Do you experience frequent stomach pains after meals? Is it accompanied by bloating, diarrhea, and constipation?
If your answer is yes, then you should know you’re not alone in your struggle. In fact, 11% of the world’s population suffers from post-meal abdominal pains. What’s more, it may shock you to discover that those between the ages of 18 and 28 are more at risk of suffering from this condition, with 15% of people questioned falling into this age group.
But how is this possible?
Researchers believe that there may be a connection between intestinal problems after eating and the state of your mental health. Those who reported regular stomach pains following meals also said that they suffer from high rates of anxiety or depression. The fact that this study was completed in 2021 may suggest that the impact of the recent COVID 19 pandemic and its consequent restrictions has had a significant effect on the mental well-being of people, and young people in particular.
This may come as no surprise as many people lost jobs, loved ones, and a general sense of stability as a direct consequence since the start of the pandemic. What’s more, the results of the study, which were presented at the United European Gastroenterology Week Virtual 2021, surveyed people from across 26 different countries. The results further indicate that there could be a direct link between post-meal pain in young adults and the effects of the global stress of the pandemic on mental health.
Additionally, those who suffer from stomach discomfort following a meal – constipation, bloating, and diarrhea – may provide another link to the gut-brain connection, the state of your mind that can have a direct impact on your stomach and intestinal functions.
If you’ve ever experienced the sensation of having “butterflies” in your stomach or a feeling of nausea as a reaction to stress, then you may have been directly encountering this link between your brain and stomach. Subsequently, the connection between your gastrointestinal system and your emotions often leads to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal distension, and regular constipation. Those of us who report any stomach problems following meals, coupled with issues of mental health, may be more susceptible to additional stomach complications in the future.
The study also suggests that women are more likely to suffer from stomach pain following a meal than men, with results showing that 15% of women are affected in contrast to 9% of men. When looking at female anatomy on average, high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can have a direct impact on gut mobility. This leaves women and girls more at risk of developing stress-related problems, as well as intestinal complications such as IBS.
In addition, male and female intestinal systems are shaped differently. More often than not, the female colon is 10cm longer than the male colon while also sharing pelvic space with the reproductive organs, thus putting women and girls more at risk of gastrointestinal problems.
Given how interconnected the brain is to the rest of your body, it should come as no surprise that severe amounts of stress and anxiety can lead to gastrointestinal problems. Essentially, what happens in the brain affects the stomach and vice versa. While women and younger people may be slightly more at risk, the issue still affects people of all ages and genders.
Treatments should be addressed on equal terms, though. Although more research is still needed on the topic, professionals suggest that the most effective way of tackling post-meal stomach stress could be to re-evaluate other aspects of your daily well-being. This could include lifestyle changes such as creating a diet plan, doing more exercise, or even seeking psychological therapy.
Are you suffering from stomach pains after eating? What remedy works best for you? Let us know more about your experience in the comments section below.