What are stomach cramps

stomach pain

The causes of stomach pain are diverse and range from harmless to acutely life-threatening. Even if many think so: The perceived pain intensity alone is not a reliable indicator of the severity of an illness, because everyone is differently sensitive to pain. But based on the accompanying circumstances and symptoms, conclusions can often be drawn about the cause of stomach pain:

  • If severe stomach pain always occurs in the same place, this indicates organic causes.
  • If the stomach pain stings in different parts of the abdominal cavity, it is more likely to be caused by psychological stress, an irritable stomach or food intolerance.

Important:Even if combinations of symptoms can provide indications of a disease: Only an expert in gastrointestinal diseases can determine the individual cause of the stomach pain.

Here is an overview of the most common reasons for upper abdominal discomfort and how to recognize them:

Stomach ache and psyche: When stress hits the stomach

Our so-called abdominal brain (the enteral nervous system) controls digestion with its dense network of nerve cells and is in direct connection with the brain. The stomach and the autonomic nervous system are also closely related. We cannot consciously control the vegetative nervous system; it automatically adapts the body functions to a wide variety of life situations.

Hence, it can trigger severe, stabbing stomach pain Stress or the psyche be. Emotional stress, such as fear of an exam or overwhelming situations at work, make some people feel uncomfortable.

Those affected can prevent this with conscious breaks and by regularly practicing relaxation methods such as autogenic training or MBSR (Mindfullness Based Stress Reduction, a method for coping with stress). Many statutory and private health insurances pay subsidies for such courses. The same applies to sports to reduce stress such as yoga, qigong and tai chi.

In fact, doctors find no organic causes of stomach pain in every second patient, even if they look closely. Doctors then speak of Irritable stomach or bowel syndrome and attribute this to a particularly sensitive nervous system. In addition to stomach pain, belching, palpitations or flatulence are possible symptoms. There is also evidence that, in addition to stress, movement disorders of the stomach muscles and hereditary factors play a role.

Stomach pain after eating

If the stomach hurts after eating, it can have various causes - organic, functional and nutritional:

  • Perhaps you have eaten hastily, heartily or too much? Or if you had heated discussions at lunch, so that you swallowed a lot of air with the meal or chewed badly, then the pain usually goes away quickly on its own. If this is not the case, stomach pain after eating could be an indication that theSmall intestine, gallbladder, or stomach have a problem yourself.
  • Sometimes an allergy causes stomach pain - i.e. an overreaction of the own immune system to actually harmless foods (e.g. seafood) or to certain food components (e.g. to gluten in grain as in the intestinal disease celiac disease). Those affected then have no choice but to avoid the trigger. Therapy does not (yet) exist.
  • Or maybe you just can't tolerate certain foods. Crampy stomach pain and post-eating gas could indicate a food intolerance such as one Fructose or lactose intolerance indicate that the body cannot metabolize fructose or lactose well.

Information about whether someone can tolerate fructose or lactose or not is provided Hydrogen breath test at the gastroenterologist, a specialist in gastrointestinal complaints. To do this, the person concerned drinks a fructose or lactose solution and then blows into a breath test device at regular intervals. If the hydrogen content does not increase during this measurement, the body can digest fructose or lactose without any problems. If the device increasingly measures hydrogen gas (H2), this indicates a food intolerance. The reason: If, for example, an enzyme that is important for digestion is missing in the case of lactose intolerance, the undigested part migrates further to the colon, where it is broken down by bacteria. During this process, H2 is produced, which the person concerned exhales through the lungs - which the device quickly registers.

In order to prevent stomach pain in the case of lactose intolerance, there are lactase drops and tablets in the pharmacy to supply the missing enzyme. Alternatively, it just helps to avoid lactose. Those who cannot tolerate milk sugar should avoid foods rich in lactose such as milk and cream. Cheese is sometimes okay because it's low in lactose. Yoghurt and quark are also usually well tolerated. By the way, hidden lactose can also be found in finished products and sausages.

  • Poisoning and Infections: Cramp-like stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, for example, occur in one Food poisoning in front. Stomach pain with vomiting and diarrhea are typical of one Virus or bacterial infection. Maybe a food was contaminated with germs or not cooked through?

If the symptoms are mild, the body often recovers after a few days of rest, sufficient fluids (water, tea) and light foods. Over-the-counter medications and electrolyte solutions may alleviate the symptoms. In severe cases, those affected have to go to hospital for treatment.

In the case of children and the elderly, a doctor should always assess the situation if the symptoms persist. Their immune system is often weaker.

  • Gastritis: It pinches and stings in the epigastric region after eating: Perhaps the upper abdomen is also sensitive to pressure and distended, or you have to burp and have an unpleasant taste in your mouth? Then an acute inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) could cause the stomach pain. Typically, those affected often also have a lack of appetite. Some feel sick or vomit.

Such an inflammation of the gastric mucosa often subsides after one or two days. Until then, it makes sense to take it easy on the attacked stomach and only drink water and tea before you start dieting.

If the gastric mucosal inflammation occurs more frequently, a specialist, in this case an internist or gastroenterologist, can do a gastroscopy and examine the tissue. If necessary, he prescribes acid-blocking drugs. The causes of gastritis include irritants such as alcohol or medication, stress, autoimmune reactions or an infection with the bacterium Heliocobacter pylori. If the latter is causing stomach pain, the attending physician can prescribe an antibiotic.

However, the other way around it can also happen that the stomach pain occurs due to antibiotics. This is also one of the possible side effects such as diarrhea, nausea or allergic skin reactions (see also “Stomach pain caused by medication”).

  • Gastric ulcer: Characteristic of stomach ulcers are burning stomach pains and a pressure in the upper abdomen in the middle to left when you eat or drink something. Often there are accompanying symptoms such as loss of appetite, bloating, nausea, vomiting or inexplicable weight loss. It is also typical that the stomach pain is barely noticeable on an empty stomach.
  • Cancer: Anyone who loses weight and feels exhausted in addition to stomach pain and indigestion for no apparent reason should contact their doctor. It is rare, but it can be caused by stomach or pancreatic cancer. Vomiting and tarry stools reinforce the suspicion, as does a sudden aversion to meat, coffee or fruit.
  • Stomach pain and back pain: If the stomach pain is colicky, radiates into the back and only gets better when the affected person pulls up their legs, the pancreas could be inflamed. Doctors must treat this disease in hospital.
  • Acute appendicitis: Severe right stomach pain and fever: These symptoms occur in acute appendicitis. Often times, the pain starts in the middle of the abdomen around the navel and then spreads to the lower right. Sometimes they are also concentrated in the upper half of the abdomen. The abdomen can be hard or bloated, and people may vomit. Typically, stomach pain increases with movement (when walking and when the person is hopping on their right leg) or when they sneeze. In this case, a doctor should clarify the symptoms as soon as possible.

Stomach pain after coffee

Feel it burning stomach painafter you've had coffee, it sounds like acid-related symptoms. Caffeine, fat and alcohol stimulate the stomach's acid production. Too much acid overwhelms the mucous membrane and inflammation of the stomach wall can occur. If the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, those affected notice this in the form of stomach pain, heartburn (a burning pain behind the breastbone) and acidic belching.

If the stomach pain is particularly bad when lying down and at night, it helps to raise the head and upper body so that the acid does not go up into the esophagus.

Alternatively, stomach pain at night and on an empty stomach can indicate a mucosal defect in the duodenum or an ulcer near the stomach.

Stomach pain when hungry

Such stomach pains are usually harmless: if someone has not eaten for a long time, the empty stomach is sometimes simply painful. Stomach pain when fasting can also indicate inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) or eating disorders.

Stomach pain from medication

Medicines can also cause stomach pain. Stomach pain is particularly common with the active ingredient ibuprofen, as it attacks the gastric mucosa over the long term. Antibiotic stomach pain also occurs. If in doubt, it is best to talk to your doctor about it.

Alleged stomach pain

Sometimes the problem is not in the abdomen at all, even though it feels like it. So stomach pain can also announce a heart attack. Women in particular often focus on symptoms such as upper abdominal pain, nausea and shortness of breath instead of the typical heart pain. If a heart attack is suspected, you should call a doctor immediately.