Getting to the root of the problem by knowing some causes


Are you using the word stomach as the area of your body that you think hurts? Could it be your digestive system having issues, not your stomach? The gastrointestinal tract is more than the stomach. Can you identify if the pain is in your upper abdominal area, your small intestine, or your colon? The challenge of defining where the hurt is coming from is why doctors must investigate all possibilities. Keep a journal of when you feel the pain – on an empty stomach, after a meal, when you awaken, before or after a bowel movement, or before or after your medication. Journalize where you feel the pain: in the upper abdominal area, on the left side or the right side, or in the lower abdominal area. Your journal also needs to keep track of how often you are having bowel movements. This will help the doctors understand their detective work to find out where the pain is coming from.

Here are five common reasons why you may be having stomach pain:

Overeating and/or eating too fast. If you eat too much, you may experience stomach bloating and distention to the point of discomfort. When you eat too fast, you swallow more air, which can cause bloating and gas. Slowing down to properly chew your food helps to break down larger particles of food into smaller ones, aiding digestion.

Eating foods that trigger gas production. Some foods like beans or apricots contain sugars called FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosacchar-ides and polyols), which are harder to digest and trigger the production of gas and lead to bloating and distention. Abdominal bloating and gas are among the most common digestive complaints that doctors hear from patients. Not everyone experiences tummy bloating in the same way and symptoms can vary. 

Stomach fluSymptoms of stomach flu, more correctly known as gastroenteritis – generally refer to an irritation of the stomach or gastrointestinal tract, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Many, many viruses and many bacteria can result in symptoms that someone would describe as stomach flu. Norovirus and rotavirus are, in medical language, both spread by what is called fecal-oral transmission. They can also be spread through food preparation. In fact, norovirus is a leading cause of foodborne illness. 

A perforated ulcer. An untreated sore on the lining of the stomach (an ulcer). An ulcer can go through all the layers of the digestive tract and form a hole (perforation). A perforated ulcer lets food and digestive juices leak out of the digestive tract. This is a serious health problem. Over time, you may have had minor symptoms, and then suddenly excruciating pain and you feel terrible.

An inflamed organ elsewhere in the digestive tract. Any time an organ is inflamed, it can hurt, and sometimes the stomach feels it first. For example, inflammation of the pancreas, which sits behind the stomach, may be mistaken for stomach pain; inflammation of an appendix can also be interpreted as stomach pain. A dull discomfort typically starts around the belly button before moving to the lower right part of a person’s abdomen, where it turns into a sharp pain. Nausea and vomiting often follow.

When asking, “Why does my stomach hurt?” it helps to consider how much pain you have and how long you have been experiencing it. The severity and duration of your symptoms matter.

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Updated: August 16, 2017