milk
  • Shellfish and fish
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Tree nuts and peanuts

You can conduct an allergen specific IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibody test or a food elimination diet to find out whether you have an allergy to a specific food.

  1. Food Intolerances

You may develop upper abdominal pain after eating certain food items to which you have intolerance. It is a condition when your digestive system cannot digest a particular food or is irritated by it. In food intolerance the immune system of the body is not involved. Many individuals have lactose intolerance, which implies that they cannot digest milk and milk products and if they consume milk products they get symptoms of digestive upset.

  1. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is characterized by abnormal response of the immune system to gluten, which is a protein present in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Due to the abnormal immune response toxins are created that damage the small intestinal lining. This results in symptoms of abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, persistent constipation and diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, fatty and pale stools that smell foul. Celiac disease also produces symptoms in other body areas including iron deficiency anemia, fatigue, stiffness and pain in joints, infertility, seizures, brittle and weak bones, tingling and numbness in feet and hands.

Treatment involves removing all gluten from the patient’s diet permanently. Your physician will guide you how to remove gluten from your diet and still eat a healthy and nutritious diet.

  1. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Upper abdominal pain may also occur due to GERD or acid reflux. It occurs due to regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus, which happens as a result of weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. Due to the regurgitation of the acidic contents of the stomach in the esophagus, the lining of the esophagus gets irritated, inflamed and damaged. The symptoms are heartburn, trouble in swallowing, cough and a feeling of fullness. You can take OTC antacids or anti-reflux medicines to control your symptoms. If you are obese, you should consider losing weight. You should also avoid foods that worsen your symptoms. Quitting smoking and reducing consumption of alcohol also reduces symptoms of GERD.

  1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

It is a common problem of the digestive tract that affects about 15% of people in the USA. It is also referred to as irritable colon or spastic colon and is different from IBD or inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, and cramping. Symptoms may resolve and then come back.

No cure exists for IBS. The aim of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Treatment involves making certain lifestyle changes such as doing regular exercise, minimizing stress, eating small meals, taking probiotics, avoiding spicy or deep-fried foods and taking less caffeinated beverages.

  1. Peptic Ulcers

Peptic ulcers may cause burning upper abdominal pain after eating, particularly spicy foods. They are sores, which develop in the stomach, small intestine or lower esophageal lining. They may result due to inflammation caused by H. pylori bacteria, frequently using ibuprofen and aspirin, smoking, stomach cancer, radiation therapy or drinking excessive alcohol. Other symptoms of peptic ulcer are nausea, dark or bloody stools, indigestion, vomiting, change in appetite, chest pain and unexplained loss of weight. Treatment depends on the cause of the ulcer.  Antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are prescribed if you have H. pylori infection. If you do not have H. pylori infection, then OTC PPIs including Prevacid or Prilosec or acid blockers such as ranitidine or famotidine is prescribed to reduce acid of stomach.

  1. Gallstones

Gallstones are stones formed in the gallbladder that is a small organ situated beneath the liver in the right upper abdomen. The majority of the gallstones are formed when excessive cholesterol is present in the bile. Gallbladder is an organ in which bile is stored. When gall stones prevent the bile to be released from the gall bladder after you eat food especially fried and fatty food, you will develop upper abdominal pain. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, burping, diarrhea, dark urine, indigestion and stools that are clay colored. Gallstones that cause pain require surgery to remove the gallbladder.

  1. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis may occur due to alcoholism, infection, and abdominal injury, high levels of calcium which are caused due to hyperparathyroidism, hypertriglyceridaemia, pancreatic cancer, cigarette smoking, gallstones and certain medicines. Pancreatitis occurs due to activation of digestive enzymes while in the pancreas; thereby, irritating the pancreatic cells and resulting in inflammation. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain after eating especially after eating a large meal and that lasts for 6 hours or more, pain radiating to back, fever, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and abdominal tenderness. You may require hospitalization during an episode of pancreatitis. Treatment includes fasting to let your pancreas recover, pain medicines to control pain and IV fluids to control dehydration. 

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