Stress And Stomach Pain: When Should You See A Specialist
Do you ever feel like theres a knot in your stomach when youre worried or stressed? Do nerves make you feel butterflies in your gut? If so, youre not alone.
As a gastroenterologist, a specialist in the treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver, I help patients determine if their stomach pain is stress-related or if their symptoms are caused by a more serious condition.
You Might Have A Food Intolerance
If you find that your cramps keep happening after you eat certain things, you might have an intolerance to a specific food substance. Common culprits of intolerances are foods that are designated as fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols , which is a fancy designation for poorly-digested carbohydrates, Dr. Ahuja says. Examples include fruits like apples and pears, veggies like cauliflower and lentils, and dairy products. In fact, trouble processing lactose is the most common type of food intolerance, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
In addition to getting abdominal pain when you eat that particular food, you might also deal with symptoms like nausea, bloating, gas, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, and more, the Cleveland Clinic says. And keep in mind that different people can be intolerant to the same food to different extents. For example, Dr. Krishnareddy explains, someone who is mildly lactose intolerant may be able to digest cheese and yogurt but not a milky latte, whereas someone with a severe intolerance may not be able to digest any form of dairy very well.
When To Call The Doctor About Abdominal Pain
If your abdominal pain is serious, doesn’t go away, or keeps coming back, talk to your doctor. Call 911 right away if your belly hurts because you had a recent injury there or if you have any chest pain.
You should also contact your doctor as soon as you can if you have symptoms along with the pain, such as:
- Can’t keep food down for more than 2 days
- Signs you’re getting dehydrated, including not urinating frequently, dark-colored urine, and being very thirsty
- Can’t have a bowel movement, especially if you’re also vomiting
- Pain when you pee, or you need to urinate often
Also call your doctor if:
- Your belly is tender to the touch
- Pain lasts more than a few hours
You may have other symptoms that could be a sign of a problem inside your body that needs treatment as soon as possible. Get medical care right away if you have abdominal pain and you also:
- Have unexplained weight loss
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Why Do I Have Cramps But No Period
Pelvic pain similar to a menstrual period can happen at times when no period is due or can occur because of conditions other than the monthly cycle. Sometimes it is hard to tell the exact reason for cramps that feel like a menstrual period.
The following diseases and conditions are examples of situations that can cause pain or cramps when not on your period.
What To Eat And Drink
To help prevent stomach cramps, consider what you eat before running, and see if there might be a connection, Galloway says. It might just be about digestion. Give yourself more time between eating and running.
“If you have a problem eating 2 hours before, eat 3 hours before,” Galloway says.
Also pay attention to what you eat and its effects on your running. “A simple carb by itself and water usually is fine,” Galloway says.
It’s a matter of finding what works for you. For instance, Galloway says many people tell him they have gut problems after eating bananas, but not apples, before a run.
To prevent muscle cramps, McCall also tells runners to get enough fluid before exercising. His advice:
- Drink 16 to 20 ounces 45 minutes before training.
- Drink 2 to 4 ounces every 15 minutes during a training session.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are naturally rich in water.
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When Should My Child See A Doctor
Many children recover from abdominal pain quickly and dont need to see a doctor.
Take your child to a doctor immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department if they:
- are in pain that goes on for longer than 24 hours or if youre worried about them
- have pain that is severe or debilitating even though they have taken pain medicine
- are hard to wake and are unwell
- vomit for more than 24 hours, or they are unable to keep any fluids down, refusing to drink any fluids and their vomit is green
- have blood in their poo or vomit
- are having trouble doing a wee
- have pain and lumps in the groin
- were recently injured for example, falling onto the handlebars of a bike
If your child is still a baby and they have fewer than 4 wet nappies per day, as well as their abdominal pain, you should take them to a doctor immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
What Do Muscle Spasms Feel Like
Muscle spasms range in intensity from mild, uncomfortable twitches to significant discomfort to intense, severe pain. The spastic muscle may feel harder than normal to the touch and/or appear visibly distorted. It may twitch. Spasms typically last from seconds to 15 minutes or longer, and may recur multiple times before going away.
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Serious Symptoms That Might Indicate A Life
In some cases, stomach cramps may accompany symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care for symptoms such as:
Bloody or black stools, or major
Difficulty breathing or severe
Fainting, change in consciousness, or
Pulsating mass in abdomen
Rapid pulse or rapid breathing
Severe abdominal pain or swelling
unrelated to normal menstruation
or black material
Yellow skin and eyes
Liver And Gallbladder Issues
Pain in the upper right stomach that comes and goes could signal a problem with the gallbladder, such as gallstones.
Gallstones can block the ducts of the gallbladder, making digestion more difficult. This causes pain shortly after eating, especially after very fatty meals. People with gallstones may notice that the pain appears a few hours after eating, lasts for 46 hours, and then disappears.
Gallstones sometimes pass on their own. If they do not, they can block the biliary ducts, which can affect liver function. Untreated gallstones may also cause problems with the pancreas.
If a person experiences vomiting, pale stool, or a fever along with symptoms of gallstones, they should seek emergency medical treatment.
Otherwise, see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Home treatment is not effective for gallstones.
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When Should I See My Doctor
Sometimes, abdominal pain can signal something serious. You should see your doctor immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department if you:
- have pain that is severe and is getting worse
- have pain that spreads to your chest, neck or shoulders
- have pain that lasts for several hours or longer
- have pain and vaginal bleeding and you are pregnant
- have pain in the scrotum
- have pain and vomiting or shortness of breath
- have pain and vomiting blood
- have blood in bowel motions or urine
- cant pee , do a poo or fart
- are experiencing vomiting that wont go away
If you have a sudden, severe, debilitating pain in your abdomen, go to your nearest hospital emergency department or call triple zero immediately and ask for an ambulance. It may be a sign of a serious illness that requires urgent treatment.
Can Stomachaches Be Prevented
Not all belly pain can be prevented. But to help avoid common types of stomachaches:
- Wash your hands before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom.
- Don’t overeat, and try not to eat right before going to sleep.
- Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to keep food moving through your digestive system.
- Avoid foods that have passed their expiration date or or weren’t stored properly.
- If you have a food allergy or intolerance, avoid eating foods that make you sick. If you have a food allergy, always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors, and know when you should use them.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms can feel like a stitch in the side or be agonizingly painful. You may see a twitch under your skin and it may feel hard to the touch. Spasms are involuntary. The muscles contract and it takes treatment and time for them to relax. They are very common, especially in older adults and athletes.
If the muscle spasm is severe, happens frequently, responds poorly to treatment and is not related to obvious causes, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. The spasms could be related to underlying factors.
How Can I Feel Better
Most bellyaches don’t have a serious cause. They can happen for many different reasons, but most are easy to treat.
If stress or anxiety seem to be behind the pain, the doctor may recommend that you talk to a counselor or therapist. They help people figure out what’s behind their stress and give advice on how to fix problems or handle them better.
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What Are Muscle Spasms
Otherwise known as muscle cramps, spasms occur when your muscle involuntary and forcibly contracts uncontrollably and cant relax. These are very common and can affect any of your muscles. They can involve part or all of a muscle, or several muscles in a group. The most common sites for muscle spasms are the thighs, calves, feet, hands, arms and abdomen. When occurring in the calves, especially, such cramps are known as charley horses. A leg cramp that happens at night when youre at rest or asleep is called a nocturnal leg cramp.
Why Do I Get Stomach Cramps At Night
The word stomach cramp is nonspecific and refers to n number of varied signs or sensations rather than a true stomach muscle cramps. People commonly refer to this word to explain pain in the abdominal area. Apart from this, women especially pregnant women often complain about peculiar stomach cramps at night which may include pregnancy-related stomach cramps like baby stomach cramps at night or period related issues.
In the wake of these uncertainties, let us see what is a stomach cramp and how stomach cramps at night can be prevented.
Should I Be Getting Screened Regularly For Colon Cancer Or Other Gi Tract Cancers
As of 2021, the United States Preventative Services Task Force and major GI medical societies recommend that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer are regularly screened beginning at age 45.
People who have a family history of colorectal cancer or other GI tract cancers, including stomach or pancreas cancer, or a history of GI conditions like inflammatory bowel disease may need routine cancer screening earlier than age 45.
Talk your primary care physician about your risk and ask if you should get tested.
Figuring Out The Cause
When youre suffering from stomach pain, diarrhea, or both, one of the most important things is to try to determine the root cause. Quite often, this type of abdominal pain is due to stomach flu or another virus, spoiled food, or food that one has developed a sensitivity to. Unless diarrhea and pain are accompanied by other severe symptoms, such as a high fever, the best course of action is to wait it out.
If you feel that it is a reaction to food, most times symptoms will subside in a day or two. However, there are some instances of food poisoning that definitely warrant a doctor visit but again, you will see other severe symptoms along with general GI upset.
If you think you may be having a reaction to food, such as those with celiac disease who have a sensitivity to gluten, its worthwhile to try an elimination diet to confine the source of the upset. It is possible to suddenly develop a food sensitivity later in life its also estimated that up to 20 percent of Americans have food sensitivity. Please note that celiac is a serious condition and ongoing exposure to gluten can cause increasing damage. Celiac should not be self-diagnosed.
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What Causes Stomach Cramps At Night
The causes are different like stomach cramps at night pregnancy to the below
- Digestive problems are the most common cause according to doctors. Eating close to bedtime means getting close to indigestion.
- Acid reflux, this condition causes the stomach acids to travel up into the food pipe leading to burning sensation and stomach pain.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease is also one more major cause of stomach pain at night. Food pipe inflammation condition intensifies at night.
- Stomach and intestinal, or peptic, ulcers lead to inflammation, and this inflammation increases at night.
- Gallstones and associated symptoms can easily worsen at night when heavy and fatty food is taken.
- Few people complain about nighttime stomach cramps associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Celiac disease often leads to small intestine inflammation which further leads to stomach cramps and abdominal pain.
- Crohns disease, a type of IBD inflames the lining of the digestive tract that leads to abdominal pain at night.
- Menstrual cramps or endometriosis is also one of the leading causes of stomach cramps at night in women.
- Food allergies or intolerances for people who cant digest a few foods often experience stomach cramps.
- Lactose intolerance-a food intolerance leads to stomach pain and cramping.
- Constipation and strained tissues also lead to stomach cramps at night.
Urgent Advice: Speak To Your Gp As Soon As Possible If:
- you have severe abdominal pain, especially if it’s concentrated in one area
- the pain starts suddenly or unexpectedly
If your GP is closed, phone 111.
Serious causes of sudden severe abdominal pain include:
- appendicitis the swelling of the appendix means your appendix will need to be removed
- a bleeding or perforated stomach ulcer
- acute cholecystitis inflammation of the gallbladder, which may need to be removed
- kidney stones small stones may be passed out in your urine, but larger stones may block the kidney tubes, and you’ll need to go to hospital to have them broken up
- diverticulitis inflammation of the small pouches in the bowel that sometimes requires treatment with antibiotics in hospital
If your GP suspects you have one of these conditions, they may refer you to hospital immediately.
Sudden and severe pain in your abdomen can also sometimes be caused by an infection of the stomach and bowel . It may also be caused by a pulled muscle in your abdomen or by an injury.
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How To Prevent Cramps While Running
To avoid side cramps, Galloway suggests deep lung breathing. His advice: Put your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply. If you’re breathing from your lower lungs, your stomach should rise and fall.
Side cramps affect beginners more than longtimers, Galloway notes. “Veteran runners shift to lower lung breathing,” he says.
To avoid side pain, don’t start your run jackrabbit fast. Many side stitches are simply a result of that. “It’s always better during the first 10 minutes to be more gentle,” Galloway says.
Nervousness can play a role, too. When nerves hit, “you have a tendency to breathe more rapidly, or some do,” Galloway says. “When that happens, a lot of people revert to shallow breathing,” which can bring on a side cramp.
What Are The Potential Complications Of Stomach Cramps
Complications associated with stomach cramps can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because stomach cramps can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage.
It is important to visit your healthcare provider when you have persistent stomach cramps or other unusual symptoms. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can help reduce any potential complications including:
due to a decreased desire to drink fluids or fluid loss due to diarrhea and fever
Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies due to a decreased desire to eat
Spread of cancer
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How Are Muscle Spasms Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will need to know, in addition to your medical history and medications, information about:
- How bad the pain is.
- When do the muscle spasms happen .
- How long the cramps last.
- What the muscle spasms feel like.
- When the muscle spasms started.
- Any other symptoms youre experiencing.
When To Make An Appointment To See Your Doctor
Schedule an appointment to see your doctor if:
- Your stomach pain doesnt go away within a couple of days.
- The pain comes back after going away.
- Symptoms like diarrhea dont go away within a couple of days.
- Youre urinating more or less often, and/or its painful.
- You have unintended weight loss.
Know your body, Dr. Kingsley says. If you start having pain that you have not had before and does not go away, you should contact your doctor to be evaluated further.
Bottom line: Trust your gut! Contact your doctor if youre concerned about lingering or unusual stomach pain.
National Health Service, Stomach Ache
National Health Service Inform, Stomach Ache and Abdominal Pain
U.S. National Library of Medicine, Abdominal Pain
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