Health Topics

Healthy Living

February 2012
Stomach! Everybody’s Pain
Dr Shravan Bohra
Abdominal pain is one of the most common medical complaints that affects practically everyone and is often confused with other medical symptoms. Pain resulting from gastric problems is concentrated in the upper abdomen. The intensity of the pain varies from a dull ache to intense throbbing pain.

Accompanying symptoms
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever
  • Burning in chest known as heartburn
  • Burping
  • Bloating (feeling as though the belly is filled with air)
  • Feeling full too quickly when eating
This pain is often worsened after eating food, although pain of duodenal ulcer may be relieved after eating food.

Common causes
  • Types of foods cause gastric pain such as stale/ spicy dishes, cheese, butter, coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, alcohol, chocolate, chewing gum and even milk. 
  • People who smoke or those taking aspirin or painkillers are susceptible to pain in stomach. 
  • Stress, anxiety causes hyperacidity, which leads to gastric pain. 
  • Anyone who has contracted Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that colonizes the stomach wall, can suffer from gastric abdominal pain due to ulcers. 
  • Having a large meal or drinking too much liquid immediately after a meal results in bloating, causing pain. 
  • Eating food very quickly may cause wind trapping in the stomach, leading to pain
When to see a doctor
  • You have bloody bowel movements, diarrhoea, or vomiting 
  • Your pain is severe and lasts more than an hour or comes and goes for more than 24 hours 
  • You cannot eat or drink for hours 
  • You have a fever higher than 102°F (39°C) 
  • You lose a lot of weight without trying to, or lose interest in food
There are a number of causes of upper abdominal pain but they are not of gastric origin. Some pains may be an indicator of more serious diseases such as hepatitis, intestinal blockage, pancreatitis, gall bladder stones and even appendicitis. A proper examination by a doctor is necessary before taking any kind of medication in such cases. However, there are some natural forms of treatment that can be tried for gastric pain relief.

Typically there is cramp-like central upper abdominal pain, which is worsened after food intake. There may be a history of intake of some stale food or some painkiller tablets like brufen etc. Blood reports and abdominal sonography may be essentially normal initially. Gastroscopy (endoscopy) is advised if the pain is severe, persistent, recurrent and does not respond to usual medications.
  • Maintain a food log and figure out if a particular type of food is causing the problem. Stop eating that food. 
  • Eat light and easily digestible food for some time. 
  • Drinking coconut water and ‘ajwain’ water is known to reduce gastric pain from acidity. 
  • Avoid foods that cause gas such as baked beans, cauliflowers, cabbage, carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, nicotine and spices. 
  • Space out your eating by having several small meals throughout the day instead of having three large meals. This does not allow your stomach to go empty and prevents gas formation. 
  • If the pain is caused by bloating, try some form of exercise to reduce bloating and also drink plenty of water. 
  • Some people are intolerant to milk and milk products (lactose intolerance); they are relieved by avoiding milk products. 
  • Avoid non-vegetarian foods for a few days, mainly red meat. 
  • Till you get help from a doctor, over the counter medicines like antacids may be of some help
Dr Shravan Bohra is a Chief Consultant Gastroenterology/Hepatology (Medical), Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad.
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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