A burning sensation in your stomach is never a welcome feeling. Sometimes it seemingly happens out of nowhere, while other times, it comes along with gas pain, chest pain from drinking alcohol, or eating acidic foods (hello, heartburn). Is there anything you can do to keep this fiery blaze from lighting up your gut?

The fix depends on what’s causing the burning in the first place, says Andrew Boxer, MD, a gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey. Mild, occasional gastric burning can usually be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) meds, home remedies, and some smart habit shifts. But symptoms that are sticking around could signal an underlying stomach condition. The location of your pain may also point to what the problem could be.


Experts In This Article

  • Andrew Boxer, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist and internal medicine physician with Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey

Learn the top causes of this burning sensation in your upper abdomen (i.e., stomach), and how to get rid of it ASAP.

In This Article

7 Causes of a burning sensation in your stomach

Here’s some reasons you may feel the burn—from that spicy meal you just ate to a possible infection from a bacterial strain.

1. Acid reflux or GERD

You can get a burning sensation in your upper abdomen or chest from acid reflux, where acid from your stomach splashes up into your esophagus. That can happen occasionally from eating the following foods, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Rich or fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine (coffee and stomach pain often go hand-in-hand)
  • Alcohol
  • Onions or garlic

These can especially hurt your stomach if you lie down right after eating, per the Cleveland Clinic. When acid reflux happens regularly (more than twice a week), doctors call it GERD (or gastroesophageal reflux disease).

How to treat it:

An OTC antacid like TUMS or Rolaids can soothe an occasional case of reflux. “They coat the stomach to decrease acid,” says Dr. Boxer. Your doctor might recommend a more powerful acid suppressant, like a proton pump inhibitor (omeprazole or Nexium), if you have GERD.

2. Indigestion

Indigestion (aka, dyspepsia) is basically another word for an upset stomach, which may cause a burning sensation in your stomach after eating.  Symptoms can include the following, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK):

  • Upper abdominal burning pain
  • Feeling uncomfortably full
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Nausea

Indigestion can be caused by *so* many things, according to the NIDDK. Things like eating a heavy meal or drinking too much alcohol, stress, antibiotic use, or medical conditions like a stomach bug, IBS, lactose intolerance, or ulcers can lead to indigestion.

How to treat it:

Solving your indigestion woes really depends on the underlying cause. But if you’re just looking for relief ASAP, OTC meds like TUMS (for acid reflux), Gas-X (for gas and bloating), or Pepto-Bismol (for nausea, pain, or diarrhea) are all good options to try, the NIDDK notes.

3. Gastritis

Gastritis—or inflammation of the stomach lining—is a common cause of stomach burning, Dr. Boxer notes. It’s often caused by an infection from the bacteria strain helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), but heavy alcohol intake, stress, or overuse of NSAID pain medications (i.e., ibuprofen or Advil) can also be a trigger, notes the Mayo Clinic. Along with a burning stomach, gastritis can also cause a gnawing sensation in your stomach, nausea, vomiting, or feeling uncomfortably full after you eat.

How to treat it:

You and your doctor will need to figure out what’s causing your gastritis before you can treat it. H. pylori infections require antibiotics, but gastritis caused by other things can often be managed with OTC or prescription acid blockers, per the Mayo Clinic.

4. H. pylori

H. pylori infections can cause the lining of your stomach to become inflamed. It is a pretty common infection—affecting two-thirds of the world’s population, according to UCSF Health—but not everyone will get symptoms from it. A symptomatic infection (which most often affects kids) is usually spread through contaminated food or water. This can lead to symptoms including the following, per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Burning (especially when your stomach is empty)
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent burping
  • Bloating
  • Unintended weight loss

How to treat it:

See your doctor if you think you or your kid has H. pylori. The infection needs to be treated with antibiotics, along with antacids to help the stomach lining heal, per the Mayo Clinic.

5. Ulcer

If you’ve ever wondered, “why does my stomach feel hot inside?,” it could an ulcer. Ulcers are open sores in the lining of your stomach that can cause a burning or gnawing pain that seems to radiate from a certain spot in your abdomen, along with other symptoms of indigestion. They can develop from H. pylori infections, taking NSAIDs too often, or severe stress, says Dr. Boxer.

How to treat it:

Stomach ulcers require medical treatment, so see your doc if you think you have one. You may have to get an endoscopy in order to diagnose the issue. Ulcers are usually managed with cytoprotective meds or antacids to coat the lining of your stomach and encourage the ulcer to heal, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If the peptic ulcer disease is caused by H. pylori, you’ll also need antibiotics to clear the infection. You may also need to make certain lifestyle changes (like reducing stress) to help relieve burning pain from an ulcer.

6. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Having IBS—a chronic gastrointestinal disorder—can make you more prone to symptoms of indigestion. That includes pain, burning, or gnawing in your upper abdomen, per the Cleveland Clinic. Other IBS symptoms can include the following:

  • Excess gas
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea (IBS-D) or constipation (IBS-C) that strike at least once a week over the course of several months

How to treat it:

There’s no cure for IBS, but keeping a journal can help you identify the things that trigger your symptoms (it’s often stress or certain foods), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Once you know what tends to set you off, you can take steps to steer clear of your triggers. Things like exercise, stress-management techniques, and OTC meds like Imodium (if you have IBS-D) or laxatives (if you have IBS-C) can also help.

7. Medications

Some meds can irritate the lining of your stomach or esophagus, which can cause a burning sensation or even give you acid reflux. The list of culprits is pretty long, but according to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common offenders include the following:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anticholinergenics like oxybutynin
  • High blood pressure and heart disease medications like calcium channel blockers, statins, and nitrates
  • Iron supplements
  • NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Opioid pain relievers
  • Oral osteoporosis medications, including alendronate, ibandronate, and risedronate
  • Quinidine
  • Potassium supplements
  • Progesterone
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers, including benzodiazepines
  • Theophylline
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

Sometimes you can even get stomach pain from vitamins, especially if you don’t take them with food.

Keep in mind: If any of these medications are causing a burning sensation in your stomach, reach out to your doctor before making any changes. They can help adjust your dose, or find ways to help you reduce your stomach pain while still staying on your meds.

Could a burning stomach mean cancer?

Early on, stomach cancer can cause indigestion-like symptoms, including a burning feeling in your stomach, nausea, and lack of appetite according to FamilyDoctor.org. As stomach cancer gets more advanced, a person might also start to have black or bloody stools, vomiting after meals, or unintended weight loss.

That said, try not to jump to conclusions if your stomach has felt fiery for a couple days. Stomach cancer is relatively uncommon in the U.S., with around 26,000 people being diagnosed each year, per the American Cancer Society. But of course, you should still have symptoms checked out if they stick around. Your doctor may suggest an endoscopy, colonoscopy, stool sample tests, or other tests to narrow down the cause of your pain and rule out things like cancer.

How is a burning stomach diagnosed?

If you’re having persistent burning in your stomach, your doctor may recommend a test called an upper endoscopy. “This is when we give a patient anesthesia and look inside the upper GI tract with a fiber optic camera,” Dr. Boxer says. They might also take a sample of tissue from your esophagus, stomach, or small intestine to check for inflammation, which can be signs of an underlying health problem.

How to treat a burning sensation in your stomach

If you’re wondering how to stop stomach burning immediately, you’ve got a few solid options. The quickest (think minutes) route is to take an OTC antacid like TUMS, Dr. Boxer recommends. It has the active ingredient calcium carbonate, which neutralizes acid in your stomach and esophagus as soon as it reaches those tissues.

If you’d rather steer clear of meds (or don’t have any on hand), there are some home remedies for a burning sensation in your stomach. One of them is a little bit of baking soda—it has alkaline properties that can also counteract acidity. “Some patients say that it will help,” Dr. Boxer adds. Stir 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of cold water and guzzle it down, recommends the Mayo Clinic.

Alkaline foods might help counteract acidity and burning, too, if you have an appetite. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends trying bananas, melons, fennel, or nuts. Drinking milk might also nix stomach acidity, suggests an October 2017 study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Just make sure it’s low-fat, because the high-fat content of whole milk could potentially make heartburn worse.

Another option: You could also just try diluting stomach acid by drinking some water, or having other bland liquids like herbal tea or broth, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. These could be great options to drink for stomach burning in the morning or before bed.

Prevention options

Through certain lifestyle changes, it is possible to reduce your chances of acid reflux and indigestion, says Dr. Boxer. He suggests trying the following:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Limit or avoid trigger foods, especially things like fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine, or alcohol.
  • Avoid eating within 3 to 4 hours of going to bed, which can cause or worsen heartburn.
  • Sleep with your head elevated.
  • Lose weight if needed, as excess body weight may increase the risk for reflux. (Of course, talk with your doctor about whether losing weight is right for you.)

When to see a doctor

Any stomach symptoms that are severe (aka, getting in the way of your daily life) or persistent (think: lasting more than a week or two) warrant a call to your doctor. While occasional stomach pain, burning, or heartburn isn’t usually cause for concern, symptoms that aren’t going away could be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be treated, Dr. Boxer says.

FAQ

Can anxiety cause burning stomach pain?

Your brain and your gut are closely connected, so it’s not uncommon to get hit with anxiety stomachaches or other GI symptoms when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. That might be cramps, an urge to poop, or general aching or burning, Dr. Boxer says.

What should I eat if my stomach is burning?

Bland, easy-to-digest foods are always the best bet when your stomach is off. Think toast, bananas, applesauce, crackers, broth, or tea. If you can handle something with a little more substance, try some scrambled eggs, lean meat without any added fat (like poached chicken breast), milk, or potatoes, recommends the National Library of Medicine. These foods may be easier on your stomach, reducing your chances of that fiery feeling.

Does stomach burn go away on its own?

It depends on the cause. Stomach symptoms caused by something you ate should ease up within a couple hours as the food is digested, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But if the burning is caused by an underlying condition, it might stick around until the problem is treated with medications or other lifestyle changes.


Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Panda, V., Shinde, P., Deora, J., & Gupta, P. (2017). A comparative study of the antacid effect of some commonly consumed foods for hyperacidity in an artificial stomach model. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 34, 111–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2017.08.002


Source: Well and Good

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