Shop the NEW Food City in Kimball!

Ask the Doctor: Ring in the New Year with No Pain after Meals

Dr. Richard Tanner

Q: I’m having abdominal pain after enjoying my favorite meals this holiday season (candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup). Should I see a doctor? Asking for a friend – signed, Buddy the Elf

A: If you’re feeling a little bloated after those extra helpings of dressing, dessert, or spaghetti with crushed Pop-Tarts, that’s perfectly normal. However, if you’re experiencing abdominal pain after meals, you should consider being evaluated for gallbladder disease.

The holidays are peak season for being diagnosed with disease of the gallbladder, a small, pear-shaped organ located just beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid made in the liver that helps break down the fats we eat into smaller substances that are absorbed in the digestive tract. After consuming a fatty meal, the gallbladder contracts and releases bile into the intestine to help with digestion. During this process, stones can form within the gallbladder.

If you’re experiencing pain related to gallstones, you’re not alone. There are up to 35 million Americans with gallstones, and the most common symptom is right upper abdominal pain that occurs after eating. You might also experience nausea and vomiting. The severity of the disease can range from very mild discomfort after meals, especially after a fatty or greasy meal, to debilitating pain with a life-threatening infection, and the pain typically progresses over time.

To diagnose your condition and determine your best course of treatment, your physician will obtain a detailed history of your symptoms and likely order blood work, an ultrasound of your abdomen, and potentially other tests. If you are diagnosed with gallbladder disease, you will be referred to a surgeon to be evaluated for an outpatient minimally invasive procedure to remove the gallbladder.

Dr. Richard M. Tanner is a general and breast surgeon with University Surgical Associates. He sees patients every Thursday at the USA Marion County office, conveniently located at 520 E. 12th Street in South Pittsburgh (inside the Erlanger Primary Care building).