Have you ever felt jolts of pain in your stomach, and wondered what it was about and how you could relieve the pain? Thousands of people experience this every day. In fact, it's one of the most common, non-life-threatening issues we deal with. Stomach Pain can be safely treated at home—however, you should also know which additional symptoms call for professional help.
Fear not, my sore-bellied friend: we've got some remedies and tips for you.
What Causes a Stomach Ache?
Out of the variety of ailments involved in abdominal pain, the common characteristic is feeling discomfort below the chest and down to the groin. The most typical causes are:
Dyspepsia, commonly known as indigestion, is a digestive tract discomfort that usually occurs during or after eating. Common symptoms are burning or pain in the upper abdomen (between the base of the sternum and the belly button) and a sensation of having overeaten.
Constipation or costiveness is the condition of being unable to release solid waste from your body quickly. If you go to the bathroom less than three times a week, you may suffer from constipation. Associated symptoms may include constant belly aches and pain during bowel movements.
When there are viruses, bacteria, or parasites in the digestive tract that provoke inflammation of the intestinal membrane. In addition to abdominal pain, it’s common for cases of gastroenteritis to include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or headaches.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
In addition to stomach aches, this syndrome may also cause diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal distention. IBS Diagnosis requires further study such as colonoscopies or sigmoidoscopies, and patients can usually control their symptoms through diet, medication, stress reduction, and probiotics.
This illness is caused by the presence of viruses, bacteria, or the toxins they produce in our food. This condition is generally brief and is likely to disappear in a few days; most common symptoms are stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Should I See a Doctor If I Have Stomach Pain?
Even though most cases of abdominal pain are not a symptom of a serious condition, it’s crucial to identify those situations in which it is. A U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) article strongly advises to visit the doctor in the following cases:
- When the pain is very intense and sudden.
- When the pain extends to your chest, neck, or shoulder.
- If there is blood in your bowel movements.
- If you vomit blood.
- If your abdomen feels rigid and the pain increases when you touch it (becomes sensitive).
- If you find it impossible to evacuate—particularly if there’s also vomiting.
Stomach Pain Remedy Options
If your stomach pain is not a fit for the cases listed above and not a particular cause for concern, we invite you to learn about some home remedies and medications that have helped others feel better, as well as some habits that can prevent the pain from returning.
Home Remedies for Stomach Aches
We can prepare many remedies for abdominal pain at home. Most of the ingredients needed are foods that we probably already have available in the pantry, so preparing them is simple. Some examples are:
Drink a Lot of Water
Water is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of our body, so being dehydrated only worsens the symptoms of stomach pain. If you also have diarrhea or vomiting, the loss of fluids make it a must to replenish the vital liquid in our body. Under normal conditions, an adult body requires approximately two liters of water per day; but if your body is losing fluids faster than normal, you will need more than that.
This herb contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols that, among other benefits, promote bowel movements making your digestion faster while reducing symptoms—such as nausea and diarrhea. You can have fresh sliced ginger, add it to your food as a seasoning, or make an infusion by boiling the root with water in small pieces.
Mint or Spearmint
Their leaves contain a compound called menthol which, besides having a very fresh taste and smell, helps reduce intestinal spasms, prevents vomiting and diarrhea, and relieves pain. Both herbs can be found fresh or dried and can be consumed without preparation—by chewing the leaves—or as an infusion.
Applying heat can help relax the abdominal muscles and reduce painful spasms. Many people find relief by taking a warm bath or applying warm compresses to the belly. Another practical option for applying localized heat is the use of a hot water bottle. These bags are made of thick rubber and have an airtight lid, which keeps the water warmer and prevents spills. They’re available at almost any drugstore.
Recommended by doctors for people with diarrhea. Its name is an acronym for the words Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. The high levels of starch in these foods make for firmer stools. Plus, these foods contain potassium and magnesium, which are two of the electrolytes we need to replenish in the body to avoid dehydration, reducing muscle spasms.
An effective hydrator thanks to its high levels of potassium and magnesium. As mentioned above, these electrolytes are lost when experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, and are essential for the proper functioning of the digestive tract. Sip coconut water up to two glasses every 4-6 hours to keep your body hydrated and reduce stomach pain.
Stomach Pain Medication
Besides home remedies, there are a number of drugs available for relieving stomach pain. They have very specific functions, so your doctor will be able to tell you which medication—or combination of medications—is right for you depending on your symptoms and medical history. The most common types of medication you may be prescribed for abdominal pain are:
Muscle spasms, commonly called colics, are a leading cause of stomach pain. Antispasmodics reduce these spasms by decreasing the movements of the digestive tract. Some examples of this type of medication are: butylscopolamine (Buscapine), mebeverine (Duspatalin) and papaverine hydrochloride (Inderal).
When the pain is caused by an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract—such as colitis or Crohn's disease, your doctor will probably prescribe an intestinal anti-inflammatory, like mesalazine, which is also known as mesalamine.
Prescribed for bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics improperly or without a prescription can lead to antibiotic resistance. Always follow your doctor’s instructions when taking antibiotics—including continuing to take them for as long as prescribed, even if you are feeling better.
Antiflatulents are used to prevent gases from being produced in the stomach and intestines, which helps avoid the pain caused by their accumulation. Some examples are: activated charcoal, simethicone, and dimethicone.
These compounds help make stools firmer by decreasing fecal urgency and diarrhea. Most of them are based on bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol), and loperamide (Imodium).
ProbioticsProbiotics are not a medication as such, but food supplements that help restore the intestinal flora by introducing beneficial bacteria into our body. There are many probiotic supplements on the market, but you can also take fermented foods with this property.
Tips to Avoid Stomach Pain
So far we have talked about how to cure a stomach ache; however, preventing it is often the best option. Here are three simple tips on how to avoid suffering from this condition:
Avoid Irritating Foods and Beverages
Some foods and beverages can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Moderating or eliminating their intake can have beneficial effects on your health and prevent stomach pain. Some examples are: alcohol, chocolate, chili, tea (not to be confused with infusions), coffee, and dairy products.
Eat Easy-To-Digest Foods
One of the most efficient ways to avoid stomach pain is to eat highly digestible foods. Easy-to-find examples include: fruits (especially berries), whole grains (such as rice, oats, quinoa and amaranth), gelatin, and cooked vegetables.
Avoid a Sedentary LifestyleA good habit that will improve our digestion is exercising properly. A minimum of 15 minutes a day of exercise will promote intestinal transit and avoid digestive symptoms. In this article, you will find a variety of exercises specifically focused on promoting proper digestion.
Stomach Pain in Children
As with adults, most stomach aches in children are not indicative of severe illness. The above-mentioned remedies are generally effective in people of any age, and your doctor will adjust the dosage when prescribing them.
Now, when it comes to food, it’s your responsibility to moderate the amounts you're giving your child. Remember that, while some foods may be beneficial for stomach pain, consuming too much of them can worsen the symptoms.
For infants who are still unable to talk, you should watch for signs that may indicate that they're having a stomach ache. Consult your doctor if you notice any of the following signs in your child:
- Increased irritability (being fussy).
- Pulling legs towards the abdomen.
- Considerable decrease in appetite.
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