9 Potential Causes For Severe Stomach Pains
Just about everybody has tummy trouble throughout their lives. The discomfort could be triggered by indulging in a decadent meal or from eating food that’s a little past its expiration date (OK, maybe a lot past its expiration date).
However, severe abdominal pain is another story, and even though in most cases it’s not indicative of a serious health issue; in some cases it can signal a serious illness. That’s why it’s important to be able to differentiate the symptoms of these nine common culprits of stomach pain…
1. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning can cause serious stomach discomfort due to a bacterial or parasitic infection. Food poisoning can be caused by over 250 different food and water borne sicknesses—ranging from Salmonella to e-Coli and from botulism to cholera—resulting in painful abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, gas, diarrhea, fatigue, and dehydration.
The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) estimate that 48 million Americans suffer with food poisoning annually. Another CDC statistic reveals that 128,000 U.S. citizens are hospitalized yearly with food poisoning, and 3,000 suffer death due to a foodborne illness.
2. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance causes, simply, a lack of the enzyme, lactase, which makes it impossible to digest lactose (or the sugars in dairy). Typically symptoms such as gas, abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and even vomiting will occur within 30-minutes of consuming a dairy product. Because those with lactose intolerance cannot comfortably eat foods and beverages with lactose (i.e., milk) due to the inability to produce a digestive enzyme called lactase, one can still take lactase digestive enzymes to help aid the digestion of lactose in the intestines.
According to researchers at University of Georgia’s Health Center, approximately 21-percent of Caucasian Americans suffer from lactose intolerance while the intolerance if more prevalent in other ethnic groups. For instance, 75-percent of African Americans and 51-percent of Hispanic Americans suffer from lactose intolerance. The hardest hit groups are Asian and Native Americans who suffer with 80-percent lactose intolerant.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease ( GERD) or acid reflux typically results after eating a rich, fatty, or particularly filling meal. The end result is painful indigestion that shows itself in gas, bloating, abdominal pain, belching, nausea, vomiting, an acidic taste in the mouth, and a burning in the stomach or just above the abdomen. A balanced diet low in fats and physical activity will typically help alleviate GERD.
A study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology indicates a link between obesity and GERD, and because obesity is on the rise, researchers say that so is GERD. After monitoring over 30,000 people in Norway for 11 years, the overall data showed a 50-percent increase in the symptoms of acid reflux over the past decade, roughly a 47-percent increase.
It happens to us all even though it’s mortifying to talk about (even to a doctor), but constipation results in strained or lack of normal bowel movement and is often spurred by stress, diet, or an underlying health problem. The outcome is obviously quite uncomfortable and can last days, causing stomach pressure and pain, a distended abdomen, rectal tearing, and even vomiting.
According to statistics on Web MD, constipation strikes approximately 2-percent of the population in the U.S., with women and the elderly as the most common sufferers. Although not all cases of constipation are serious (constipation can be caused by dehydration, lack of exercise, or inadequate fiber intake), serious causes of constipation include stress, hemorrhoids, laxative abuse, eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism, depression, and colon cancer.
5. Stomach Flu
Gastroenteritis, or more commonly, stomach flu, causes the lining of the stomach and intestines to become irritated and inflamed due to a nasty virus or bacterial infection. We’re more than familiar with the symptoms—which consist of vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, explosive diarrhea, fever, inability to keep food or fluids down, dehydration, and fatigue.
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 80-percent of stomach flu (or Norovirus) outbreaks occur from November to April. The extremely contagious virus contagious virus transmits from person-to-person, via contaminated food or water, or via contact with contaminated surfaces. The virus results in the inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines and is most dangerous for older adults, young children, and those with compromised immunity.
Abdominal pain, or menstrual cramps, can inflict women who are menstruating due to hormonal shifts that cause muscle contractions in the uterus. For some unfortunate females, cramps can be so severe that they are unable to get out of bed for days. Typically severe menstrual cramps indicate an underlying health issue (i.e., pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis).
Doctors refer to the pain and cramps that result prior to and during menstruation as Dysmenorrhoea. Between 40- to 70-percent of women in reproductive age suffer from dysmenorrhoea. However, there are two different kinds of dysmnorrhoea–primary dysmenorrhoea refers to pain in those with normal pelvic anatomy and ovarian function while secondary dysmenorrhoea describes pain due to pelvic issues and typically strikes in the early 20s to mid-40s.
7. Food Allergies
A food allergy—most commonly, gluten, dairy, nuts, or eggs—results when the digestive system negatively responds to a certain food because of a lacking digestive enzyme or sensitivity. Typically, a period of elimination is required to pinpoint the troublesome food. The individual may suffer a combination of stomach pain, vomiting, hives or another skin rash, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, gas, bloating, distended abdomen, shortness of breath, and anaphylaxis whenever the food is consumed.
According to statistics from FARE (Food and Allergy Research & Education), roughly 15 million people total in the US suffer with food allergies. Out of those affected, 9 million are adults with food allergies and 6 million are children with food allergies with the incidence of associated anaphylaxis appears on the rise to foods like peanuts, treenuts, fish, and shellfish the most common associated anaphylaxis allergies.
8. Acid Indigestion
It’s normal and healthy for us to produce and pas gas as our digestive systems break down the meals we consume. However, difficult to digest foods (i.e., such as beans, dairy, raw vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) can cause excess gas if the body needs extra effort to break them down, resulting in painful bloating, pain in the chest or esophagus, belching, cramps, and flatulence.
Acid indigestion occurs in individuals of all ages and both sexes. Normally, indigestion is due to a big or rich meal, however, you can also experience indigestion due to excess alcohol consumption, as a side affect of medications (i.e., aspirin), or due to stress. More serious, chronic cases are caused by irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid issues, GERD, an ulcer, a stomach infection, pancreatitis, Gastroparesis (for diabetics), and stomach cancer.
9. Peptic Ulcer
Peptic ulcers are painful sores that form in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the small intestine) when the digestive fluids in the stomach become too acidic and a bacterial infection (Helicobacter pylori) causes damage to the tissues. Oftentimes, ulcers from due to long-term stress, but they can also develop with the continuing use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers (i.e., aspirin or ibuprofen).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 6 million Americans develop a peptic ulcer each year, or roughly 15-percent of the U.S. population at any one time. Peptic ulcers are thought to be 4 times more common in males as well as the elderly people. Although long term stress is a primary cause, a high incidence of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDS) is also believed to be a prevalent cause.
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