Any number of conditions can make you sick to your stomach after a meal. These might include causes from food poisoning to illness to pregnancy.
Many causes of nausea after eating are common and can resolve on their own or be managed effectively. But for some conditions, like bacterial infections or certain diseases, you may need help from a doctor to find relief.
A closer look at your other symptoms can help pinpoint what’s causing your nausea. Once the problem is identified, your doctor can help you find a treatment that will stop you from getting sick to your stomach. Then you can enjoy your meals free of nausea.
There are many conditions that can make you nauseated after eating. Whether it’s a one-time illness, a food intolerance, or a stomach condition, determining the cause can help you avoid potential triggers and discover what to do to start feeling better.
Food allergies and intolerances
Certain foods, like shellfish, nuts, or eggs, can fool your immune system into identifying them as harmful foreign invaders. If you have a food allergy, your immune system launches a series of events that leads to the release of histamine and other chemicals when you eat one of these trigger foods.
These chemicals produce allergy symptoms, ranging from hives and mouth swelling to nausea. Other common food allergies include milk, wheat, soy, fish.
Food intolerances, unlike food allergies, are not life-threatening. But they can still cause uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and other symptoms.
As much as
- food is not heated to the necessary temperature
- the refrigerator is warmer than 40°F (4.4°C)
- cooking surfaces and hands are not cleaned prior to handling food
- when raw products like meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs come into contact with ready-to-eat foods.
Food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea typically start within 30 minutes to a few hours after you’ve eaten contaminated food. But some
Norovirus, which is sometimes nicknamed the “stomach flu,” infects the intestines and triggers gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms like nausea and vomiting, as well as diarrhea. Symptoms usually start
This stomach bug is easy to both catch and spread. People can catch the virus through contact with virus particles in the vomit or feces of an infected person. For example, you can become infected by eating food prepared by someone with the virus or prepared on a contaminated surface.
You can also get this virus from food prepared with or sourced from
One of the earliest physical signs that you’re pregnant is an uneasy, queasy feeling, which often starts during the second month of your pregnancy. Changing hormone levels trigger pregnancy nausea.
Less commonly, some pregnant people experience a more severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition causes frequent vomiting and can cause bodyweight loss, dehydration, and an imbalance in the nutrients your body needs.
If you experience extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, talk with your doctor or obstetrician about options for treatment.
GERD happens when the muscular valve between your esophagus and stomach malfunctions, allowing stomach acid to leak up into your esophagus. This disease is common and affects about
You may also experience heartburn, indigestion, a feeling of fullness, or a sour taste in the back of your mouth,
GERD may occur more frequently in individuals with hiatal hernia, a condition where a part of the stomach is pushed up into the chest cavity.
Anxiety and stress
Anxiety and stress don’t only take a toll on your emotions. They can affect your physical health, too — including your digestive system.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists GI issues as a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders. Nausea can also be a symptom of social anxiety disorder and other phobias.
According to an older but well-cited 2009 review, some studies suggest a relationship may exist between gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and anxiety and depression.
The digestive tract and the brain are connected by nerves. This is known as the gut-brain connection. When you’re stressed, hormones and chemicals are released into the body, where, over time, they may enter the digestive tract and have a negative, inflammatory effect on your gut microbiome.
Some chemotherapy drugs cause nausea as a side effect. Nausea can occur with medications taken orally and those given through an IV.
Chemotherapy can also cause anticipatory nausea and vomiting, where an individual becomes nauseated in the presence of certain triggers. The chance of developing anticipatory nausea and vomiting can increase with the number of chemotherapy sessions you’ve experienced.
The risk for nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy can depend on the different drugs used in your treatment, in addition to other factors.
According to a
If nausea after chemotherapy is especially troublesome, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
Your gallbladder is an organ that sits on the upper right side of your abdomen. It helps your body digest fats. Gallstones and other gallbladder diseases can affect your ability to digest fats. As a result, you’ll feel sick to your stomach, especially after you eat a rich, fatty meal.
If you have a gallstone, you may also feel pain as the gallstone moves through to the bile duct. This pain can range from dull to intense or involve periods of increasing pain.
Sometimes, a gallstone can temporarily block the bile duct, resulting in biliary colic. The pain tends to increase
Cholecystitis is an infection of the gallbladder that happens when the gallbladder becomes inflamed. It causes more severe symptoms, including nausea and vomiting along with abdominal pain, fever, chills, jaundice (the yellowing of the eyes and skin), and more. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a chronic disorder of the GI tract that involves disturbances in bowel habits and abdominal pain. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. It’s the
IBS is classified as one of
- diarrhea-predominant (IBS-D)
- constipation-predominant (IBS-C)
- alternating both diarrhea and constipation (IBS-A)
Sometimes, it may be brought on by a viral infection. In this case, it’s considered post-infectious IBS.
According to a
Treatment plans for this condition depend on the individual’s specific symptoms.
Some people are especially sensitive to motion sickness. If you’re among them, the motion of a moving vehicle can make you feel sick. Eating before or after your ride can make your nausea even worse.
Motion sickness is caused by motion you haven’t adapted to. This means
You may also develop motion sickness from perceived motion while you’re standing or sitting still. This can occur if you view something in motion or take part in a virtual reality experience.
Nausea caused by motion sickness typically resolves after the triggering motion stops or within
Having nausea once in a while after you eat isn’t cause for alarm, but you should call a doctor if it doesn’t go away within a week. Call right away if you have any of these other more serious symptoms:
- blood in your vomit or stool — it may appear bright red but can also look like black stools or coffee grounds in vomit
- chest pain
- diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days
- extreme thirst, little urine production, weakness, or dizziness, which are signs of dehydration
- fever of over 101.5°F (38.6°C)
- intense pain in the abdomen
- rapid heartbeat
- severe vomiting or trouble keeping food down
- jaundice or yellowing in the eyes or skin
In children under age 6, call their pediatrician if:
- vomiting lasts for more than a few hours
- you notice signs of dehydration, like few or no wet diapers, no tears, or sunken cheeks
- your child is running a fever higher than 100°F (37.8°C)
- diarrhea doesn’t go away
In children over age 6, call your child’s pediatrician if:
- vomiting or diarrhea lasts for more than a day
- you notice signs of dehydration, like your child isn’t urinating or producing tears or they have sunken cheeks
- your child is running a fever of over 102°F (38.9°C)
- your child has very low energy
Look for these other symptoms, which can help pinpoint the cause of your nausea:
|Possible cause||Additional symptoms|
|Food allergy||hives, itching, swelling of the mouth or throat, trouble breathing, wheezing, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting|
|Food poisoning or stomach virus||vomiting, watery diarrhea, cramps, and low fever|
|Gallbladder disease||pain in the upper right abdomen; vomiting, especially after eating|
|Acid reflux and GERD||a burning feeling in your chest, burping up a sour liquid, the feeling that something is in your chest, and coughing|
|IBS||cramping pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, and constipation|
|Motion sickness||vomiting, dizziness, cold sweat, and an uneasy feeling|
|Pregnancy||tender and swollen breasts, missed period, and fatigue|
|Stress or anxiety||muscle aches, fatigue, loss of sex drive, sleep problems, sadness, and irritability|
Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms, including when you feel nauseated, how long the feeling lasts, and what seems to trigger it.
Consider keeping a food diary if you commonly experience nausea after eating and aren’t sure of the cause.
In addition to what you ate, note the symptoms you experienced, how long they lasted, and how soon after eating they started. Keeping a diary of what you eat and how you feel afterward can help your doctor make a diagnosis.
Depending on what condition your doctor suspects, you might need tests, like:
- blood or urine tests
- a skin test to see if you have food allergies
- upper endoscopy to see whether your esophagus is swollen, which is a sign of GERD
- CT, X-ray, or ultrasound scans to check your organs for signs of disease
- colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or upper or lower GI series to look for problems in your GI tract
The cause of your nausea will determine how you treat it.
|Cancer treatment||Take the anti-nausea medication your doctor prescribes. Eat smaller meals made up of bland foods, like clear broth, chicken, or oatmeal. You can also consider acupuncture.|
|Food allergy or sensitivity||Avoid the food that triggers your symptoms and read ingredient lists carefully to avoid reactions.|
|Gallbladder diseases||Take medication to dissolve gallstones or have surgery to remove your gallbladder, known as a cholecystectomy.|
|GERD or heartburn||Avoid spicy and fatty foods, lose weight, and take antacids or other medications to reduce excess stomach acid.|
|IBS||Avoid foods that bother your stomach.|
|Motion sickness||When you travel, sit in a location where you’ll feel the least amount of movement, like near the front of a train or over a wing in an airplane, and wear a motion sickness wristband or patch.|
|Pregnancy nausea||Eat bland foods, like crackers, toast, and pasta. Ginger capsules may also help nausea.|
|Stomach virus or food poisoning||Eat bland foods, suck on ice chips, and rest for a few days until you get over the infection.|
|Stress or anxiety||Talk with a therapist and try relaxation techniques, like meditation and yoga.|
Try these tips to avoid feeling sick after you eat:
- Suck on ice cubes or crushed ice.
- Avoid greasy, fried, or spicy foods.
- Eat mainly bland foods, like crackers or toast.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently, instead of three large meals that are spaced out.
- Relax and sit still after you eat to give your food time to digest.
- Eat and drink slowly.
- Serve foods cold or at room temperature if the smell of cooked food makes you feel queasy.
Your outlook will depend on what’s causing your nausea and how you treat it. Usually, nausea after you eat will get better once you address the source of the problem.