Morning Stomach Problems, Symptoms and Causes

Waking up with stomach symptoms in the morning can be occur for a number of different conditions. There are some upper digestive conditions that worsen at night but the symptoms are only noticed in the morning. With other conditions, the symptoms aggravate specifically in the morning or after waking. It can be confusing as the symptoms of many different conditions can overlap. However, there are distinct differences in the symptoms that may be more indicative of specific condition.

Morning Stomach Changes

Although we refer to the stomach when we talk about upper digestive conditions, there are several parts of the gut that are involved apart from the stomach. The esophagus, stomach and duodenum of the small intestine are the main parts of the upper gut along with the stomach. To a lesser degree the gallbladder, pancreas and liver also play a role in upper digestion and diseases of these organs could also be responsible for morning stomach symptoms.

By the time a person awakes, there stomach is empty and hunger may lead to strong stomach contractions known as hunger pangs. Furthermore the stomach acid secretion increases significantly around 3 A.M. as part of the natural circadian rhythm. These changes in the stomach physiology may worsen pre-existing conditions and therefore the symptoms may seem more prominent in the morning. Other factors like eating and the sleeping, caffeine or alcohol intake at night and midnight snacking can also worsen certain symptoms.

Morning Stomach Symptoms

Symptoms are indications of certain diseases. With regards to morning stomach symptoms, the problem is usually due to an upper gut disease. However, it is difficult at times to identify the exact cause just on the symptoms alone. Therefore diagnostic investigation like an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy may be necessary to confirm the cause of digestive symptoms in the morning. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea – feeling the need to vomit.
  • Vomiting – forceful expulsion of stomach contents.
  • Heartburn – burning chest pain.
  • Stomachache – usually an upper left abdominal pain.
  • Hunger pangs – cramping sensation indicative of hunger
  • Dysgeusia – unsual taste in the mouth or reduced taste sensation.

Causes of Morning Stomach Symptoms

There are three common conditions that account for most morning stomach symptoms. This includes gastritis, acid refluc (gastroesopheageal reflux disease) and peptic ulcers. However, there could be other non-digestive conditions that may give rise to symptoms which seem to be emanating from the stomach.


Morning nausea can be due to a host of different digestive and non-digestive conditions. It may be present in all three digestive conditions that tend to cause morning symptoms – gastritis, acid reflux and peptic ulcers. Morning nausea may also be due to extreme hunger. Diabetic who may experience abnormalities in blood glucose levels in the morning may also experience morning nausea.

Read more on pregnancy nausea.

Funny Taste in the Mouth

It is not unusual to have bad breath and even a bad taste in the mouth when waking in the morning. The reduced saliva secretion, increased bacterial activity and decomposition of food particles in the mouth contribute to a bad taste and bad breath. However, it may be uncharacteristically offensive in taste and odor when a person has severe acid reflux.

In acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, the stomach acid rises up into the esophagus and as far up as the mouth. Sometimes it may even reach the nose. The acid and sometimes partially digested food in the stomach have a sour to bitter taste and can have an unpleasant odor as well.


Heartburn in the morning can often be due to acid reflux which tends to worsen when lying flat an in the early parts of the morning due to the increased stomach acid secretion. A person may not notice this heartburn while sleeping and only become aware of it in the morning. However, chest pain may also be due to other causes like heart disease which also needs to be considered, especially in high risk individuals.

Stomach Ache

Stomach ache in the morning may be due to either gastritic or peptic ulcers. Both these conditions are related. Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach wall and a similar inflammation may occur in the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Peptic ulcers are open sores (ulcers) in the stomach or duodenal wall. Sometimes the pain is hunger pangs and not actual stomach pain.

An infection with H.pylori bacteria and the excessive use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the two most common causes of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. In terms of the latter, duodenal ulcers are more common than stomach ulcers. Stomach pain is usually felt in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen whle duodenal pain is more towards the upper middle quadrant.

Read more on nighttime stomach pain.


Abdominal pain with diarrhea

Morning vomiting is not a common symptom of digestive problems. It may be seen with severe gastritis and peptic ulcers, especially where there are bleeding ulcers. In women, morning vomiting may be a sign of pregnancy unless otherwise excluded. In acid reflux there is regurgitation of the stomach contents but this is not vomiting which is a much more forceful process.

Remedies for Morning Stomach Symptoms

Always consult with a medical professional about the cause of morning symptoms, especially if it is persisting or worsening. Take note of when the symptoms arise and what factors it may be related to, such as whether it started if alcohol was consumed the night before or if certain foods were eaten for dinner. This information can assist a doctor in reaching a diagnosis. However, to ease some of these morning digestive symptoms the following measures may assist:

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine late at night, especially before bedtime. Stay away from night caps.
  • Do not eat anything for at least 2 hours before going to bed. Drinking water is fine.
  • Moderate the dinner meal size. Remember fewer calories are needed before going to sleep.
  • Try elevating the head of the bed or use a specially designed pillow for people with acid reflux.
  • Drink sufficient water after supper but not too close to bedtime as it can lead to repeated awakening to pass urine.
  • Stop cigarette smoking or at least avoid a cigarette just before bedtime.

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