Feeling sick after eating may signify that either something you ate, or the way that your digestive system is responding is not working for you. Sometimes it may be as minor as having eaten too quickly. In more serious situations, vomiting may follow the feelings of nausea.
If you are frequently feeling sick or nauseous after eating and/or you are vomiting, it is time to go see your health care practitioner to ensure that something grave is not going on with your health. If you are feeling sick after eating, here are some things that may be the root cause:
- Food Poisoning – for acute feelings of nausea after eating, which may occur with vomiting and diarrhea may be due to ingesting contaminated food. This is particularly of note when eating abroad or having unfamiliar foods or foods that are undercooked or have been out in the sun for too long, such as creamy egg and potato salads. The most common bacteria are Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.Coli although there are over 250 different types of microorganisms that can cause food poisoning symptoms. If you feel sick after eating and your symptom is accompanied by a fever or blood in the stool, check yourself into the emergency room as soon as possible as advanced food poisoning can be life threatening.
- Gastric Ulcers – ulcers in the stomach or the duodenum may cause you to feel sick after eating. Ulcers are normally caused by the chronic irritation of the stomach or duodenal lining by the stomach acid, either through chronic stress, lowered mucus protection of the inner lining or, counter-intuitively, from lowered stomach acid production.
- Acid Reflux/Heartburn – Also known as GERD (Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux Disease) occurs when the Lower-Esophageal Sphincter (LES) between the bottom of the esophagus and the top of the stomach does not close properly after eating. This may create a situation in which the food that is now being digested in the stomach, comes back up into the lower-esophageal zone, causing burning sensations (heartburn) or belching and feeling sick after eating.
- Food Allergy/Sensitivities – Ingestion of foods that the body is either sensitive to, or fully allergic to may cause adverse reactions in a myriad of ways, not uncommonly with nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms of food allergies may include hives, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness or anaphylactic shock. If you are feeling sick after eating a particular food, perhaps it is time for an allergy test.
- Pregnancy – Nausea of pregnancy may be the cause. Feelings of nausea, particularly during the first trimester and sometimes throughout the pregnancy are a very common symptom of the change in hormones in response to the growing fetus. Although feeling sick may not necessarily occur only after eating (it can often be due to an empty stomach) this is something to rule in/out.
- Stomach Flu/Acute Viral Gastroenteritis – Alongside its good friend food poisoning, the stomach flu can hit suddenly, leaving you nauseous, sweaty, feverish and weak, and then just as suddenly leave. It can be a result of the rotavirus, Nora virus or adenovirus and in healthy individuals; it is normally resolved within a few days. Caution does need to be taken with infants, the elderly or those with underlying chronic illnesses.
- Gallstones/Biliary Colic – Some people have gallstones their whole lives without ever having any symptoms and some will feel sick particularly after eating fatty foods. Symptoms may include cramping, diarrhea, cold sweats, and feeling sick especially after eating foods high in fat or alcohol. Gallstones may dislodge and block the bile duct, causing jaundice or infection. Serious cases may cause the gallbladder to burst, which is a life-threatening situation.
What Can I Do When Feeling Sick After Eating?
After ruling out anything serious that needs to be treated professional by your medical doctor, here are some ways that you can manage feeling sick after eating.
- Eliminate Trigger Foods – If you can see a pattern between feeling sick after eating and specific foods, the most practical thing to do at that point would be to remove those trigger foods.
- Eat Slowly – Sometimes feeling sick after eating is a result of eating too quickly and not allowing the body the time to prepare for digestion. Be mindful and present when having your meal so as to avoid feeling sick afterwards.
- Relaxation and Meditation – Stress is a huge cause of stomach acid imbalances or Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux Disease. Stress decreases blood flow to digestive organs, reduces the stomach acid prior to digesting a meal and relaxes the Lower Esophageal Sphincter which all lead to potential heartburn and feeling sick after eating. Studies have shown a higher correlation with chronic life stress. Perhaps it is time to take a look at your life and find ways to manage your stress, such as exercise, relaxation and meditation techniques.
- Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals – Sometimes we feel sick after eating because we have eaten too much. Eating too much can be a result of lowered blood sugars between meals. Eating smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day may help to alleviate feeling sick after eating.
- Eat Some Ginger – Studies have shown that ginger is much better than placebo in helping with nausea, vomiting, and even seasickness. Having some ginger or ginger tea may help when you feel sick after eating
Our bodies are complex and intricate and are designed to give us subtle signals when things are not working as they should. Our digestive systems are designed to accept or reject what we put into it to keep us safe and healthy. If you are feeling sick after eating, this is just your body’s simple way of saying that there is something that needs to be paid attention to. Feeling sick after eating does not need to be seen as a negative signal. Feeling sick after eating is a sign that our body wants to be taken care of and listened to.
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GERD, N.D. [Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/gerd.html, July 2013]
Viral Gastroenteritis. Centre of Disease Control. N.D. [Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/faq.htm, July 2013]
Cloe, Adam. (2011) Can Stress Cause Acid Reflux? [Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/15597-can-stress-cause-acid-reflux/, July 2013]
Ernst, E. Pittler, MH. Efficacy of Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting: a systematic review of Clinical Randomized Trials. (2000). British Journal of Anaesthesia: 84 (3):367-71. [Retrieved From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10793599, July 2013].