Ugh, you’ve done it again. Had that third glass of wine or the whole box of popcorn, and now you’re paying the price. Is this just a stomach bug that can be healed with a your magic Mama’s chicken soup? Or something more serious? Although there are times when we can solve our stomach pain solo, we do need to know just what we’re treating before we play doctor.
Wondering why your midsection is so angry? Here are some symptoms of common conditions that cause stomach pain and what you can do to make them go away.
6 Common Causes of Stomach Pain and How to Treat Them
What it is: This one can be painful. Common symptoms include feeling full fast during a meal, a slicing pain, burning or tightness between your breastbone and navel or bloating. The tricky thing with indigestion is that it can be triggered by something else that is worse. Persistent indigestion may be a side effect of a medication, caused by smoking, thyroid disease, ulcers, infection, or reflux.
What it is: If you rarely have indigestion and feel funny or discomfort after a spicy meal, that may go away on its own. However, if indigestion is a daily occurrence for more than 2 weeks and is coupled with trouble swallowing, fatigue or weakness then absolutely see your doctor to be sure it isn’t due to something more serious.
2. Lactose Intolerance
What it is: When the small intestine fails to product enough lactase, an enzyme that digests milk sugar (lactose), food reaches the colon before it has been processed and absorbed. Undigested lactose interacts with normal bacteria in the colon leading to diarrhea, nausea, bloating, cramping, gas and sometimes even vomiting. These symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to two hours after consuming foods or drinks with lactose.
What it is: The challenge with lactose intolerance is that it often leads to calcium deficiency so it’s always a good idea to see your doctor to create a plan that explores which foods trigger discomfort and which are still okay. Lactose pills may help ease the pain if you take them right before eating lactose.
3. Kidney Stones
What it is: Kidney stones cause delayed stomach pain. That’s because they don’t cause symptoms until they pass on from the kidney towards your bladder. That’s when there may be cloudy or foul smelling urine that can appear brown or pink. There may also be a frequent need to pee but only in small amounts. Nausea and vomiting along with fever and chills are also symptoms. Usually when lower back pain is so severe that you can’t sleep or even sit, that’s when you know you’re suffering.
What to do: When you have kidney stones, you just know something isn’t right, yet sometimes it takes people longer to see several symptoms before they seek medical attention. Don’t wait.
What it is: Gallstones are stones that form in the gall bladder, a tiny sac that hangs out under the liver, emptying bile as needed to digest fats. These stones cause swelling and can block the duct into the intestine, resulting in pain. Gallstone pain tends to strike the right side of the upper abdomen, particularly after fatty meals triggering the gallbladder to contract.
What to do: If the gall bladder is inflamed, any contraction of that nature will be amplified and typically will cause pain. If you feel pain in the upper right side, that’s a red flag, letting you know you need to get checked.
What it is: While appendicitis is most common in young people, it can strike at any age. The typical symptom is sever stomach pain specifically in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen; however, half of those with appendicitis have pain elsewhere. Also not everyone has an appendix in the same place, making the pain site vary.
What to do: It’s so important to monitor symptoms closely because you might need surgery. Many of the symptoms are similar to ones associated with other conditions such as kidney stone, Crohn’s disease even ectopic pregnancy. Expect to have several tests (blood, urine, MRI, CT or ultrasound) to confirm the diagnosis. Because this problem is so serious, some doctors may not wait for test results to surgically remove the appendix.
6. Side Effects From Medications
What it is: No drug is without side effects and sometimes that includes abdominal pain. Oral bisphosphonates, a popular class of drugs that helps preserve bone density and prevent osteoporosis, can cause swelling—and therefore pain—in the lower esophagus. Pain medications known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin can also cause swelling in the stomach lining and may even lead to ulcers.
What to do: Rule of thumb is to trust the gut. When something feels more serious, it usually is. Some stomach issues can either be symptoms of other more serious issues or if left unaddressed, can escalate into something worse. Whenever you’re feeling prolonged discomfort and sharp pain, that’s when it’s worth seeing your doctor.
Dr. Gina Sam is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. She is the Director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center specializing in achalasia, gastroesophageal reflux, functional disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis, and anorectal disorders including pelvic floor dyssnergia and fecal incontinence.