Abdominal or stomach pain refers to pain that occurs in the area below your ribs and the pelvic region. It can be dull, achy, crampy, sharp, or intermittent. It may occur because of inflammation or illnesses that affect the organs in the abdomen. Some of the major organs in the abdomen include the stomach, intestines, appendix, spleen, kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas, and liver. You may experience significant abdominal pain when your digestive tract is affected by bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections. This article looks at the common causes of abdominal pain and available treatment options.
- Food Poisoning
Eating contaminated food can lead to food poisoning. While it may seem a common problem, it can also be distressing and life threatening if you do not receive immediate medical attention. In most cases, bacteria such as Escherichia coli and salmonella usually contaminate the food. A virus such as the norovirus that causes vomiting and diarrhea can also cause abdominal pain. You may experience the symptoms of food poisoning within one or two days after eating contaminated food. Some of the common symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal pain, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
- Food Allergies or Intolerance
Some people are always allergic to eating a certain type of food. The unpleasant reaction to something you ate is known as food intolerance. A food allergy occurs when your body’s immune system is reacting to the food you ate when it does not need to. However, food intolerance is usually caused by a problem with digesting the food and your immune system is not responsible for the reaction. This can cause abdominal pain because your body’s immune system is reacting to the food you ate or intolerance to gluten, lactose or other food additives.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that affects the large intestine. It is usually caused by muscle contractions in the intestine, nerve abnormalities in your digestive system, or inflammations in the intestines. Besides causing abdominal pain, other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include cramping, constipation, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Unlike food poisoning, IBS is a chronic condition that needs to be managed for the long term. Some people can control their symptoms by managing their stress levels, lifestyle, and most importantly, their diet. Severe symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be treated with medication and counseling.
- Gas in Your Abdomen
Excess gas in your stomach is usually caused by the foods you eat. The digestive system can create gas when the bacteria in your large intestine is involved in the digestion process. Undigested food from the small intestine combines with bacteria in the large intestine making carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. Too much gas in your abdomen can cause pain and discomfort because of the amount of pressure it exerts in your intestines. Swallowing air when you eat and drink also makes up gas that can then be released through burping or flatulence. You can also use over-the-counter medications such as antacids, probiotics, or lactase products if you have lactose intolerance.
- Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a type of chronic inflammatory illness that affects the digestive system causing abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss. The inflammation can spread to the deeper layers of the affected bowel tissue and may affect different parts of the digestive tract. The symptoms caused by Crohn’s disease can be painful, debilitating and can lead to life-threatening complications. While doctors are still on the search for a cure, the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease can still be reduced by therapies and other medical treatments.
Treatment Options for Abdominal Pain
Pain caused by obstruction of the upper small intestine and obstruction of the stomach may be relieved temporarily by vomiting to reduce the distention caused by the blockage. Antacids may relieve heartburns and ulcer pain from duodenum as they neutralize the acid responsible for causing the pain. A laxative or mild stool softener can help with constipation and reduce gas pain. Some home remedies for abdominal pain include avoiding foods you are allergic to, chewing food slowly, eating a healthy diet, and easing stress with regular exercises or meditation.
Eating healthy and avoiding foods that cause an allergy can reduce your chances of suffering from abdominal pain. Observing hygiene and incorporating good eating habits in your lifestyle prevents you from contracting bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. It is important to contact your doctor if you are experiencing severe abdominal pain that is persistent or keeps coming back.