Fire in Your Belly?

A burning stomach, or a burning sensation in the stomach, can cause pain, fatigue, and stress to the stomach. Burning stomach is becoming a growing and common problem as a result of indigestible food, health problems, infections, overuse of antibiotics, and chlorinated water, to name a few causes.

The stomach is a muscular sack between the esophagus and small intestine. The stomach is responsible for digesting food before it enters the intestines to be broken down further. If food is not properly broken down in the stomach, it can cause a clog along the intestines, resulting in indigestion or heartburn.

The stomach breaks down food with enzymes and acids. The food is mixed with water and gastric juices to break down into what is known as chyme. Chyme then moves into the intestines and breaks down further until it exits the colon.

Causes of burning sensation in stomach

There are many reasons aside from the listed above that can contribute to a burning sensation in the stomach. Here are 20 of the most common causes of burning sensation in the stomach to help you narrow down which one could be causing you discomfort.

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Gastritis: Gastritis is the irritation, damage, and inflammation of the stomach lining. Common symptoms of gastritis include burning sensation after a meal or when lying down, nausea, bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain, hiccups, and loss of appetite.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): GERD is a condition in which the lower portion of the esophagus sphincter opens inappropriately or does not close fully, allowing for stomach acids to come up into the esophagus. Risk factors of GERD include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and acidic products like citrus or tomato-based foods.

Food allergies or intolerances: Burning sensation in the stomach and chest can result from a food allergy or intolerance. This burning sensation can also occur after eating. When a person consumes food they cannot tolerate or are allergic to, they may also experience nausea and vomiting. Your doctor will then conduct an allergy test to narrow down which foods are your triggers.

Medications or drugs: Certain medications and drugs can break down the protective layer of your stomach. This breakdown can increase a person’s risk for gastritis.

Emotional stress: Many digestive issues stem from poorly managed emotional stress. Stress can slow down the digestive process, leaving stomach acids within the stomach thus increasing the risk of reflux. A health interview or mental health evaluation can help diagnose emotional stress. Your doctor can offer treatments based on your condition.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is caused by the malfunction of nerves that control intestinal function and perception. Symptoms of IBS include nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and cramping. A large contributing factor to IBS is stress, so once again properly managing emotional state is highly important for treating IBS.

Ulcers: Ulcers are sores that develop in the stomach or duodenal lining. A common treatment method for ulcers is to target the bacteria causing the condition – the most common being H. pylori.

Celiac disease: Celiac disease is an intolerance to gluten. The body’s immune system identifies gluten as a harmful agent and attacks it as a threat. This can result in uncomfortable symptoms and discomfort. An easy solution for celiac disease is avoiding gluten in your diet at all costs. If celiac disease is not treated, it can result in damage to the intestines, which hinders their ability to absorb nutrients thus causing malnutrition.

H. pylori: As mentioned, H. pylori is a common cause of ulcers, but on its own, it can cause a burning sensation within the stomach. Over time, H. pylori break down the protective layers of the stomach, but the good news is, your doctor can prescribe medications to cure it.

Excessive stomach acid: Too much of stomach acid can contribute to a burning stomach. Some over-the-counter medications can help relieve a burning sensation brought on by excessive stomach acid. If severe enough, your doctor may prescribe medication.

Other notable causes of burning stomach: Herpes zoster, eczema, psoriasis, alcohol abuse, inflammation, smoking, obesity, abdominal muscles after exercise, hiatal hernia, and pain from the kidneys or liver.

As you can see, the causes for burning stomach sensation are numerous and diverse, but many of them are treated very easily. In order to obtain relief from your burning sensation –be in the lower abdomen, after eating, or as a result of pregnancy – speak to your doctor so they can run proper testing to narrow in on your specific cause.

Burning sensation in stomach signs and symptoms

Regardless of the cause of your burning stomach sensation, there are some common symptoms to look out for. Signs and symptoms of stomach pain include a burning sensation or discomfort in the upper abdomen or lower chest, bloating, belching, early feeling of fullness when eating, and nausea.

The following symptoms indicate there is a very serious cause of your burning sensation and should prompt you to see your doctor immediately. These symptoms include bloody vomit, dark and tarry stool, shortness of breath, and pain that radiates from the jaw, neck, or shoulder.

Burning sensation in stomach after eating

For many individuals who experience a burning sensation in the stomach, this usually happens after eating a meal.Spicy food is usually to blame.

There are a few reasons why spicy food triggers a burning sensation in the stomach. For starters, spicy food increases the risk of indigestion, which may feel like a heavy feeling in the stomach after eating, belching, gas, and pain.

Additionally, the spicy food contains capsaicin, which can irritate the stomach lining thus causing a burning sensation.

Other factors can contribute to a burning stomach after eating, too. These include foods high in soluble fiber, low fiber meals, lactose intolerance or food allergies, fructose malabsorption, and side effects of olestra (a fat substitute added to foods like chips).

Some products can also aggravate existing ulcers, mainly spicy foods. In order to narrow down the specific food triggers of your burning stomach, keep a food diary for some time and document how you feel after each meal.

Burning sensation in stomach after drinking

There are many different beverages that can cause burning sensation of the stomach – water included. Here are some notable examples – and what you can do about it.

Stomach burning after drinking alcohol

Like food, drinking alcohol can cause a burning sensation in the stomach, too. Burning sensation after alcohol is often a result of binge drinking. Chronic alcohol consumption can change the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract, causing a stomach ache after drinking alcohol.

Alcohol causes a burning stomach because the chemicals in alcohol are rapidly metabolized in the body. When this occurs, a reactive oxygen species cause oxidative stress to the cells and tissues along the gastrointestinal tract.

Possible causes of stomach pain after drinking alcohol include:

  • Binge drinking
  • Shrinking of the gastric lining due to alcoholism
  • Chronic alcohol consumption
  • Inflammation of the pancreas due to alcohol consumption
  • Gallbladder disease triggered by the alcohol
  • Liver damage resulting from alcohol consumption

Stomach burning after drinking soda

Soda is a bubbly beverage, so right off the bat, drinking carbonated beverages can increase gas, which can contribute to stomach burning. Many soda varieties also contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener. Although this type of sweetener can reduce calorie count in your beverage, many people are intolerant to aspartame, which can also add to burning stomach.

If you have been diagnosed with IBS, soda can further lead to stomach irritations and promote diarrhea as well.

Stomach burning after drinking water

Water is known to be the number one health beverage you can consume, but it can lead to burning sensation in the stomach, too. Drinking too much water can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia, which is characterized by abnormally low sodium levels. The main symptoms of hyponatremia are discomfort, vomiting, confusion, fatigue, and even convulsions.

Consuming too much water can also negatively impact the kidneys. Our kidneys are able to filter through 1,000 ml of water an hour. Drinking more than this amount can overwork your kidneys, and if you have kidney disease you are at an even greater risk of complications of excessive water intake.

Stomach burning after drinking milk

A common reason for stomach burning after drinking milk is lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a condition in which your body doesn’t have the right enzymes to break down lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. Because your body is unable to break down lactose, it can have negative side effects including abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and burning stomach.

Once again, if you have IBS, you may notice an increase in burning stomach after consuming dairy. Overall, dairy is a common and known irritant in IBS, and it is often recommended that IBS patients reduce their intake of dairy – especially if they are lactose intolerant.

Reprinted with permission from Bel Marra Health.

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