Acid Reflux 

Nausea after eating: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Nausea after eating: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Many people will experience feelings of nausea after eating too much food in one sitting. However, feeling nauseated after eating on a regular basis can be related to a variety of conditions.

The conditions that cause nausea after eating range from mild to severe. This article will outline:

  • what these disorders are
  • how to tell what is causing the nausea
  • how to avoid or treat it

How the digestive system works

[person holding a model of intestines]
Food is broken down in the stomach and the intestines.

The digestive system refers to a collection of organs that work together to break down food and drink. They digest what is consumed, turning nutrients into energy that the body can use for functioning or store for later use.

The digestion process begins in the mouth, where food is broken down so that it can be swallowed. Food then travels down the food pipe (esophagus) towards the stomach and intestines.

The digestive juices in the stomach and intestines break down the food for the final time and extract the nutrients. The waste passes into the large intestine for excretion through the anus.

Any problems during this digestive process can cause nausea after eating.

Symptoms will often develop in the stomach or upper abdominal area, where the large-scale breakdown of food begins.

Sometimes the body reacts to these problems by forcibly emptying the stomach, usually through vomiting. The problem can sometimes be identified by the color of the vomit. For example, a bright yellow or dark green color may indicate a problem in the small intestine.

Causes of nausea after eating

Causes of how nausea develops after eating include:

Hormonal

Hormonal changes often occur during pregnancy, which induce feelings of nausea at any time of day, frequently in the morning.

Some pregnant women will experience nausea before eating a meal. Others will feel nauseated immediately after eating. Sometimes this continues throughout the day.

Feelings of nausea will typically start during the second month of pregnancy. Nausea during pregnancy is not harmful to either the baby or mother and will usually resolve by the fourth month of pregnancy.

Elevated hormone levels in pregnancy can cause changes to the digestive system and the body, which means food spends longer in the stomach and small intestine. It is possible that this may also contribute to nausea after eating in pregnancy.

The hormones of pregnancy can relax the connection between the esophagus and stomach, causing an increase in acid reflux, which can contribute to nausea. A heightened sense of smell during pregnancy can also make nausea worse.

Infection

Food can become contaminated through not being cooked thoroughly or stored incorrectly. Consuming contaminated food can cause food poisoning.

Bacteria (or in some cases, viruses) are usually the cause of contamination. Either can induce feelings of nausea within hours of eating.

Viral infections of the digestive tract, such as “stomach flu,” can also cause nausea after eating.

People can get these viruses from:

  • close contact with another person infected with the virus
  • eating contaminated food and drinking water

These viruses are highly contagious and cause inflammation to the stomach and intestines. They can lead to:

Food intolerances or allergies

Some people have an intolerance to certain foods, which means that the body has difficulty digesting them.

[man clutching his stomach after drinking milk]
Some food intolerances can cause a person to feel nauseated after eating.

Food intolerances do not involve the immune system but can cause nausea hours after the food is eaten. Common sources of food intolerances include:

  • foods that contain lactose, such as dairy products
  • gluten, such as most grains
  • foods that cause intestinal gas, such as beans or cabbage

Food allergies occur when the body mistakenly identifies proteins found in certain foods to be a threat, triggering an immune system response.

Nausea caused by a food allergy can occur seconds or minutes after eating. It is often accompanied by a host of other symptoms, such as swelling to the face or lip and difficulties breathing or swallowing. These types of reactions are emergencies and require immediate medical attention.

Gastrointestinal problems

Nausea after eating and other gastrointestinal problems may occur when an organ within the digestive system stops functioning properly.

For example, gastroesophageal disease (GERD) occurs when the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach malfunctions, causing stomach acid to enter the esophagus.

GERD causes a burning sensation throughout the esophagus known as heartburn and may be a cause of nausea after eating.

The gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile to aid in digesting fats. Gallbladder diseases impair the proper digestion of fats and can cause nausea after eating meals high in fat.

The pancreas releases proteins and hormones necessary for digestion. If this organ becomes inflamed or injured, known as pancreatitis, nausea often occurs along with other intestinal symptoms and pain.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that can cause bloating and increased gas. In some people, this can lead to nausea after eating.

Vascular

Nausea after eating could also be a sign of arteries in the intestines narrowing. This narrowing of blood vessels restricts blood flow. Nausea after eating can be accompanied by intense stomach pains and may indicate a condition known as chronic mesenteric ischemia. This condition can suddenly worsen and become life-threatening.

Headache syndromes

Migraines can also cause nausea after eating, which can be accompanied by intense stomach pain, vomiting, and dizziness.

Cardiac

In some cases, nausea after eating can be a warning sign of a heart attack.

Psychiatric or psychological

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most common eating disorders characterized by abnormal eating habits.

Anorexia nervosa can cause nausea due to excess stomach acid or starvation. Bulimia nervosa can cause nausea after eating from a compulsion to vomit any food consumed.

Anxiety, depression, or intense stress can also result in a loss of appetite and nausea after eating.

Motion sickness

Some people are highly sensitive to particular movements or motion, which can make them feel nauseated. Eating food before or after experiencing motion can intensify nausea in individuals with motion sickness.

Medications

Nausea is a common side effect of several medications including antibiotics, pain relief drugs, or chemotherapy drugs. Nausea should subside once the treatment is completed or stopped.

Symptoms

Other symptoms, which cause nausea after eating that indicate an underlying condition:

Condition Additional symptoms
Food poisoning vomiting

diarrhea

stomach pain

fatigue

loss of appetite

fever

aches
Stomach flu vomiting

diarrhea

head and muscle aches

fever

loss of appetite

weight loss
Food intolerance vomiting

diarrhea

stomach pain

cramps

bloating or gas

heartburn
Food allergy vomiting

diarrhea

stomach pain

skin rashes

swelling – typically on the face or throat

dizziness

shortness of breath

hay fever-like symptoms, such as sneezing
GERD heartburn

sore throat

bad breath

bloating or gas

difficulty swallowing

chronic cough
Gallbladder disease vomiting

diarrhea

fever

pain, typically in upper-right abdomen

jaundice
pale stools
Irritable bowel syndrome diarrhea

constipation

stomach pain
Mesenteric ischemia vomiting

diarrhea

fever

bloating or gas

stomach pain
Acute pancreatitis pain in upper left or middle of the abdomen, often through to the back

vomiting

fever

abdominal pain after eating

When to see a doctor

Typically, nausea after eating is not related to a serious condition. If it continues for more than 5 days or if some of the symptoms mentioned above occur together, people should contact a doctor to rule out an underlying condition.

Children who experience nausea after eating may need more attention. Contact a doctor if:

[mother taking her childs temperature]
A nauseated child may also exhibit other symptoms that require medical attention.
  • a child under 6 months old is vomiting
  • a child over 6 months old is
  • vomiting and has a fever over 101.4°F
  • a child has been vomiting for more than 8 hours
  • a child vomiting blood
  • a child has not produced urine over 8 hours
  • a child is abnormally sleepy
  • a child has had abdominal pain for 2 hours
  • a child has a headache

Diagnosis

The causes of nausea are wide ranging. But recording exact times of nausea and food consumed can help a doctor make a diagnosis.

Depending on the suspected cause, getting a full diagnosis could involve:

  • blood or urine tests
  • skin tests
  • swallowing tests
  • a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy
  • a CT scan or MRI of the abdomen

Treatment

Treatment and outlook will depend on the diagnosis and can vary greatly. For example, people with GERD or heartburn may need treatment with acid blocking medication or antibiotics for the stomach bacteria, H. pylori.

People with a history of allergic or intolerant reactions should avoid certain foods. In the case of a stomach virus, people should stay well hydrated and eat bland foods once nausea decreases. More severe conditions, such as gallbladder disease, may require surgery.

Prevention

Some tips that can help to prevent nausea after eating include:

  • sticking to easy to digest foods, such as crackers, white rice, or dry toast
  • trying chewing gum, mints, ginger ale, ginger gum, or ginger candy
  • avoiding milk or high-fiber foods
  • drinking liquids regularly but in small quantities until nausea improves
  • limiting eating when nauseated while continuing to drink
  • eating smaller, more frequent meals

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 26 May 2017 13:00:00 +0000

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