Medically reviewed on December 10, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Stomach pain—which may also be called dyspepsia or simple indigestion—is a common symptom, so it’s not always easy to discern its root cause. However, it’s important to explore possible causes in order to avoid overtaxing your digestive system.
Many cases of stomach upset are mild. But over time, persistent digestive distress can damage your digestive system, elevating your risk of long-term health conditions and impacting your quality of life overall.
Below, we touch on several common causes of an upset stomach after eating, as well as symptoms you shouldn’t ignore and home remedies for soothing your stomach.
Many people eat when they’re short on time, causing them to race through meals. Eating fast tends to have three effects, all of which can cause stomach upset :
Sometimes, soothing stomach upset is a simple matter of slowing down at mealtimes. Try setting aside at least 30 minutes to eat slowly and mindfully, focusing solely on eating your food. If you can, you might even try reserving a few minutes after eating to let yourself digest.
Certain foods tend to be more burdensome to the stomach than others, causing them to generate more stomach acid than usual. These foods can include:
Many common beverages can also be taxing to the stomach and other areas of the digestive system. For instance, coffee (and other caffeinated beverages) and alcohol are frequently linked to acid reflux symptoms like heartburn or a burning sensation in the stomach, since they tend to relax the stomach sphincter, allowing acids to travel into the esophagus.
Foods and drinks like these can be highly irritating if you already have an existing digestive condition, like gastritis. If you think any of these foods are causing your distress, try scaling them back to see how you feel after meals.
You might also reach out to a healthcare provider to screen for digestive conditions, which can help you discern which foods may be irritating to your stomach.
Stomach upset can often be one of the first clues to a food allergy or sensitivity. For instance, celiac disease, or the inability to digest gluten, commonly causes stomach upset.
If your digestive upset comes with any of the following symptoms, you may be more likely to have a food allergy :
If you think you may have a food allergy or sensitivity, taking a food allergy test can help you screen for possible allergens in your diet. Depending on your results, eliminating your exposure to foods your immune system doesn’t like may help resolve your stomach issues.
Stress or anxiety is characterized by major changes in our nervous systems, which can duly impact the digestive system. For instance, emotional stress may encourage the stomach to produce more acids, aggravating symptoms in people with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).[6,7]
If you think anxiety might be exacerbating stomach upset, incorporating mindfulness practices before, during, and after eating may help you find symptom relief. When anxiety persistently inhibits your physical quality of life, however, it may be best to reach out to a mental healthcare professional to explore longer-term options for your mental and physical well-being.
Chronic digestive conditions are very common among Americans, affecting up to 70 million people in the US. Though it’s not always clear why they develop, many seem to exhibit inflammation of various regions of the digestive system. Having chronic inflammation can often lead to stomach upset after meals.
A few well-known GI conditions include:
While occasional gastritis is fairly normal, frequent gastritis is important to treat. If neglected, some people may develop stomach ulcers or even escalate their risk of stomach cancer.
Many people don’t immediately associate hormone disorders with digestive distress, but hormones are intimately involved in our digestive health.
For instance, two endocrine-related disorders can sometimes arise alongside abdominal pain after meals :
Thyroid conditions and diabetes both require a longer-term management plan in close cooperation with a healthcare provider. If you’re concerned about your endocrine health, an at-home hormone test can let you know whether you should reach out to a healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment.
Usually, the cause of stomach upset after eating is relatively benign. But if stomach pain is unrelenting, or if it gets worse over time, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider. How long does indigestion last, exactly? It can vary, but frequent digestive pain is a known symptom of several structural or underlying digestive conditions, including :
Likewise, acute symptoms of discomfort that accompany abdominal pain after eating shouldn’t be ignored. If you experience any of the following, reach out to a healthcare provider immediately [11,14]:
When indigestion symptoms are mild or infrequent, several home remedies may help ease your distress, like :
In other cases, you might benefit from more comprehensive lifestyle interventions. For instance:
If you discover your indigestion is caused by a food reaction, thyroid disorder, or another type of health condition, it’s crucial to partner with a healthcare provider to treat the root cause of your stomach discomfort.
When you’re confronting symptoms that are tricky to trace, testing can be a transformative strategy for understanding what could be going on with your health. At-home test kits from Everlywell can help you determine whether food sensitivities, thyroid conditions, or other conditions could be causing your digestive distress.
Each Everlywell at-home test is processed through CLIA-certified labs and physician-reviewed to ensure you receive trustworthy, clinical-grade results.
Start getting a clearer picture of your health and well-being by exploring our complete range of at-home test kits today.
Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.