Feeling discomfort after eating can happen from time to time, but if it's persistent, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. It might be as simple as overeating or stress, but learning the trigger is essential for treating it. So, if you ever thought, "Why do I feel nauseous after I eat?" - read on to learn the reasons and discover six tips to manage and prevent it.
Post-meal nausea can occur for many reasons, such as overeating, stress, allergies, chronic conditions, or infections.
Meats, sweets, spicy, or greasy foods are the most common food culprits. Also, dairy if you are lactose intolerant or allergic.
Lifestyle changes, such as smaller and more frequent meals, and medications can manage and prevent post-meal nausea.
You should talk to a doctor if nausea persists or is severe.
7 reasons why you feel nauseous after eating
If you feel nauseous after eating and don’t know why, it’s time to investigate. Identifying the root cause of nausea will guide your next steps to find relief. So, let’s uncover the top seven reasons behind that unsettling post-meal sensation.
1. Eating too much or too quickly
We all overeat or scarf food down at times, especially when we’re very hungry or emotionally eating. However, overloading the stomach and eating quickly can make it harder for the digestive system to process food. People who eat very fast tend not to chew enough and are more likely to swallow extra air while eating. Both of these behaviors can add to feelings of nausea after eating.
If it consistently happens in the evening, you might wonder, “Why do I feel nauseous after I eat at night?” If you haven't eaten nutritious meals regularly during the day, you might eat more than usual in the evening. In addition, lying down after eating can slow digestion even more and cause acid reflux with symptoms of nausea or heartburn.
2. Food intolerances or allergies
We often think allergies just cause hives or swelling, but this immune system response can also lead to tummy pain and nausea. These are the most common foods people find themselves allergic to:
- Tree nuts
A food intolerance, on the other hand, is having difficulty digesting a particular food, which may also lead to nausea. Common food intolerances and sensitivities include:
- Gluten from wheat, rye, and barley
- Lactose, a naturally occurring sugar molecule found in dairy products
Histamine, found in foods like cheese and wine
3. Certain foods
Certain foods might be the reason behind your post-meal nausea. Some of the most common foods that trigger nausea are:
- Spicy foods
- Greasy and high-fat foods
- Dairy (if you are lactose intolerant or allergic)
Avoid eating these foods if they make you feel nauseous. However, if you currently eat these foods and feel fine, continue to enjoy them.
4. Depression, anxiety, or stress
Your emotions have a profound impact on your health. If you’re feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious you might go into the “fight or flight” mode, which disrupts digestion. Your body begins to focus on the threat and reduces blood flow to your digestive system.
Reduced blood flow and heightened stress hormones can lead to nausea. If you have chronic stress or anxiety, you might develop more digestive issues and feel very sensitive to nausea.
5. Digestive disorders
A variety of digestive conditions can cause nausea after eating, such as:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gallbladder disease
These conditions can range from mild to severe and require medical advice for proper diagnosis and management.
6. Infections or viruses
Food poisoning is relatively easy to get, with 1 in 10 people falling ill after eating contaminated food every year. It often comes from bacteria like Salmonella or E.coli, and typically lasts less than a week and should resolve on its own.
The stomach flu is a common viral infection of the intestines and usually causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It also lasts less than a week and with proper hydration, you should get better without medication.
7. Health conditions or medications
Certain conditions or medications can create feelings of nausea, such as:
- Chronic health conditions. Diabetes, liver disease, kidney disorders, ulcers, hyperthyroidism, celiac disease, pancreatitis, etc.
- Medications. Antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants, analgesics, nicotine, chemotherapy drugs, etc.
- Pregnancy. Morning sickness is common and can occur at any time of the day.
- Migraines. Nausea is a symptom for some and may be intensified by light, sound, or movement.
6 tips to manage and prevent nausea
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to reduce nausea after eating, such as:
- Hydrate. Drink 6-8 cups of water a day (or more if you exercise or live in a hot climate).
- Eat smaller and more frequent meals. Aim for whole foods every few hours that are bland and easy to digest, like lean proteins, cooked veggies, apples or bananas, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. It's best to take the time to learn strategies for eating more intuitively or mindfully if you have difficulty eating small meals and snacks.
- Regularly practice stress-relieving activities. Try meditating before or after eating to lower stress hormones. Other daily activities could be yoga, journaling, socializing, singing, or spending at least 10 minutes in nature. You may also want to consider professional therapy and mindfulness programs to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Take natural remedies or medication. Make ginger tea, suck on ice cubes, avoid strong smells, try CBD for nausea, or snack on bland, easy-to-digest foods like saltine crackers. You can also take over-the-counter medications for nausea if natural remedies aren’t helping.
- Avoid lying down after eating. Gravity helps food move down through the digestive tract and can reduce the risk of acid reflex or pressure on the diaphragm. Try waiting at least two hours before lying down.
- Create a food journal. Track your food intake, stress levels, and symptoms to identify potential triggers.
When to see a doctor
It’s time to see a doctor if your nausea isn’t going away or if you also have other concerning symptoms, such as:
- High fever
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
- Frequent vomiting
- Severe abdominal pain
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Episodes of nausea and vomiting for longer than one month
Is feeling nauseous a sign of a disorder?
Occasional nausea isn’t a sign of illness. However, if persists it should be addressed by a medical professional. Ongoing nausea after eating may indicate an underlying health issue. This includes anxiety, digestive disorders, pregnancy, medication side effects, liver disease, or kidney disorders.
By observing your habits and tracking when you get nauseous you can pinpoint potential triggers. Practicing these tips, along with scheduling a doctor’s appointment, can help you learn why you get nauseous and empower you to manage the symptoms.
- National Health Service. Food allergy.
- Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. Nausea: a review of pathophysiology and therapeutics.
- World Health Organization. Food safety.
- Mayo Clinic. Nausea and vomiting.