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What Your Upset Stomach is Trying to Tell You

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Symptoms of an upset stomach

You know that feeling when your stomach starts to turn and feel queasy? An upset stomach can turn a normal day into a rough one. You may wonder, was it that slice of pizza you ate late at night or something more serious? Whether it’s indigestion, heartburn, nausea or something else, your churning stomach may be telling you something.

causes of an upset stomach

What Causes an Upset Stomach?

There is no one cause of an upset stomach. A stomach ache can be the result of several different factors, which can be frustrating for those with a turning stomach.

What Causes Gas?

Gas is mainly caused by the fermentation of undigested food in a person’s colon. More specifically, gas forms when bacteria in the colon break down carbohydrates that weren’t digested in the small intestine.

Unfortunately, nutritious high-fiber foods are often the culprit. Fiber keeps the digestive tract in top shape, but it can also lead to gas. Fiber supplements can also be guilty when worked into a person’s diet too quickly.

Other causes of gas include:

  • Changes in bacteria in the intestine
  • Food residue in the colon
  • Poor absorption of carbohydrates
  • Constipation

Gas Relief

Gas can cause a person to feel uncomfortable and bloated. If you’re on the hunt for gas relief, try going for a walk after eating or taking an over-the-counter medication to help relieve symptoms.

Causes of Nausea

Nausea may be the No. 1 culprit of an upset stomach. Being nauseous is uncomfortable and often stops a person in their tracks. It can seem like the queasy feeling will never go away. However, what causes nausea can sometimes be hard to pinpoint. Nausea is commonly caused by:

  • Stomach flu
  • Migraine
  • Rotavirus
  • Morning sickness
  • Motion sickness
  • Food poisoning

Nausea could also be a warning sign for certain medical conditions or a symptom of serious conditions. Some of those conditions include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Appendicitis
  • Depression or anxiety

Nausea Relief

When feeling nauseous, it’s common to want instant relief. The best way to find relief is to take an over-the-counter motion sickness drug like Dramamine and take it easy. If over-the-counter medications are not easing your nausea, make an appointment with your doctor to ensure your nausea isn’t a sign of a more serious medical condition.


Sometimes, but not always, nausea and vomiting go hand-in-hand. Vomiting is uncomfortable and can come in waves until the stomach has emptied it’s contents. When the stomach has emptied itself through vomiting, but is still trying to remove its contents, this is known as dry heaving.

Causes of Vomiting

Many things can cause of vomiting, such as:

  • Stomach flu
  • Food poisoning
  • Allergic reactions
  • Migraines
  • Morning sickness
  • Motion sickness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Overuse of alcohol 

How to Stop Vomiting

If you’re experiencing vomiting, it’s important to keep your body hydrated, lie down and consider taking medication. If your vomiting has lasted more than two days and you aren’t finding relief, contact your primary care provider.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is the feeling of burning in your chest and is often worse when bending or lying down. It is caused when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.

What Causes Heartburn

One common cause of heartburn is the condition acid reflux. Acid reflux is the flow of stomach acid into a person’s esophagus, which can cause a burning sensation in the chest. Other causes of heartburn are:

  • Eating meals too quickly
  • Pregnancy
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty and greasy foods

Heartburn Relief

Occasionally experiencing heartburn is common and shouldn’t cause a person to feel alarmed. An antacid can help ease heartburn pain. However, if an individual experiences heartburn regularly, and it interferes with their daily routine, it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition that may require the attention of a medical professional.

Causes of Indigestion

Indigestion is the discomfort a person feels in the upper part of their stomach. Individuals with indigestion often experience feeling full early in a meal or an uncomfortable fullness after a meal, discomfort or burning in their stomach, and bloating.

Indigestion is often triggered by medication, different foods and drinks. More specifically, it can be caused by:

  • Eating too quickly
  • Overeating
  • Spicy or greasy foods
  • Smoking
  • Too much caffeine, alcohol or chocolate
  • Antibiotics, pain relievers and supplements

Some medical conditions can cause indigestion, like ulcers, gallstones, constipation or Celiac disease. Relief can come from eating smaller meals, eliminating caffeine and taking certain pain relievers. If these methods aren’t sufficient in relieving indigestion, you should consult your doctor.

What Causes Bloating?

Feeling bloated can put a damper on anyone’s day. But what is the cause of bloating? Bloating is when gas should be passed through flatulence or burping, but instead stays in the stomach and intestines. Bloating can cause abdominal pain that ranges from mild to sharp.

Common causes of bloating are:

  • Fatty foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Eating too quickly
  • Stress
  • Gastrointestinal infection

More serious causes of bloating include Celiac disease, lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome.

How to Relieve Bloating

Commonly, flatulence, burping or having a bowel movement will put an end to bloating. Other forms of relief for bloating include reducing your intake of gas-producing foods. If having a bowel movement or passing gas doesn’t help the bloating subside, call your doctor.

Get Care Now with Virtual Care

Sometimes, the cause of an upset stomach can be embarrassing, but if you feel like there could be a problem, you should never be afraid to talk to a provider about your symptoms.

An upset stomach rarely occurs at a convenient time. UnityPoint Health Virtual Care works for you to determine what’s causing your stomach pain.  Providers are waiting to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.