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What Causes a Sour Stomach?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sour stomach, also known as acid indigestion, is a common ailment that many people experience from time to time. Essentially, this type of stomach pain can come about when there is an excessive amount of hydrochloric acid present in the stomach and digestive tract. Acid reflux and heartburn sometimes accompany the condition. Frequent bouts with sour stomach can also lead to the development of ulcers if not treated in a timely manner.

There are a number of reasons why the level of hydrochloric acid rises and causes a stomachache of this type. Many of these underlying causes have to do with lifestyle choices. This means it is possible to alter habits and behavior and minimize the recurrence of sour stomach in many cases.

One of the most common causes of this phenomenon has to do with consuming too much food within a couple of hours of retiring for the evening. Many people who choose to eat late in the evening do not allow enough time for their bodies to process the food before positioning themselves in a prone position. This makes it easier for the acid to back into the digestive tract and cause a burning sensation that makes it very difficult to rest. The obvious solution here is to eat earlier in the evening and engage in some light activity, such as walking to help stimulate the digestive process.

Along with consuming too much food too late in the day, the type of food consumed can also lead to a sour stomach. Excess consumption of fatty foods can irritate the stomach and lead to a great deal of pain. While taking an antacid may help ease the discomfort, a better option is to consume less animal fats and consume more nutrient-rich options, such as green vegetables.

The root cause for sour stomach in some cases has nothing to do with the type or amount of food consumed. Instead, the stomach is irritated by the consumption of substances that could be minimized or avoided altogether. Smokers increase their chances of developing a sour stomach. In addition, tobacco consumption can exacerbate any tendency to develop an ulcer. Choosing to quit smoking and avoid the use of tobacco products in general can save the individual a lot of pain and also minimize the chances of developing a peptic ulcer.

Stress can also be involved in the creation of a sour stomach. The emotional state of an individual will often impact the ability of various systems in the body to perform at peak efficiency. Someone who is constantly worried or fearful often find they experience a tightness in the stomach area that leads to indigestion no matter what or when they eat. Often, counseling or engaging in activities to minimize stress levels will also lead to a decrease in problems with indigestion as well.

While a sour stomach in only one of several causes of ulcers, a recurring problem of this type can be a strong indicator that something should be done immediately. When left unchecked, frequent bouts with sour stomach can lead to considerable damage to the stomach lining, and the esophagus. If you experience this condition frequently, see your doctor immediately and find out what you need to do in order to rid yourself of this type of discomfort.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon993614 — On Nov 29, 2015

You need to know that using baking soda as an antacid adds a tremendous amount of sodium to your body. Recommended daily amounts these days are the equivalent of about a teaspoon of salt, or about 2300 milligrams. For sodium restricted diets, only 1500 milligrams is recommended. A teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) contains about 1250 milligrams of sodium. It is much better to use a calcium based antacid like Tums.

By anon991971 — On Aug 01, 2015

Every time I have had this I have found that if I drink a beer it makes the sour burps stop very quickly and it prevents me from vomiting.

By anon946595 — On Apr 21, 2014

Eat two tablespoons of Italian dressing or eat two medium sized dill pickles. You want the additional acid from the vinegar to basically tell your system that there is now enough in your system and to stop making any more.

The root cause of sour stomach is your stomach is producing too much acid, either due to a dilution of the acid already there or just a bad combination of foods which you may have an intolerance to. I found I can no longer drink RC Cola. I get a sour stomach within minutes.

Now your system is trying to compensate by producing more acid because the acid already there has been diluted or neutralized. Baking soda and other antacids just make this worse because it neutralizes the acid in your system so your stomach just makes more and you take more antacids and it's just a vicious cycle.

By anon933741 — On Feb 17, 2014

Have bad burping egg syndrome and just got out hospital recently I smoke a lot up to five a day witch am now stopping .But the main reason for my stomach pain is stress and being mad. Even started having a lot of blood in stool .tried everything ...sometimes even stayed up all night cause didn't want to have a surprise when waking up. What works for me is absolute silence and proteonics a medicine given by a g .i docter.no stress and complete silence ..I know it's hard especially when you have kids but ask the wife please in my case beg it some times works. But try oh and warm a wet rag or small towel shove in a big zip lock and keep on the area that hurts the most that really works well .good luck with this evil pain and remember take care of your self don't be mad and relax and hope God helps cause this is a genuine pain from he'll..

By anon928055 — On Jan 27, 2014

@Post 32: About two years ago me and my husband were at a friend's house for a cookout. We ate at the cookout and we both were sick for a week. We now have been fighting this for two years.

Neither he nor I can eat baked foods that contain eggs. We have switched to egg beaters tried all we could. We can eat scrambled eggs, but when I cook them I make sure they are not runny, but are very done. It is the only way we can eat eggs.

I have also noticed some other foods that have the same sour stomach effect. I am a diabetic and my favorite thing to eat when my sugar was low was peanut butter. Now, every time I eat peanut butter I also get a sour stomach. I don't know if I am developing food allergy or if I had salmonella poisoning, but it has caused a bit of grief in my eating. I also cannot eat Suddenly Salad kits -- it's something in the noodles. I can't eat Green Giant bagged steamers, which is a mixture of vegetables steamed in microwave. My husband has also has same problems eating the same foods and recently his mom is now having the same problems. In most cases of sour stomach it is because you ate too much of the food or something else, but this is not the case with me. I have been fighting this for two years and every time I eat it, it comes back.

By anon928049 — On Jan 27, 2014

Post 32 : Response ! About 2 years ago me and my husband was at friends house for a cook out, we ate at the cook out and we both were sick for a week. We now have been fighting this for 2 years both him and I can not eat baked foods that contain egg? We have switched to egg beaters tried all we could. We can eat scrambled eggs when I cook them I make sure they are not runny very done. It is the only way we can eat eggs. I have also noticed some other foods that have the same sour stomach effect. I am a diabetic and my favorite thing to eat when my sugar is low was peanut butter, now every time I eat peanut butter I also get sour stomach. I don't know if I am developing food allergy or if I had salmonella poisoning but it has caused a bit of grief in my eating. I also can not eat suddenly salad kits something in the noodles. Green Giant bagged steamers, mixture of vegetables steamed in microwave. My husband has also has same problems eating the same foods and recently his mom is now having the same problems. In most cases of sour stomach it is because you ate to much of the food or something else, this is not the case I have been fighting this for 2 years and every time I eat it, it comes back.

By anon924669 — On Jan 06, 2014

Thanks for the help! I've recently been getting them a lot and now I know why; I eat way to late at night and go to bed minutes later. Plus I eat a lot at the same times. Maybe they will stop now.

By anon352330 — On Oct 21, 2013

I used to get this a lot. I finally figured out it was because I went to bed too soon after eating. Now I always wait three or four hours ( depending on how rich the meal) before lying down or reclining and I haven't had a sour stomach in years.

By anon351568 — On Oct 15, 2013

I had recurring sour stomach, including diarrhea for years, with no apparent association with what was eaten (with the exception of one time when a bout was most likely triggered by overconsumption of raw celery and carrots). It was sometimes apparently triggered after stress (not during, the symptoms were usually delayed).

The timing was always such that I would have had to go to an emergency room, so I opted to self-treat (I found that caramel colored sugar soda relieved the pain and reduced the foul taste, while Pepto-Bismol dealt with the rest.) It also almost always occurred in the early morning, two to three hours before my normal wake-up.

On other occasions, I had stomach discomfort at the same time of morning, and eventually found that drinking some water relieved that symptom.

Seemingly unrelated, I had a (very aptly named) gallbladder attack one morning, which manifested as extreme pain in the back (I didn't believe them when they told me it wasn't an actual back problem). After an ultrasound revealed gallstone(s), I had the gallbladder removed arthroscopically.

Following the cholecystectomy, the sour stomach symptoms disappeared. However, the early-morning discomfort still occurs.

My understanding is that the stone-filled gallbladder was harboring bacteria, which occasionally flared up, causing my sour stomach. And the gallbladder was mostly non-functional, so the bile generated by the liver, which the gallbladder is meant to store for use during digestion, was dumped directly into the stomach. Once my stomach was empty over night, this caused my discomfort. And the water helped wash the bile away.

Now, without the gallbladder, I don't have the bacterial build-up. However, I still have the discomfort from bile dumped into an empty stomach.

I hope this helps someone with recurring sour stomach to have the gallbladder checked.

By anon346112 — On Aug 25, 2013

Some people have food intolerances to wheat, milk, soy, etc. and it could give you a sour stomach.

By anon345054 — On Aug 15, 2013

I have had problems with this for a while, but have not yet seen another post from someone with same problem. I always find that when I eat cake brownies, or anything pretty much that is baked, I get a sour stomach. I have been dealing with this for about two years and have not found out why or solution.

I have tried different eggs and even switched to egg beaters but it still has not helped. I cannot eat cake, brownies, cornbread or anything pretty much you have to bake with eggs. I'm just wondering if anyone else has the same problem or knows what it is?

By anon340804 — On Jul 05, 2013

My husband has a sour stomach. We didn't have baking soda, but used baking powder instead of that. Is that OK? Can anyone help me regarding this?

By anon323588 — On Mar 06, 2013

I got this the last time I was pregnant too, even with avoiding all the triggers. Has anyone else found that Tums/Rolaids makes it worse?

By anon323461 — On Mar 05, 2013

Finally, a group of people who get the misery of a sour stomach (or before I understood what it was I called it the "rotten egg burps" -- so brutal). I think this is the absolute worst. I had it a lot as a kid, then it phased out, but has come back after several years.

I was told to get an Upper GI to see what the trigger was because OTC products don't seem to help. I do agree that baking soda works to empty your stomach fast but it's not a pretty ending.

I saw someone mentioned using vinegar (with the mother). I'm guessing that's apple cider vinegar? Anyone else have this help them?

I've never been able to tie it to any sort of foods, quantity or time of day. Guess maybe I just need to get that Upper GI and hope for some more answers.

By anon323355 — On Mar 05, 2013

Half a teaspoon of baking soda and a cup (8 ounces) of water will give some relief.

By anon311766 — On Jan 03, 2013

Take apple cider vinegar, in pill form or four tablespoons in half a cup of water.

By anon308429 — On Dec 10, 2012

I seem to get sour stomach a lot. I always take a little bit of baking soda and water. I wait about 5 minutes, and finally when I start burping, I stick my finger down my throat to make myself vomit.

I know that's not the best way, but it gets all the food that is backed up out. Makes me feel a lot better.

By anon299341 — On Oct 24, 2012

I had a sour stomach and I drank two sips of baking soda and water and I vomited not even two minutes later, so yeah, that works really good.

By anon254355 — On Mar 13, 2012

I have a bad stomach too. I had pepper jack cheese and it hurts so bad. I can even feel where it is going down my system.

By anon251859 — On Mar 02, 2012

I guess overeating is the main cause of a sour stomach, because I ate some steak for lunch then about three hours later ate at subway. That equals for me a painful sour stomach that stopped me for eating for almost a day, so the best bet for anyone is eat in intervals of six to eight hour intervals. That should solve almost anybody's problem.

By anon228884 — On Nov 11, 2011

I think some yogurt pretzels gave me sour stomach. Guess I should lay off the junk food.

By anon228883 — On Nov 11, 2011

Wow, I ate Almond M&M's for bed last night. Something I haven't had for years. That must be why I have a sour stomach this morning.

By anon225505 — On Oct 27, 2011

Tums work!

By anon219142 — On Oct 02, 2011

If you go the baking soda route, I suggest you get it in tablet form so you don't have to taste it. Just ask your pharmacist for Sodium Bicarbonate.(no prescription needed) I get 100 pills for $2.00 and take four each time I have indigestion.

By anon177020 — On May 17, 2011

Could spicy foods cause a sour stomach? I recently had a spicy chicken sandwich with pepperjack cheese on it and now have a sour stomach.

By anon148166 — On Jan 31, 2011

I don't eat much. I just don't eat at all or just not when I'm supposed to eat. I don't eat meals on time, but it's not like I do it on purpose, sometimes I'm just not hungry and I won't force myself. Does this cause a sour stomach?

By anon140563 — On Jan 07, 2011

I tried the baking soda, and immediately after i experienced some minor vomiting. Could I have possibly used too much baking soda then?

By anon140088 — On Jan 06, 2011

I have a hiatal hernia which caused severe acid reflux. It affected me so badly that I was throwing up from pain and my stomach hurt all the time.

Once I finally found out what it was, I went on prilosec otc. It's expensive and they said i would have to take it for the rest of my life, basically, so I asked for a natural alternative. They said baking soda (about a teaspoon in a 8 ounce glass) or vinegar (all natural with the "mother").

Never take both, or you'll have an unfortunate chemical reaction.

I like taking the vinegar because they said it's easier on the stomach. You have to be careful to brush your teeth after you drink it because it can wear away enamel. Other than that, it works great. I also take acidophilus and that seems to help everything, too.

By anon121181 — On Oct 23, 2010

For the amount to take of baking soda and water it usually tells you on the box. Look on the narrow sides for antacid relief. I do know that you need to dissolve it completely before drinking.

By anon114194 — On Sep 27, 2010

Nobody answered, how much water and baking soda?

By anon112492 — On Sep 20, 2010

I find the baking soda and water works great, but usually within the hour I have bad diarrhea and the next day, due to dehydration from the diarrhea, I have nasty muscle aches. My doc says that yes, the baking soda will suck all the nutrients and vitamins out of your body and hence the muscle aches.

By anon99787 — On Jul 27, 2010

does drinking a lot cause it?

By anon94003 — On Jul 06, 2010

As I get older, my problems with stomach acid get worse. It seems like even plain cool water gives me acid indigestion. I eat four to six very small meals every day and am vegetarian. I have tried OTC and prescription meds, but nothing works better than good old Alka Seltzer.

By anon85177 — On May 19, 2010

Alka Seltzer works also (Plop-Plop-Fizz-Fizz).

By anon63871 — On Feb 04, 2010

nice definition of sour stomach.

By anon62553 — On Jan 27, 2010

Nuts are, in general, a fatty (and sometimes salty food), which as stated in the above article leads to irritation.

Baking soda and water is a good home remedy but is not treating the underlying cause and is only neutralizing the excess acid *at that time and that time only.* It won't help if you've got a problem caused by the excess acid making the sour stomach worse or if you don't know why you've got the excess acid in the first place.

So, no, most of these comments left are not made by people who know more than the ones who wrote the article (which was specifically about causes, not remedies).~Becky

By anon61620 — On Jan 21, 2010

It appears to me the posters know more about sour stomach than wisegeek.

When something sous my stomach, usually veggies)the soda cure works.

By anon52817 — On Nov 17, 2009

This is great info. I drank some baking soda, and and I burped for so long because I have been eating peanuts and other items.

By anon46710 — On Sep 28, 2009

So I ate some cream cheese at midnight last night. Fatty *and* late at night. Thanks for the 411!

By anon43758 — On Sep 01, 2009

Thank for the info about consuming nuts in large amounts. Guilty here. Will now heed your advice.

By anon38593 — On Jul 27, 2009

How much water and soda?

By anon29569 — On Apr 04, 2009

The baking soda trick is by far the best remedy I have found for sour stomach. Almost immediately after drinking the water and baking soda combination, the sour stomach is gone. I have had it return a few times, but another dose of the baking soda and water usually does the trick. I have on one occasion, had to take 3 doses to completely relieve the indigestion.

I have also found that consuming nuts in large amounts will cause sour stomach. I try to keep the amount I eat now in check, to prevent this problem of sour stomach.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum

Writer

Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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