Dizziness After Eating

Published: October 27, 2015
Last reviewed: July 31, 2017

Healthy individuals can experience dizziness after eating strong spices and due to alcohol or caffeine intoxication. In most other cases, dizziness after meals speaks for an underlying health condition.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods, such as chili pepper, which contains capsaicin, can cause burning feeling in the mouth to which the brain can react by releasing endorphins (endogenous opiates), which can cause dizziness and more or less pleasant feelings known as “chili high” [16].

Alcohol and Caffeine

Symptoms of alcohol intoxication can include dizziness, flushing, unsteady gait, slurred speech and sleepiness.

Symptoms of caffeine intoxication can include lightheadedness, headache, anxiety, palpitations (pounding or racing heart), nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever and seizures [15].

According to some internet sources, individuals with caffeine hypersensitivity or intolerance can experience symptoms of caffeine intoxication even after drinking a single cup of coffee [17,18,19].

Fish Poisoning

Toxins in fish, such as tuna, barracuda, sardines, anchovies, grouper and sea bass, can cause ciguatera, scombroid or clupeotoxin poisoning with itching and tingling around the mouth, nausea, dizziness and weakness appearing 30 minutes to 30 hours after eating [25].

Food Allergies

Common foods that cause allergies in children are cow’s milk, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, and in adults fish and shellfish.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food typically appear within few minutes or, in delayed allergic reaction, within 12 or up to 72 hours after eating and can include:

  • Itch or tingling in the lips, around the mouth or anywhere in the skin, flushing and red itchy rash (hives)
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Dizziness (in severe reaction)

Diagnosis is made by a skin prick test and a blood test that reveals an increase of IgE antibodies.

Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) causes sudden swelling of the lips and tongue, anxiety, generalized itch, paleness, difficulty breathing, wheezing, fainting and rapid heart pulse. First aid includes an injection of epinephrine.

Histamine Intolerance

In individuals with histamine intolerance, symptoms similar to an allergic reaction (itching, flushing, swelling, dizziness, palpitations), can be triggered by eating foods high in histamine [14,21]:

  • Fermented beverages: wine, beer, cider
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, cheese, soy sauce, tofu
  • Pickled foods (vinegar)
  • Processed meats: bacon, ham, salami, sausages
  • Mushrooms
  • Tinned and smoked fish
  • Tinned vegetables
  • Dried fruit, seeds and nuts
  • Yeast extract

Dizziness may also be triggered by the foods that can stimulate the release of histamine in the body, such as avocado, bananas, chocolate, cocoa, egg white, grapefruits, kiwi, mango, nuts, papayas, pineapple, pumpkin, red prunes, spices, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes [14,21].

Celiac Disease

Some individuals with celiac disease may experience dizziness, vertigo or brain fog within an hour after consuming wheat, barley or rye products, which contain gluten [1,2]. Some individuals can develop gluten ataxia–an autoimmune disorder of the cerebellum with muscle incoordination and unsteady gait–, which can improve after several months of gluten-free diet [3]. Other symptoms may include bloating, diarrhea, tiredness, rash and headache [22].

Prevention: Symptoms start to improve after 2 weeks of gluten-free diet and can completely disappear within 3 months [23].

Reactive or Postprandial Hypoglycemia (Dumping Syndrome, “Sugar Hangover”)

Reactive or postprandial hypoglycemia means a severe drop in blood glucose levels after a meal. It more commonly occurs in individuals with gastric bypass surgery, in overweight people and those with diabetes mellitus [4]. One possible mechanism is an excessive increase of the hormone insulin from the pancreas, resulting in a quick movement of glucose from the blood into the cells.

Symptoms typically appear within 30 minutes to 4 hours after a meal [4,5,6].

  • Early symptoms (within 30-60 minutes): fatigue, palpitations, dizzy spells, excessive sweating, facial flushing, diarrhea
  • Late symptoms (within 1-4 hours): hunger, shakiness

After large meals, symptoms may occur even in the absence of hypoglycemia [4].

Prevention: Avoid big, calorie-dense meals, refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta or rice, sugary foods) and milk, and do not drink during and at least 30 minutes after a meal [7].

Postprandial Hypotension

Postprandial hypotension means a significant fall in blood pressure after a meal. It almost exclusively occurs in elderly, especially in those with high blood pressure, nerve damage due to diabetes (diabetic neuropathy) or Parkinson’s disease [8].

Mechanism: After a meal, a large amount of blood moves to the intestinal arteries to assist digestion; normally, the arteries in the muscles and skin would reflexively narrow in order to prevent a drop in blood pressure, but when such a reflex is impaired due to a neurological disorder (dysautonomia), the blood pressure falls [8].

The main symptoms are dizziness and fainting after meals [8].

Prevention [8,9]:

  • Drink a glass or two of water before a meal.
  • Do not take antihypertensive medications before meals.
  • Avoid large meals and meals high in quick carbohydrates (white bread, pasta and rice, potatoes, sugary foods).
  • Sit or lie down after a meal for 30-60 minutes.


The main symptom of a migraine is throbbing headache, usually appearing on one side of the head and lasting 4-72 hours. Other symptoms may include dizziness, excessive sensitivity to lights and sounds and vomiting.

Migraine can be (according to anecdotal reports) triggered by certain foods, for example, alcoholic beverages, especially red wine, caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks), food additives (monosodium glutamate, nitrates, aspartame), aged cheeses high in tyramine, such as camembert and brie, citrus fruits, onions and seafood [11,12].

Hydrops (Menier’s Disease)

In individuals with hydrops or Menier’s disease (an elevated pressure in the inner ear–labyrinth), eating salty or sugary foods, or drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages can cause dizziness, vertigo and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) [10].

Other Triggers of Heart Palpitations After Meals

  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) with heartburn [24]
  • Difficulty swallowing [24]
  • Irritation of the vagus nerve by bloating

Other Common Causes of Dizziness and Heart Palpitations

  • Dehydration
  • Motion sickness
  • Severe anxiety or panic attack
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Starvation and malnutrition
  • Hypokalemia
  • Anemia
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood (hypoxemia)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) [13]
  • Medications for asthma (theophylline), diuretics, beta blockers and medications for high blood pressure

What does NOT likely cause dizziness after eating?

  • H. pylori infection of the stomach (chronic gastritis)
  • Intestinal yeast (candida) overgrowth
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Leaky gut syndrome

How to prevent dizziness after eating?

  • Eat small meals.
  • Avoid high-carb meals and sugary drinks.
  • Stay hydrated.

When to visit a doctor?

Visit a doctor if you experience unusual dizziness, fainting or heart palpitations after meals.

9 Responses to Dizziness After Eating

  1. I had a cough that lasted for 2weeks and after that i developed a severe chest pain, lightheadedness, palpitation and feeling fainting. Most worry some is dizziness after meals. Just of recent i started having joint and muscle pain. I did consult my doctor and had done series of test including HIV which of course was Negative. Please what could my problem sir.

    • Jan Modric says:

      Such symptoms can appear in certain infections, for example Mycoplasma pneumonia, or others. You may discuss with your doctor about tests of your sputum and chest X-ray.

  2. Autumn says:

    Thank you for all of the insightful info. 🙂

  3. Ilse says:

    Shortly after being on antibiotics for 18 weeks I developed this condition where whenever I eat (just about anything) I get extremely lightheaded with a racing heart ,dry mouth and anxiety. This can last for several minutes to several hours and seems to be worse in the morning. I have Hashimoto’s but no leaky gut. Can you tell me what’s happening??

    • Jan Modric says:

      Ilse, I suggest you to visit a doctor. Such symptoms can occur in “dumping syndrome” or “postprandial hypoglycemia.” A doctor that knows your underlying condition can explain this to you. You can also ask a doctor if it is appropriate to take some probiotics, because long-term antibiotic treatment can damage the intestinal flora.

      In meantime you can try having smaller meals and avoid high-carbohydrate meals (sugar, pasta, potatoes..).

  4. holley says:

    i have high BP and the last 3 weeks after i eat 30 min later i get dizzy i take my BP and it has gone up a lot. My normal range is 150/82 but yesturday it went to 280/163 i got dizzy real bad and very quick. i felt fine after 4 hours. just now I had my pills with grape juice and i feel dizzy whats going on? I drive for a living

    • Jan Modric says:

      Holley, you need to check this with a doctor soon. Such high BP spikes are potentially life-threatening. I by no means can give any treatment suggestions. If you suspect any trigger (food, stress?) try to avoid it. This alone may not help long-term, so be sure to get this checked.

  5. Rhonda Glenn says:

    my husband has had a problem after eating any green or red bell peppers for quite a number of years.
    Now sometimes when we’ve had a meal at a friend’s house, he will sometimes get very red and blotchy on his face and neck, and his heart is pounding. I never know if they have marinated the meat in something that might have red pepper in it, as alot of marinades do. Could that cause that much of a problem?

    • Jan Modric says:

      Rhonda, if he is sensitive to small amounts of pepper he may be allergic to peppers – symptoms you’ve mentioned are quite typical. I can’t say if he has an allergy but an allergologist can.

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