We’ve all been there – eating too much food at once so we feel sick to our stomachs afterward and you may nausea after eating. However, if you’re experiencing regular nausea after eating, this may be an indication that there’s an underlying condition that needs treating.
These conditions could be mild or they may be more severe. And to find out what’s causing it, you should seek of your doctor Appointment.
Let’s explore the digestive system’s role in your body, what may be causing your nausea, and how it can be treated. That way, you can start to enjoy your meals again without worrying about the consequential nausea that often follows.
The Complex Function of Your Digestive System
Your digestive system is made up of a number of organs that work collaboratively to break down drink and food. After you consume something, your digestive system will make sure any nutrients your body can use for energy are utilized or stored for later.
This process of digestion begins as soon as you place something in your mouth. It’s broken down by your teeth and saliva so it’s easy to swallow. Then, it travels down your esophagus toward your stomach and intestines.
Once in the stomach, the digestive juices will break down this food even further, extracting those all-important nutrients in the process. Any waste that’s left will travel through your large intestine ready to be excreted in your poo.
If, at any point, there’s a problem in this digestive system, you may experience nausea when you’ve eaten something.
Typically, your symptoms will appear in the upper abdominal area or stomach, where most of your food is broken down.
Sometimes, your body will react to this by trying to empty the stomach quickly, e.g. through vomiting or diarrhea. The color of your vomit may indicate what’s amiss. For example, dark green or bright yellow vomit tends to signify that something’s wrong in the small intestine.
What Causes Nausea After Eating?
Food Allergies or Intolerances
You may have an intolerance to a particular type of food which means your body’s having difficulty digesting it.
While your immune system isn’t involved in this, it can induce nausea when you’ve eaten something. Some of the most common causes include gluten (the majority of grains), lactose (found in dairy products), foods that create intestinal gas (e.g. cabbage or beans), nuts, eggs, or shellfish.
Why do they occur?
Because your body misidentifies these particular proteins as a threat, which causes your immune system to respond negatively to them.
You may start to feel nauseous within seconds or minutes of eating one of these food types, but will probably notice other symptoms too. These include difficulties swallowing or breathing or swelling in the lips or face. Should you notice any of these signs, you should seek medical attention straight away.
If food isn’t cooked properly or stored correctly, it may become contaminated. If you eat this contaminated food, you may suffer from food poisoning.
Bacteria tend to be the primary cause of contamination but some cases may involve a virus. However, whichever you ingest, you may start to feel nauseous within a few hours of eating it.
Other symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps and pains.
Equally, a stomach virus (also referred to as stomach flu), will also trigger very similar symptoms to those mentioned above. You can contract this virus by eating or drinking something that’s contaminated or by being too close to someone who’s got the virus.
Nausea is a very common sign that you’re pregnant, often starting during the second month.
If you’re pregnant, you may feel nauseous before you eat something, or straight after you’ve eaten. Sometimes, it may come and go throughout the day.
Furthermore, as your hormones are elevated while you’re pregnant, this can cause some changes in your body, including in the digestive system. This means food may be spending longer in the small intestine and stomach, which could contribute toward nausea after you’ve eaten.
You may also suffer from acid reflux more when you’re pregnant.
Gastroesophageal disease (GERD) causes heartburn, a burning sensation in your chest. However, this can also cause nausea. This is due to a malfunction in the valve between your stomach and esophagus, which means stomach acid can get into your esophagus.
Other symptoms of GERD include bad breath, a sore throat, a chronic cough, trouble swallowing, and gas or bloating.
Located to the top right of your abdomen, the gallbladder is the organ that helps you digest fats. Various gallbladder diseases, including gallstones, can affect how well your body is able to digest these fats.
This may result in nausea, particularly if you’ve eaten a rich, fatty meal. You may also notice vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, pain in the abdomen, fever, and pale stools.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
If you’re suffering from IBS, you’ll probably have a number of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, including constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The majority of people with IBS will also note nausea as one of their most common symptoms.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress not only has an impact on your mental well-being, it also has an effect on your physical health. From losing your job to breaking up with your partner, stress can lead to you losing your appetite or feeling sick once you’ve eaten.
In these cases, combatting your stress should help eradicate the nausea.
You may be one of those people who is highly sensitive to certain movements. When this happens, you may feel sick when you’re traveling in a vehicle, for example. And if you’ve eaten before or after this journey, this can worsen the nausea.
A number of medications can cause the side effect of nausea. These include pain relief drugs, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs. Therefore, once your treatment has stopped, the nausea should ease.
When Should You Seek the Advice of Your Doctor?
In the majority of cases, nausea after eating isn’t serious. However, if you experience it for 5 or more days, or if you have a number of the aforementioned symptoms all at once, you should seek the advice of your doctor to eliminate any underlying causes.
Or if you have any of the following, more serious symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately:
- Chest pain
- Blood in your stools or vomit
- Little urine production, extreme thirst, dizziness, or weakness which are all the signs of dehydration
- Diarrhea lasting a few days or more
- Temperature over 101.5°F
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe abdominal pain
- Difficulty keeping food down or severe vomiting
Equally, if your child is under the age of 6 and is experiencing nausea after eating along with the following, you should call their pediatrician straight away:
- Signs of dehydration, e.g. sunken cheeks, no tears, and little or no wet diapers
- Vomiting that lasts a few hours or more
- Persistent diarrhea
- A fever higher than 100°F
If they’re over 6 years old, you should seek medical advice if their diarrhea or vomiting lasts over a day, they are dehydrated, or they have a fever.
To diagnose the cause of your nausea, your doctor may conduct a number of different tests, including swallowing tests, skin tests, urine or blood tests, a colonoscopy, and an MRI or CT scan of the abdomen. It will also help if you can record what food you’ve eaten and what time you feel nauseous.
What Treatment Will You Need?
The treatment you’ll need to combat your nausea will depend entirely on what’s causing it. For example, if it’s stress, you’ll need to tackle what’s causing this to get rid of your nausea. Or, if it’s GERD you may need medication to block the buildup of acid.
If you have a history of food intolerances or allergic reactions to certain foods, you should avoid these where possible. And if you’re suffering from a stomach virus, you should eat bland food and stay well hydrated while the nausea eases.
In severer cases, such as gallbladder disease, you may need surgery.
How Can You Prevent Nausea After Eating?
Sometimes, you may be able to eliminate or ease your nausea by:
- Eating foods that are easy to digest, such as white rice, crackers, or dry toast
- Drinking fluids while you feel nauseous but limit eating
- Avoiding fried, greasy, or spicy foods
- Drinking ginger tea or ginger ale to help settle your stomach
- Avoiding high-fiber or milk-based foods
- Eating smaller, more regular meals
- Relaxing and sitting still while your food digests
- Serving foods at room temperature or cold if it’s the smell of cooked food that’s making you feel nauseous
In most cases, the nausea you’re experiencing will be overcome with a few simple changes to your diet and/or lifestyle. However, you should always remain vigilant for other signs or symptoms that may point toward other problems.
Keeping a food diary and tracking your nausea will help your doctor determine whether further tests are necessary.