Nausea after Eating: Causes and What to Do


The simplest way to define nausea after eating is “uneasiness of the stomach that comes before vomiting.” Vomiting is the cause and effect of nausea, an involuntary emptying of stomach contents. The good news is that the timing of nausea can easily indicate the cause. Therefore, when you feel sick after a meal, your vomit might be caused by food poisoning, gastritis, an ulcer, or an eating disorder like bulimia. Today, I want to help you understand the causes of nausea after eating, and what can you do about it.

Causes of nausea

Infection

I can safely say that most of us have been there. Infection and food poisoning are not very pleasant conditions. If you’ve suffered food poisoning, nausea usually comes within hours of eating. Many microbes can cause food poisoning. The good news is that the condition is self-limiting. The most important thing to understand is that you have to drink fluids and hydrate yourself.

Pregnancy

Even if you don’t know you’re pregnant, you should take pregnancy into consideration. Of course, this condition applies only to the female population. Nausea and vomiting are some of the early symptoms of pregnancy.

Indigestion

The medical term for this condition is “dyspepsia.” There are two aspects to indigestion. The first one is functional, which means that something in your digestive system is not working properly, and food can’t travel down the digestive tract. Indigestion can also be caused by gallstones or inflammation of the stomach. The bad news is that indigestion can be a chronic condition.

Medications

Chemotherapeutic agents cause nausea. But they are not the only medications that can cause vomiting. Some illicit drugs can also lead nausea, as the body recognizes them as toxins.

Food allergies

We live in a world where people find out about food allergies on a daily basis. It’s a brave new world where almost every other person is allergic to gluten. But there are also foods like shellfish, nuts, and eggs that your immune system identifies as harmful toxins. As a result, your immune system releases histamines and other chemicals that produce allergy symptoms, nausea included.

Stomach virus

Commonly called stomach flu, the virus infects the intestines and triggers symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. You can catch the virus from food or water contaminated with the virus. You can also catch the virus just by being too close to someone who is sick.

Gallbladder disease

Located in the upper side of the abdomen, the gallbladder helps your digestion system and is responsible for digesting fats. Diseases like gallstones can affect your body’s ability to digest fats. The result is you feel sick in your stomach, and after eating a fatty meal, you will be even more nauseated.

Anxiety

If you’ve been to the doctor’s office in the past few years, you’ve probably received a diagnosis of “stress.” Nowadays, doctors find stress and anxiety to be the cause of more than half of the known diseases. The truth is we live in a stressful world. And many other psychiatric disorders (depression, anorexia, and bulimia) can lead to nausea after eating.

What is the color of your vomit?

I know the last thing on your mind is to check the color of your vomit. But sometimes, this can be helpful.

Vomiting is a symptom of a variety of diseases. And the color can depend on many factors. For example, green is the color of the bile that your liver produces. Vomiting bile results in a yellow and dark green color. If your vomit is a green color, that should be a sign for you to check with your doctor.

What to do after vomiting?

The biggest challenge if you feel nauseous after eating (and then vomit) is recovery. What can you do to recover from the problem and rejuvenate your system? Here are some recommendations:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything after vomiting. Wait for at least one hour.
  • Start by sipping small amounts of water every 15 minutes for the next two to three hours.
  • After the initial three hours, sip small amounts of clear liquids every 15 minutes for another two to three hours.
  • When you can tolerate clear liquids without vomiting again, you’re ready to get some food into your system. Stick to the BRAT diet, which includes bananas, rice, applesauce, and dry toast. You can throw some soda crackers in there as well.
  • Avoid foods that can irritate your stomach for the next 24 to 48 hours. These foods include caffeine, alcohol, fats, spicy food, cheese, and milk.

Is vomiting harmful?

Vomiting is usually harmless. However, sometimes vomiting is a sign of a more serious illness. Some conditions that may result in nausea include meningitis, intestinal blockage, brain tumor, appendicitis, and concussion.

The biggest concern is dehydration. Adults have a lower risk of dehydration. But that’s mostly because we can usually detect symptoms of dehydration, such as dry lips and increased thirst. Young children are at greater risk.

In rare cases, excessive vomiting can tear the lining of the esophagus. In the medical world, that condition is called Boerhaave’s syndrome, and you need to seek help from a doctor immediately.

Should you call a doctor?

As mentioned previously, vomiting is not harmful. However, there are certain situations when nausea and vomiting after eating are a sign of a more severe problem. Contact a doctor under the following circumstances:

  • If your nausea lasts for more than few days.
  • If your home treatment for nausea is not working.
  • If your nausea is caused by an injury, e.g., a head injury.
  • If there are signs of dehydration.
  • If there is blood in the vomit.
  • If your nausea is accompanied by a severe headache or stiff neck.
  • If your nausea is accompanied by severe abdominal pain.

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