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Stomach Cramps After Eating Food: What You Need to Know

James has battled with stomach cramping for years due to chronic kidney issues.

cramping-in-stomach-after-eating

Stomach cramps after eating food are rarely dangerous, although they can be alarming to experience.

While some symptoms may warrant a trip to the doctor, and I'll dig into those a little later in the article, the majority of cases can be dealt with once we know what triggered the pain.

We'll start by looking at the ten most common causes of cramps and spasms after eating food and how best to deal with them.

Featured in this article:

  • Common causes of stomach cramps after eating food.
  • Postprandial epigastric pain causes and symptoms reference table.
  • Treating stomach cramps (home remedies and OTC medication).
  • Other causes of stomach cramps that aren't triggered by eating.
  • When to see a doctor.

Common Stomach Cramp Triggers After Eating Food

There is a significant overlap between triggers and their symptoms. If you are self-diagnosing a mild or fleeting case of stomach cramps, bear in mind there may be no way to be sure exactly what you are suffering from.

It goes without saying that severe pain that lasts days without diminishing should be investigated by a medical professional.

Food Poisoning

Cramps can occur as a result of your abdominal muscles straining to remove harmful organisms. These painful spasms can occur as little as one hour after having ingested tainted food.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection that can be caused by bacteria, toxins, parasites, or viruses. Symptoms, including stomach cramps, can persist for up to 10 days. Due to associated loss of appetite and vomiting, dehydration can become a serious concern and lead to a vicious cycle of worsening cramps.

Dehydration

Loss of vital electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, calcium, and certain vitamins) can lead to painful muscle spasms and cramps. Be on the lookout for other associated symptoms of dehydration such as headaches, dizziness, or dark-colored urine (and low output).

Gas

A building of pent-up intestinal gas can force your stomach muscles to strain (and cramp or spasm) to attempt to release the gas. Gas can also cause sharp epigastric pain which is often compared to the feeling of being stabbed.

Dyspepsia

Dyspepsia can be painful, though it rarely results in cramps (though sharp pain can also be confused as a muscle spasm). Feeling full, bloating, and burning pain are all common symptoms of indigestion.

Food Intolerance

The severity of cramps due to ingesting food you are intolerant to is usually dose-dependent. Your body will strain to remove the offending food, which can lead to painful cramping and other symptoms.

Food Allergies

Unlike a case of food intolerance, severe immune system responses are possible even at very small dosages. Cramping can occur, but be on the lookout for symptoms such as hives, shortness of breath, and itchy skin which may indicate an allergic response, rather than just intolerance.

Bowel Obstruction

Intestinal blockage leads to severe cramping and can be a medical emergency. If you are unable to pass gas (despite feeling like you need to), are suffering from severe pain, and are throwing up, I would strongly advise seeing a doctor as soon as possible.

Pancreatitis

The pain stemming from acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) will worsen after eating food but is present before ingestion as well. If the pain is severe bear in mind that acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening.

Peptic Ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a kind of stomach ulcer that affects both the small intestine and the stomach. The main giveaway is a dull pain in your stomach, acid reflux and heartburn. Unlike the other conditions listed, eating or drinking may temporarily relieve the pain.

A person suffering from peptic ulcers.

A person suffering from peptic ulcers.

Causes and Symptoms Associated With Postprandial Epigastric Pain

Common causes of stomach cramping and their associated symptoms.

Cause of Stomach PainSymptom

Food Poisoning

Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever.

Gastroenteritis

Loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, vomiting.

Dehydration

Nausea, dizziness, muscular spasms and cramps, acid reflux, weakness-

Dyspepsia (Indigestion)

Bloating, burning sensation, nausea, pain, lack of appetite.

Muscle Strain

Muscle spasming, stiffness, and rapid onset of pain.

Gas

Passing gas, burping, feeling "full", knotting, cramps, bloating.

Food Allergies

Swelling or tingling of the lips, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramps, dizziness, nausea, hives shortness of breath.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, cramping, fatigue, cramping, gas, bloating.

Bowel Obstruction

Constipation, vomiting, loss of appetite, swelling (often hard), lack of bowel movements.

Food Intolerance

Nausea, cramping, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, headache.

Pancreatitis

Severe pain in the abdomen, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, jaundice

Peptic Ulcer

Weight loss, dull stomach pain, bloating, vomiting, nausea, acid reflex, heartburn

Gallstones

Quickly intensifying pain in the center or upper right part of the abdomen which is usually accompanied by back pain or pain in the right shoulder.

Stomach Cramps Treatment

Treating stomach cramps from home amounts to addressing the symptoms and letting the body do its thing. In this section, I am going to outline a few simple home remedies that can reduce pain and discomfort while the body heals.

Stomach Cramp Home Remedies

A series of natural and simple tips to ease stomach pain.

  • Drinking plenty of water: Water will help the body digest and flush out toxins. But even more critically, drinking water will counter the potentially serious side-effects of dehydration. If you are unable to hold down water due to throwing up, and you also are suffering from diarrhea, consider a trip to the emergency room because you may need fluids (and critical electrolytes).
  • Take a warm bath or shower: If you are cramping, your abdominal muscles are straining. Do what you can to relax the muscles during their downtime. A heat patch (or a towel wrap) around the abdomen might also help.
  • Avoid problematic foods: Avoid high-fat and fried foods. If you are dealing with pent-up gas, also avoid legumes, dairy products, and spicy food.
  • Eat some yogurt: If you aren't lactose-intolerant, yogurt can help relieve stomach upsets.
  • Drink some chamomile tea: Chamomile contains anti-spasmodic properties. Particularly useful if your cramps are due to menstrual periods.
  • Stay upright: If your cramps are accompanied by acid reflux, avoid lying horizontally as it will cause stomach acid to travel upwards into the esophagus.
  • Eat plain rice: Rice is a stomach-safe food that will help by absorbing toxic fluid buildup, supplement you with important cramp-relieving nutrients, and also add bulk to your stool (if you are suffering from diarrhea).

Over-the-Counter Remedies

  • Acetaminophen might help with the pain. Stay away from Ibuprofen as it can further irritate the stomach.
  • Simethicone-based products can help with bloating and gas.
  • A stool softener for cases of constipation.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate or Imodium can help with diarrhea and also cramping.
cramping-in-stomach-after-eating

Other Causes of Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain of any sort is never something that should just be shrugged off. In this article, I am limiting my overview to stomach cramps that accompany eating, which are rarely a cause for concern and may benefit from home remedies.

However, severe abdominal pain that precedes the ingestion of food persists over time, and is generally making you so uncomfortable you can't sleep or sit still should always lead to a trip to the local emergency room.

Here are a few reasons why this may be necessary.

Serious Abdominal Infections

  • Appendicitis: Sharp, sudden pain that travels over the course of a few hours to the lower right quadrant of your lower abdomen. Any jolting movement will worsen existing discomfort. Pain is constant and severe, and generally not something you will try to grind through.
  • Diverticulitis: Typically denoted by constant and persistent pain in the lower left side of the abdomen (but sometimes the right side can be more tender). Can ranges from mild to severe. Keep an eye out for blood in the stool which may signify a serious complication.
  • Peritonitis: Peritonitis is the infection of the peritoneum, a tissue that lines your belly. It is usually associated with severe pain, fever, and the inability to have a bowel movement.

In short, any abdominal infection has the potential to be life-threatening and should not be ignored. You'll also want to keep note of the appearance of any symptoms I've outlined in the following section.

A person suffering from appendicitis.

A person suffering from appendicitis.

When Should I Get Help?

Always respect pain or discomfort that is severe and persistent.

Here are some additional warning signs that you should not ignore:

  • A persistently high fever.
  • Pain that lasts more than a couple of days.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting that lasts more than a few days.
  • Vomiting blood or blood in stools.
  • Yellow skin (a sign of jaundice).
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Persistent swelling of the abdomen with pain that lasts more than a few days.
  • A burning sensation when urinating.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 James Nelmondo

Comments

James Nelmondo (author) from Rome, Italy on August 01, 2021:

Thanks for reading Param!

BrillzLife by Param Arora from New Delhi, India on August 01, 2021:

Really Good Insights.

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