Everyone has abdominal pain every now and then. This can have various different causes. For example, a virus or an underlying condition could be causing the pain, but it may also be as a result of eating food which is too greasy. How bad the pain is will be different for everyone. It will depend on the cause, the location and how you experience pain.
The most common causes of abdominal pain now follow:
- A bacteria or virus.
- Abdominal flu.
- Food allergies.
- Menstrual complaints.
- An irritable bowel.
- Chronic infection of the gut, due to Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
- A sensitive stomach.
- Too little sleep.
- Eating too much.
- Wrong food or drink. For example, you may have eaten or drunk something which you’re allergic to. You may also have eaten something which was too greasy or too spicy.
- Medication which has abdominal pain and/or nausea as a side effect.
Abdominal pain can have several causes, as described above. The symptoms will also be different for each cause. The most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal cramps.
- A stabbing feeling in your abdomen.
- A bloated abdomen and flatulence.
- Nausea. This may result in vomiting.
- Acid reflux.
Do you know what’s causing your abdominal pain? Take a look at the cause which applies to your pain for the specific symptoms.
There is some basic advice you can follow yourself with abdominal pain, such as:
- Eat regularly and in small portions.
- Eat a healthy and varied diet. Also make sure you take in enough fibre.
- Drink 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid per day. Preferably drink water or tea and don’t drink coffee, alcohol and/or carbonated drinks.
- Do plenty of exercise. For example, go to work on your bike, walk or do sports several times a week. Do you sit down a lot during your working day? Then regularly get up to stretch your legs and walk.
- Make sure you get plenty of rest and relaxation. For example, listen to music, plan a fun activity, do relaxation exercises and go to sleep on time. Don’t watch TV or drink coffee an hour before going to sleep. This will make it easier for you to fall asleep.
- Enjoy a warm bath or place a hot water bottle on your abdomen. This will particularly help with menstrual pain.
Abdominal pain will usually go away on its own and there will be nothing to worry about. You will usually be rid of it within a week. Abdominal pain can also last longer or be the result of a serious illness, like colon cancer for example. That’s why it’s always good to be alert and contact your GP immediately if one or more of the following situations apply to you:
- You are vomiting blood.
- You are pregnant and are suffering from abdominal pain.
- There is blood in your stool.
- Your stools are black. By this we mean really black, like the colour of liquorice.
- You have severe abdominal pain. The abdominal pain is getting worse and is not going away.
- You’re in so much pain that you can’t sit still. Pain at the top of your abdomen could indicate appendicitis.
- You have pain in your lower abdomen, it hurts when you urinate and you have to urinate often. This could indicate a UTI.
- You also have a fever in addition to the abdominal pain. This means your body temperature is 38°C or higher.
Your GP will then investigate the cause of your abdominal pain and adjust the treatment accordingly. In extreme cases you may be referred to a specialist in the hospital, like a gastroenterologist or an internist.