Upper-Center Abdomen Pain Made Worse By Eating

What Causes Upper-Center Abdomen Pain Worse After Meals?

Upper-center abdomen pain worse after meals can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose upper-center abdomen pain worse after meals, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "upper-center abdomen pain worse after meals" as a symptom.  Here are eight possibilities (more below):
  • Sphincter Of Oddi Dysfunction
  • Heartburn
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Gastritis
  • Stomach Cancer

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
meal-related pain for over a month
moderate right hypochondriac pain
significant amounts of occult blood
occasional unexplained nausea
severe periumbilical pain
occasional painful urge to defecate
moderate left hypochondriac pain
frequent unexplained vomiting
frequent red blood in stools
severe epigastric pain
recent onset abdominal pain
dull epigastric pain after meals
... and more than 80 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of upper-center abdomen pain worse after meals:
Cause Probability Status
Gastritis 97% Confirm
Heartburn 29% Unlikely
Pancreatic Cancer 28% Unlikely
Stomach Cancer 5% Ruled out
Irritable Bowel Syndrome 1% Ruled out
Stomach Ulcers 1% Ruled out
Pancreatitis 1% Ruled out
Sphincter Of Oddi Dysfunction 1% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate abdominal pain increased by eating, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
UPPER-CENTER abdomen: Do you experience discomfort or pain in the epigastric (stomach) area, below the breastbone that sometimes or always becomes worse after eating?
Possible responses:
→ No / I only have pain when I eat / don't know
→ Rarely / a few times a year
→ Yes, mild pain becomes moderate pain after eating
→ Yes, mild pain becomes severe pain
→ Yes, moderate pain becomes severe pain
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate meals worsen epigastric pain, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Gallbladder Disease

Inflammation or other dysfunction of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or biliary tract (angiocholitis) often causes pain in the abdomen, generally towards the right-hand side.  The pain is more likely to occur after large and/or fatty/oily/fried meals.

Gastric/Peptic/Duodenal Ulcers

If you have a stomach ulcer, the pain usually begins about 15 to 20 minutes after eating, especially after large meals.

Heartburn / GERD / Acid Reflux

The pain often starts in the upper abdomen and spreads up into the neck.  It usually begins about 30-60 minutes after a meal and can last for up to 2 hours.  Lying down or bending over can bring on heartburn or make it worse.

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

IBS can be a source of long-term abdominal pain or discomfort; the symptoms of IBS are usually worse after eating and tend to come and go.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer usually causes a dull pain that may become worse after eating.


The main symptom of pancreatitis is pain felt in the upper left side or middle of the abdomen.  The pain often begins or worsens after eating.  It may be worse within minutes after eating or drinking at first, especially if foods have a high fat content.

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