Nausea after eating

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What causes nausea after eating?

A wide variety of conditions can cause nausea after eating. Usually, it is nothing serious, but depending on the other symptoms, nausea might indicate a medical emergency.

Some of the more common health issues that can cause nausea after having a meal:

  • overeating
  • heart problems
  • food allergy
  • acid reflux
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • gallbladder disease
  • pancreatitis
  • peptic ulcer

Certain other factors – like pregnancy, medications, anxiety, stress, or neurological problems – might also cause nausea.

It is often difficult to find out the exact reason for eating-related nausea. Your doctor will need a detailed description of your other symptoms and medical history for a proper diagnosis. Identifying the cause of nausea is essential for proper treatment.

Chest pain and nausea after eating

The two most common causes of chest pain and nausea after eating are acid reflux and heart problems.

It is important to be able to distinguish the two conditions, since acid reflux symptoms can be unpleasant, but are rarely serious. However, heart issues might require immediate medical attention.

Acid reflux and nausea

Acid reflux happens when the contents of the stomach can back up into the food pipe. Sometimes stomach acids can travel up to the throat and mouth, this condition is called silent reflux.

The typical symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest, so chest pain and nausea might indicate an acid reflux attack.

However, there might be other symptoms, that make acid reflux a likely cause of nausea:

These are all typical reflux symptoms and might lead to a feeling of nausea.

In fact, nausea and heartburn sometimes do happen together. However, it is not always acid reflux that triggers nausea, but some other health issue in the digestive tract might trigger both. If you want to know more, read our article about nausea and acid reflux!

Heart problems and nausea

Heart problems, like heart attack and angina, can cause sharp pain in the center or left side of the chest. When experiencing nausea together with these symptoms, you might need immediate medical help.

Some other typical heart attack symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • pain radiating into the arms, shoulders, neck, and jaw

Shoulder pain and nausea after eating

While both acid reflux and heart problems might cause shoulder pain, there are some other health problems that can trigger both nausea and shoulder pain after eating:

  • gallbladder inflammation, gallstones
  • pancreatitis
  • peptic ulcer

Gallbladder problems are quite common, they tend to cause pain on the right side of the body. Right shoulder pain and right arm pain accompanying nausea and stomach pain might indicate gallbladder problems.

Back pain and nausea after eating

Besides the above-mentioned conditions, appendicitis and kidney problems might cause both nausea and back pain.

Other typical symptoms of appendicitis:

  • sudden pain in the right part of the abdomen
  • pain gets worse when coughing or walking
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea

Other typical symptoms of kidney problems:

  • fever and chills
  • frequent urination
  • pain when urinating
  • urine smells bad

If there is blood in your urine you might need to seek immediate medical help!

Shortness of breath and nausea after eating

Both shortness of breath and nausea might be caused by simply eating too much. However, two (potentially) severe conditions might also be the culprit: heart problems and food allergy.

Heart problems

As mentioned above, the typical symptom of a heart attack or angina is chest pain. So if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, and nausea at the same time, you might need emergency medical help!

Food allergy

The typical symptoms of allergic reactions to various foods are usually mild:

  • runny nose
  • itchy skin or eyes
  • hives, skin rash

However, allergic reactions can be more severe, like:

  • swelling of the lips, tongue, throat
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • difficulty breathing

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction, which requires immediate help!

If you think a food allergy is causing your nausea and shortness of breath after eating, you should talk to an allergist! The sooner, the better.

Coughing and nausea after eating

Coughing after eating is often a symptom of silent reflux or a food allergy.

Food allergy might also trigger skin reactions and swelling.

People with silent reflux usually experience phlegm in their throat, a sour taste in the mouth, or a lump in the throat.

Nausea immediately after eating

In most cases when experiencing nausea after meals, it takes at least 10-30 minutes for the symptoms to show up. However, in some cases, people can have symptoms right after eating.

The most likely conditions in this situation are:

  • food allergy
  • food poisoning
  • pregnancy

Now let’s take a look at what types of food are the most likely to trigger nausea after eating:

Nausea after eating greasy food

Many people experience nausea after consuming greasy food. In most cases, the reason is simply eating too much.

The problem with fatty, fried foods is that they are very hard to digest. This not only makes your digestive system work hard, but your heart also needs to pump more blood into your gut.

Any underlying health issues in the digestive tract or the heart might cause symptoms in this case.

Nausea after greasy food might be caused by heart issues, gallbladder problems, pancreatitis, etc.

Pizza, junk food, and red meat all contain a lot of fat and might trigger symptoms.

Nausea after eating sugar

People with diabetes might develop gastroparesis. Feeling full soon after starting a meal, bloating, and belching are the most common symptoms, besides nausea.

Nausea can also be a symptom of high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Eating too many sweets or chocolate might cause a spike in the blood sugar level.

Typical symptoms that indicate a problem with the blood sugar level:

  • shaking
  • feeling faint
  • fatigue
  • nausea

Final thoughts

Most of us experience nausea at least a few times after eating. In most cases, this usually indicates that we had too much food. Nausea goes away in a few hours.

However, in some cases, eating-related nausea might be the symptom of a more serious health condition. If you are experiencing nausea after eating fairly often, you should talk to your doctor to find the cause.

Frequently asked questions

Can eating too fast cause nausea?

Eating unhealthy food too fast might cause nausea. The underlying health issue might be a high blood sugar level, acid reflux, or a problem in the digestive tract.

Can too much coffee cause nausea?

Yes, too much caffeine can cause nausea. Too much coffee, energy drinks might cause nausea.
The maximum recommended daily caffeine intake is 400mg. A large coffee at Starbucks or 1-2 energy drinks can contain that much.

Can medications cause nausea?

Yes. According to Harvard Medical School, nausea is one of the most common side effects of medications.

They recommend taking your pill with some light snack or before going to bed. Both should reduce the chance of experiencing nausea.