Abdominal and stomach pain after a meal - what causes it?

Abdominal and stomach pain after a meal - what causes it?
Photo source: Getty images

Most diseases manifest in pain. In the case of pain after eating, it is similar. Most often it is manifested by some disease. It can be a functional disease of the digestive tract or a food allergy. In some cases, it can indicate a more serious disease. Sometimes the cause is simply overeating.

Abdominal pain after eating may or may not indicate a problem or disease of the digestive system or other internal organs.

Sometimes it can just be a problem of the food itself.

Sometimes, in addition to the abdominal pain itself, there is also heartburn, a feeling of vomiting, or diarrhoea or constipation. Bloated abdomen, increased flatulence and a feeling of fullness are also common.

There are also known conditions of increased sensitivity to a food component. And this can be gluten, lactose. Histamine intolerance is also problematic.

Diet and how to consume it

Many times the problem is also in what we consume and also in how we processes the food in the mouth, i.e. whether we have time to chew it well so that it can be digested more easily.

Sometimes we feel pain after eating a large portion of food.

A man sits at a table, a tall hamburger on his plate, a jumbo meal
Large portions, inappropriate diet, even large chunks of food may cause pain. Photo: Getty Images

The pain is often caused by poorly chewed food right after eating or even a few hours later.

We swallow big bites without chewing enough, which is preparation for digestion. No wonder, then, that both the stomach and the intestines have a problem with such food.

In the same way, an unbalanced diet, composed of fatty or sweet foods, does not contain fibre. This can manifest itself in digestion and pain in the digestive system.

What is needed is a rational diet with a balanced representation of ingredients.

Too little stomach acid can cause all the food to go undigested and make it difficult to digest, possibly causing heartburn. The solutions to these problems are usually simple, but not easy for everyone.

It is also important to change the menu and the way we eat. It is very important to be calm during meals, not to rush and to include fruit and plenty of vegetables in the diet, which helps digestion. A mistake that many people make is also if they wash down their meals with a lot of liquid.

Diseases and abdominal pain after eating

Sometimes abdominal pain after eating can also mean worse problems. Of course, even here it is sometimes necessary to look for a connection with the food taken. Especially if they occur after a meal and the food consumed was inappropriate, such as when breaking the diet.

Cause in the stomach

Pain present periodically after eating, occurring between the arches of the ribs below the lower edge of the sternum, may indicate an ulcer. The pain is more intense after sour, spicy or overcooked food in oil. Conversely, it is subdued after dairy products.

Otherwise, peptic ulcer disease is also called peptic ulcer disease. Most often, its cause is Helicobacter pylori. The incidence of ulcer is mainly in the stomach, duodenum. But it can also form in the esophagus.

Pain just after eating, within about an hour, arises with an ulcer localized in the stomach. If the ulcer is located in the duodenum, it occurs approximately two hours after eating. It is subsequently soothed by food.

And these are also the reasons when weight loss is present in people with stomach ulcers. Conversely, weight gain is typical in people who have a duodenal ulcer. Of course, this is not a guaranteed diagnostic method.

Ulcer disease is not the only case where this type of pain occurs. The gastric mucosa may be disturbed only superficially. These erosions arise from a number of causes.

A bottle and glass of hard liquor, home-made schnapps
Hard alcohol also causes disruption of the stomach lining. Photo: Getty Images

The cause of erosion is not precisely understood, but the following risk factors underlie it:

  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • hot and spicy dishes
  • medicines (non-steroidal antirheumatic drugs, containing acetylsalicylic acid)
  • stress
  • mental disorders
  • malnutrition
  • abdominal injuries
  • other diseases such as cardiovascular, respiratory

Erosion can lead to the formation of an ulcer. Therefore, it is always better, if there are long-term difficulties, to have a professional examination.

One cause of abdominal pain after eating can also be pylorospasm or pylorostenosis. When there is a narrowing, contraction of the passage of the stomach to the duodenum, that is, the pylorus. Vomiting and weight loss are also present. It occurs most often in neuroses and in stress.

Problems caused by the gallbladder 

Many times the problem may also be in the gallbladder, pancreas or duodenum, which also manifests itself in pain after eating. Colicky pain is characteristic of gallbladder problems, with pain mainly after a fatty meal, sometimes several hours apart. The gallbladder accumulates bile, which breaks down fats.

If a person has gallstones, also called cholelithiasis, intense pain occurs. Choledocholithiasis is the technical term for a stone localized in the bile ducts. Cholecystolithiasis means a stone in the gallbladder.

Pancreas and pain

The pancreas responds with sharp pain and mostly quite right after eating. The pains are around the navel and shoot upwards as well. The cause may be inflammation that is either acute or chronic. Oftentimes, the cause is alcohol ingestion or a tumor.


The duodenum is delayed in responding after eating, usually for several hours. This is when the stomach is already empty, so more acid enters the duodenum, irritating it and causing pain. The body then demands food to relieve the duodenum of these acids, and the feeling of hunger returns.

Other causes

a glass of cow's milk and various pastries
Food allergies are often triggered by lactose and gluten: Photo: Getty Images

In addition to the above-mentioned causes, there may be a problem with the adopted diet and food intolerance. Gluten and lactose as well as allergies to nuts, seeds (mustard), spices, peppers and even exotic fruits are fairly common.

Also in the case of Crohn's disease, difficulties after eating can occur. Fabry disease is a metabolic disease. One of its symptoms may just be abdominal pain after eating.

Irritable bowel syndrome may also be one cause. It is also otherwise called lower functional dyspepsia. Read more about this disease on our website.

Another example is infectious abdominal pain due to, for example, yersiniosis caused by a bacterium of the genus Yersinia enterocolitica. Transmission occurs from infected pork. Another one is salmonellosis caused by the bacterium Salmonella due to transmission from spoiled meat, eggs, but also poorly washed hands.

Coeliac disease

It is an autoimmune disease in which gluten intolerance develops. Gluten is a component of cereals. Symptoms include persistent abdominal pain, an urge to vomit, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation.

In addition to abdominal discomforts, those outside the digestive tract are also associated, such as fatigue, osteoporosis, anemia, joint inflammation, liver damage. There is more information about celiac disease on our website.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose is a milk sugar that is contained in cow's milk. Intolerance of this type is the most common allergy in children under three years of age. And nowadays, it is also most often detected in childhood.

Its symptoms include mainly diarrhoea, sometimes with some blood and mucus. Vomiting occurs. Sometimes swelling may be present. On the skin, it may manifest itself as urticaria, i.e. urticaria. Anaphylaxis is rarely associated.

Baby colic

Abdominal pain during breastfeeding in breastfed babies that has an unclear cause. It affects 1 in 10 infants. It is not related to natural or artificial nutrition. Colic is food-related. It is worst in the afternoon and evening.

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Interesting resources

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