Eating is one of the greatest joys in life. Whether you appreciate a nicely brewed cup of coffee, a perfectly grilled steak, or a decadent chocolate dessert, everyone loves to enjoy the pleasures of food. But for some people, eating is followed by abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort. There are many possible culprits for this uncomfortable and embarrassing problem.
Lactose is a unique type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. Some people are unable to digest lactose. If you are lactose intolerant, drinking milk or consuming dairy products can result in uncomfortable side effects. These include bloating, abdominal pain, cramping in the lower abdomen, gas, rumbling sounds in the lower abdomen, diarrhea or foamy stool, and vomiting. Fortunately, many common dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, come in lactose-free varieties. If you suspect you might be lactose intolerant, consider abstaining from dairy products. Or, try lactose-free products and see if your symptoms disappear.
Gluten intolerance might be a reaction to a gluten allergy or to a condition called celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to react to ingested gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye. In recent years, research has uncovered a wealth of knowledge about celiac disease and gluten intolerance. As a result, many food manufacturers have developed gluten-free varieties of your favorite bread, pasta, and cereal.
Our body needs certain resources to absorb nutrients and move food through the digestive process. If you aren’t drinking enough water, you’re eating too many binding foods, you aren’t getting enough fiber, or you take medications that list constipation as a side effect, you might be suffering from hardened stool and constipation. Constipation can cause the intestinal tract to fill, which causes pain and discomfort in the abdomen. If you are suffering from constipation, add plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, drink plenty of water and try gentle exercise. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, consider over-the-counter fiber supplements and stool softeners.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Inflammation is the cause of many chronic pain conditions. PID is an infection of the female reproductive system that causes inflammation in the ovaries, uterus, or fallopian tubes. After eating, your digestive tract becomes full and puts pressure on your internal reproductive organs, causing pain. As such, if you notice discomfort, talk to your doctor about getting tested for this relatively common condition. Antibiotics can easily treat this condition.
Identifying the Problem
To narrow down which of these problems is at the root of your pain and discomfort, start by keeping a food journal. Log everything you eat in a journal or notebook. Most of all, make a note of the severity of your pain or discomfort on a scale from one to 10. Make additional notes for any specific symptoms you might encounter, such as indigestion, heartburn, bloating, gas, nausea, or vomiting.
After a week of tracking your eating habits and symptoms, examine your journal for patterns. If you notice that your abdominal pain is at its worst after a breakfast heavy in bread and milk, you might be either gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant. Additionally, a diet lacking in fiber might be the cause of chronic constipation. Discuss your symptoms and your food journal with your primary care doctor so that you can work together to find relief from pain after eating.