Most of us experience stomachaches every now and then. That’s normal. But if you’re stomachache has been recurring or persistent for a long time, it may be time to stop and seek professional advice. Repeat stomachaches may be a symptom of a much bigger problem. According to The Merck Manuals, about 90 percent of people who experience chronic abdominal pain experience functional pain. The rest have a specific physical disorder.
This condition is characterized by severe stomachaches lasting for more than six months and can interfere with your life. Although a sensitive digestive tract, genetics, stress, personality, social situations, and mental disorders may be factors, functional abdominal pain is not a symptom of any physical disorder and is not related to body functions like menstrual periods or bowel movements. Doctors may not be able to pinpoint what actually causes this type of stomach pain.
If you’re allergic to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, you may have your share of repeat stomachaches or abdominal pain. Aside from a stomachache, people suffering from a gluten allergy, also known as celiac disease, experience diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, very itchy skin rashes with blisters, and mood swings.
The disease affects the small intestine, particularly the villi which is the part that helps the body absorb essential nutrients. Over time, people suffering from celiac disease may develop anemia, weak and brittle bones, and infertility.
Celiac disease is a common condition affecting one in every 100 people around the world, according to the National Institute of Health’s Genetic Home Reference. In the U.S., it affects about two million people, but according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases many don’t know it.
This study shows consuming milk products when you are lactose intolerant may be a reason for repeated stomachaches and bloat.
According to a study conducted by the British School of Osteopathy, bras that don’t fit you well can cause stomachaches along with breathing problems. “Most bras push into the rib cage and the middle ribs are held tightly in a bra, hence the upper ribs have to work harder in order for you to breathe. This effect of compressing the rib cage can be dramatic enough to affect digestion,” said Charles Hunt.
Hiatal Hernia and GERD
When you have a hiatal hernia, you’ll experience stomachaches after every meal and pressure in your upper abdomen when you bend over or lie down. This leads to a related condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD happens when stomach fluids irritate the esophagus as the fluids are pushed back up. The reflux is caused by a muscle in the esophagus failing to close properly.
Hiatal hernia and GERD share similar symptoms like heartburn, dry cough, and difficulty swallowing. You can read about these two conditions here.
When you have repeated stomachaches that go away after drinking antacids you may have gastritis, which is a type of ulcer. People with this condition have inflamed or swollen stomach linings as well as loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. When the lining of the stomach bleeds your stool may turn black, you may vomit blood, or a substance that looks like ground coffee. Speaking of coffee, drinking too many caffeinated drinks may also cause gastritis.
Gallstones or Gallbladder Infection
If you’re stomachaches start when you eat greasy or fatty foods and the pain is located in the upper middle or upper right of the abdomen, then you may have gallstones or chronic cholecystitis, which is the medical term for an infection in the gallbladder characterized by swelling and irritation for long periods. According to MedlinePlus, these diseases are most common among women around 40+ years, but gallstones are most common among women, overweight people, older adults, Native Americans, and Mexican-Americans.
Irritable Bowel Movement
Nervous stomach? That’s what doctors call irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have this condition, you may experience a constant stomachache or pain in the lower abdomen, abdominal cramps, and change in the consistency of your stool. According to PubMed Health, IBS normally affects around 14 of every 100 women, and nine out of every 100 men, and mostly affects people between the ages of 35 and 50 in the U.S.
If you have bouts of stomachache along with diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and blood and mucus in your stool, you may have Crohn’s disease. This is a long-term condition that affects the digestive system and is characterized by inflammation in the lining anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the intestines.
If you have repeated stomachaches and diarrhea, with a need to poop frequently, and your stool has blood, mucus, or pus, you may have ulcerative colitis. A person suffering from this condition has an inflamed colon and rectum.
This condition’s name comes from the word diverticula, which are small pouches that protrude from the colon or large intestine. These pouches become inflamed or swell causing abdominal pain, cramping, fever, chills, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Diverticulitis is common among people over the age of 40 who have a low-fiber diet. It can get serious, so read up. This is a great place to start.
Repeated stomachaches and bright red blood in your stools are indications of possible hemorrhoids, which are inflamed veins in the anus or rectum. Hemorrhoids are mainly caused by straining when trying to poop, with pregnant women and those approaching 50 years old being most susceptible.
Now you know a simple stomachache could be a sign of something worse. When it comes to our health, it’s always better to be on our toes. So, if you’ve been experiencing stomachaches lasting more than three days, use this chart to help you determine if you need to see the doctor and how soon.
Disclaimer: The article aims to provide general information and is in no way a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your doctor.