How Does The Intestinal Tract Normally Function
Throughout the day we constantly produce stomach acid. We produce even more when we eat a meal. Stomach acid is required to assist in digesting food, killing potentially harmful bacterial and is also helpful in activating various digestive enzymes.
Think of your intestinal tract as a conveyor belt that constantly pushes our intestinal contents forward throughout the day. Our esophagus pushes food into the stomach, the stomach pushes stomach acid and partially digested food into the small intestine, the small intestine absorbs ours nutrients and pushes the non-absorbable material into the colon and the colon pushes material to the rectum.
This conveyor belt action of the intestinal tract is primarily under the control of the neurological network referred to as the Autonomic Nervous System . The ANS is responsible for the contractions that empty the stomach and propel food along its course through the small and large intestines.
The conveyor belt action of the intestinal tract works 24 hours per day emptying the stomachs contents and passing it further along the way. When we eat food, the stomach is stimulated to produce even greater amounts of stomach acid and to empty even faster. This is an extremely important point because slowed emptying of the stomach triggers the single most common mimic of hunger, an excessive accumulation of stomach acid known as dyspepsia.
When To See A Doctor About Stomach Pain
If your stomach problems stick around for a few days or more, its time to call your doctor and talk to them about any irregular stomach pains or frequent pain, diarrhea, nausea or constipation.
“As you prepare for your appointment, keep track of what you eat or if theres anything about your lifestyle that may cause stomach pain,” Dr. McKee says. “Being aware of all noticeable symptoms you experience can help us determine the cause.”
How Many Carbohydrates Should We Eat
To answer this question we need to look at the evolution of our Stone Age ancestors and the amount of carbohydrates they consumed. Scientific evidence suggests that our primitive ancestors ate a diet that consisted predominantly of animal tissue and plants known as browsing foliage .
During the Stone Age, carbohydrates were very uncommon in the wild and consisted of occasional roots, wild fruit or honey. Overall, the availability of carbohydrates was uncommon. Other than being on a tropical island, when was the last time you saw some fruit such as an apple or orange when walking in the woods? These foods do not grow commonly in the wild. They are cultivated plants that became more readily available after the agricultural revolution.
Many Americans consume more carbohydrates per day than our Stone Age ancestors consumed in a year. The amounts of carbohydrates available for human consumption didnt begin to increase until the agricultural revolution when man learned to grow grains such as wheat, barley and millet. The domestication of livestock and the consumption of livestock milk became an additional source of carbohydrates as well.
The point of this is to help you understand that we were designed through evolution to adapt to eating predominantly animal tissue and low amounts of carbohydrates. We did not develop the metabolic ability to handle such large quantities of carbohydrates in our diet and our bodies are suffering because of it.
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Reasons You Wake Up With Stomach Pain Every Morning
Almost everyone has experienced an upset stomach once in a blue moon, either as a result of indigestion, illness, or just something youve consumed the night before that cause it. A night of heavy drinking can cause your stomach to ache the morning after. However, having stomach pain every morning regularly may be an indication of an underlying condition.
We at Mayor Boss did some research and figured out why some people always wake up with a stomach ache every morning. And on that note, lets dive in.
Causes Of Stomach Pain At Night
Stomach pain at night can be a symptom of a mild or serious health condition that seems to worsen when we lie down. It may also be associated with our digestive tract and its response to food consumed in the evening. Whether it is a stomach ache that becomes more uncomfortable as the evening wears on or a sudden pain that awakens us during a sound sleep, lets look at some possible causes.
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An Inflammatory Bowel Disease
What it is: You get long-term swelling and irritation in different parts of your digestive tract. It happens when something goes haywire in your immune system. It isnât the same as irritable bowel syndrome . Crohn’s can affect any part of your digestive tract . Ulcerative colitis involves only the large intestine .
What the cramps feel like: It depends on the type of IBD you have. With Crohn’s, youâll feel cramps and pain in the right lower or middle parts of your belly. They can be mild to severe. If you have ulcerative colitis, the cramps will be on the lower left side of your stomach.
Other symptoms: Which ones you have depend on the specific type of IBD. They include:
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.
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Noisy Abdomen / Rumbling
A noisy gut does not always mean youre hungry. There may be other reasons why your stomach is churning and gurgling. The digestive system causes belly noises, known as borborygmi when fluids or air moves around your small and large intestines.
Borborygmi Definition: The term for the gurgling or rumbling noises made by the movement of gas and fluids in the intestines. During the process called peristalsis, the small intestine and stomach muscles contract and move contents forward in your gastrointestinal tract. These gas noises in stomach can occur both when the stomach is empty and when its full.
Peristalsis Definition: A series of wave-like contraction and relaxation of stomach muscles. Two hours after the stomach contents are emptied, the brain signals the digestive muscles to begin peristalsis again. The belly noises and contractions of an empty stomach can make you hungry. A noisy gut may be louder in this case because the intestines and stomach are empty the stomach noises and pain are not muffled. Take note that you may swallow a lot of air because of eating too fast or talking while eating. This can lead you to have louder stomach rumbles after eating.
A Bladder Or Kidney Infection
Bladder infections can definitely cause abdominal pain, as well as painful and urgent urination, and/or blood in the urine. If its a kidney infection youre dealing with, you may also have a fever, chills, thigh pain, and joint tenderness.
How to treat it: Most cases can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics, though severe cases may require hospitalization and IV antibiotics. In rare cases, surgery may be required, says Dr. Dann.
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Heartburn And The Autonomic Nervous System
As discussed above, the Autonomic Nervous System is a neurological network connecting your brain, spinal column and nerves to every organ in your body. This connectivity allows the ANS helps regulate and coordinate the function of all your bodys organs.
The intestinal tract is primarily under the control of the parasympathetic branch of the ANS. The parasympathetic branch is primarily responsible for the contractions that empty the stomach and propel food along its course through the small and large intestines.
The ANS is particularly involved with the control and flow of the acid within our stomachs. The stomach is constantly producing acid throughout the day and acid production is increased when we eat. When we swallow food, it passes through the esophagus down into the stomach. There is a valve between the esophagus and the stomach meant to prevent acid from splashing backwards into the esophagus when the stomach begins contracting in its effort to begin digesting our food.
While the stomach is contracting, the valve between the esophagus and the stomach needs to remain tightly closed otherwise the acid can splash backwards and cause the symptoms of burning, belching and bitter taste we associated with heartburn or GERD.
Other Causes Of Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can also be caused by problems in body systems other than the digestive tract including:
- Abdominal trauma: Damage of the organs or blood vessels within the abdomen can result in , even if there is no sign of trauma from the outside. Always seek professional medical care after an accident or injury from blunt force or an explosion to rule out internal damage.
- Abdominal tumor or mass: Ranging from a simple cyst to cancer, an causing pain and other symptoms requires prompt medical attention to diagnose and treat the problem.
- : A condition in which the uterine lining grows abnormally outside the uterus. Symptoms include lower back and abdominal pain during and after your period, cramps, , and heavy bleeding. Medication can help relieve endometriosis symptoms surgery is necessary in some cases.
- Hernia: A painful is one sign of an . A hernia causing problems in the lower abdomen is usually an . A painful hernia may involve surgical repair.
- : Symptoms vary widely depending on the cause is usually severe and felt in the side of the abdomen and moves into the lower abdomen and groin. Treatment also depends on the cause.
- Medication side effect: Examples include anti-cancer drugs, , and sodium phosphate.
- Ovarian cyst: Although they dont often cause symptoms, ovarian cysts symptoms include lower abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, pain with bowel movements, and possible changes in menstruation. See a gynecologist for signs of ovarian cysts.
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What Can I Do About My Upset Stomach
Usually, you can treat your upset stomach at home with medications like:
- bismuth subsalicylate
- antacids containing calcium carbonate, aluminum or magnesium hydroxide
- non-prescription strength acid-blockers containing famotidine or ranitidine
To learn more, see “What can I do about occasional indigestion?“
When trying a non-prescription product, be sure the product is right for you. Always read and follow the label. Check with your pharmacist if you have any questions.
See your doctor if you have trouble swallowing, pain when swallowing, blood in the stool or black tarry stools , bleeding from the rectum, fever or chills, unexplained weight loss or fatigue, chest pain, persistent vomiting, vomiting blood, moderate to severe abdominal pain, dehydration, no bowel movements for 7 days, pencil-thin bowel movements, or bowel problems that keep coming back.
These tips are intended for adults. If your baby or child has an upset stomach, get medical advice.
What Investigations Might Be Advised
Some conditions may not need any investigations. Otherwise, the type of investigation will depend on which part of the gut is affected. Blood tests sometimes provide useful information about what is causing abdominal pain. Sometimes an X-ray or ultrasound scan will be carried out, which will look for specific things your doctor may suspect. The gut can be looked at directly with endoscopy. A gastroscopy will look at the oesophagus and stomach, and a colonoscopy will look at the large bowel. More details can be found in the individual condition leaflets, mentioned above.
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Belly Pain In The Lower Left Side That’s Worse When You Move
Abdominal pain in the left lower area of the abdomen may signify diverticulitis, small pockets in the colon that can become obstructed and tear. Traditional treatment includes antibiotics and stool softeners to reduce the risk of abscess formation. Physicians say according to recent research, antibiotics may no longer be needed in this scenario, recommending acetaminophen instead.
Diagnosing Cramps With No Period
Always call a doctor if you have cramps that wonât go away, whether or not you have your period.
Your doctor will want to know if your pain is sudden or ongoing. The more details you can give, the faster they may be able to diagnose and treat you. Youâll be asked questions about your symptoms and your periods.
Your doctor may do tests or procedures to learn the cause of your cramps. If your doctor suspects it is related to your uterus, or ovaries, common tests are:
Laparoscopy, a type of exploratory surgery to look at the structures inside your pelvic area, including your uterus, cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
Your doctor may refer you to someone who specialize in stomach or intestinal disorders or a urologist if they suspect that cramps are caused by any of those areas .
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Pelvic Pain.”
Glencoe Regional Health Services: “Possible causes of ovarian pain.”
St. Luke’s Health System: “Ruptured Ovarian Cyst.”
Kruszka, P.S. American Family Physician, July 15, 2010.
KidsHealth: “Pregnancy Calendar: Week 4.”
KidsHealth: “Pregnancy Calendar: Week 5.”
WomensHealth.gov: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome Fact Sheet.”
Center for Young Women’s Health: “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.”
Christiana Care Health System: “Pelvic-Floor Muscle Dysfunction.”
UpToDate: âPatient information: Chronic pelvic pain in women .
UpToDate: Patient information: Irritable bowel syndrome .â
American Cancer Society: âWhat Is Ovarian Cancer?â
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Vague Upper Abdominal Pain Associated With Nausea And Belching
Sometimes stomach pain is hard to identify or comes with multiple symptoms. Vague pain in the upper and mid-abdominal area that is linked to nausea, burping, or belching could be signs of a heart attack, particularly in older patients. Physicians say tests like an ECG or cardiac markers can be lifesaving. They also warn that vomiting with back or jaw pain and shortness of breath can also be a sign of a life-threatening emergency.
Upper Abdominal Pain Between The Ribcage
If you develop an aching or stabbing pain or pressure in the upper abdominal area just under the ribs, this may indicate a heart-related problem. Physicians say this pain is often accompanied by shortness of breath and is concerning if the pain persists. People often assume this type of pain is indigestion, and while that may be the case, anyone with risk factors such as diabetes or hypertension should see a doctor as soon as possible.
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Why Does My Stomach Hurt
There are numerous reasons for abdominal pain. It can come from any of the organs in your belly gallbladder, pancreas, liver, stomach and intestines or the abdominal wall the outer shell of the body. Sometimes you feel the pain in your belly, but its actually coming from the chest, back or pelvis.
Abdominal wall pain is common and easy to miss as healthcare professionals may direct their attention to internal organs as a cause of the pain. Once the abdominal wall is considered as a suspect, it is generally easy to nail down this diagnosis. If a patient strains the ab wall muscles from exertion, he may tell his doctor that he has right sided stomach pain. Clearly, this pain is not caused by a diseased internal organ such as the gallbladder or the stomach.
Healthcare providers can often determine where pain is coming from by taking a detailed history from you. Depending upon the physicians style, you may be simply asked to relate your medical story in your own words as a narrative. Other physicians may prefer to ask a series of detailed questions. Others may utilize both techniques. This medical history is paramount, even more important than the physical examination. After the history and physical, certain diagnostic tests may be advised to make an accurate diagnosis.
What are the most common causes of abdominal pain?
Sudden Stomach Cramps With Diarrhoea
If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause may be a tummy bug . This means you have a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel. It should get better without treatment after a few days.
Gastroenteritis may be caused by:
- coming into close contact with someone who’s infected
- eating contaminated food
If you have repeated bouts of stomach cramps and diarrhoea, you may have a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome .
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Learn What May Be Causing Your Stomach Pain And When You Should See A Doctor
Have you ever had stomach pains, but couldnt pinpoint the cause? Fortunately, stomach pain usually isnt cause for concern.
“An upset stomach is very common and can be related to a number of health issues,” explains Dr. Jessica McKee, gastroenterologist at Geisinger Medical Center. “Often, it goes away on its own. Still, it can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious.”
Here are some different causes for an upset stomach and when you may need to see a doctor.
How Common Are Stomachaches
Just about everybody will experience abdominal pain at one point or another. Most causes of abdominal pain are not serious and resolve spontaneously. A healthcare provider can usually readily diagnose and treat these conditions. However, abdominal pain can also be a sign of a serious illness, or even an emergency. Abdominal pain is responsible for some 5% of emergency room visits.
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