CRAMPS, jabbing pains and bloating are all different types of stomach pain but what do they mean?
A health website has revealed the answers. It can be difficult to know what is causing your tummy troubles but if you are experiencing problems it's not something you should ignore.
“The gut is an important part of the human body and is significantly linked to overall health and disease,” said Dr Reshma Rakshit, consultant gastroenterologist from the healthcare website Medstars.co.uk.
“However, many people put up with discomfort because they believe such pains are common.”
Below are eight common stomach complaints – and Dr Rakshit explains what they could mean…
1. If the pain is like…a sharp jab in the right side of the upper abdomen
It could be: gallstones
“Gallstones are lumps of solid matter that form in the gallbladder or the small bile tubes,” says Dr Rakshit, who practices at Springfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex.
“These irritate the lining of the gallbladder and cause a sharp pain in the upper abdomen, symptoms worsened by a high-fat diet. Many people also feel the pain radiating around to their back or right shoulder.”
What else to look out for: Other common symptoms of gallstones are dark coloured urine, pale coloured stools, a fever and jaundice.
What to do: If you experience any of these symptoms then you should consult your GP for an ultrasound scan.
2. If the pain is like… uncomfortable bloating
It could be: excess gas
“The gas in the digestive tract comes from swallowed air and happens when we eat too quickly, chew gum, have too many artificial sweeteners or eat large amounts of green leafy vegetables or beans,” says Dr Rakshit.
“Fizzy drinks and beer are culprits too.”
What else to look out for: Excess gas is a common issue but other symptoms like blood in stools, unexplained weight loss and bowel incontinence could be a cause for concern.
What to do: Peppermint oil capsules can help alleviate the issue, these are often available over-the-counter.
“However bloating can occasionally indicate serious health issues, such as tumours, so I’d always see a GP,” says Dr Rakshit.
3. If the pain is like… mild to severe upper stomach pain
It could be: a peptic ulcer
Commonly mistaken for gallstones, or vice versa, peptic ulcers occur when the lining of the stomach is damaged.
They’re often caused by taking painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin or from bacteria found in the stomach called helicobacter pylori.
“The pain can spread to the back and will usually occur before or after meals,” says Dr Rakshit. “If untreated they can cause you to vomit blood.”
What else to look out for: Other symptoms of peptic ulcers include, heartburn, loss of appetite and weight loss.
What to do: If you are suffering from vomit in your blood, you should go to A&E immediately, otherwise visit your GP for a gastroscopy and/or stool test.
4. If the pain is like… severe pain beginning in the back
It could be: kidney infection
If you’re suffering from a severe burning sensation when you go to the toilet, then it’s like you have a kidney infection.
“This is where bacterial infections have travelled up from the bladder to the kidneys,” says Dr Rakshit.
What else to look out for: Other symptoms of a kidney infection are nausea, vomiting and feeling weak or tired.
What to do: “Kidney infection needs prompt treatment with antibiotics,” warns Dr Rakshit.
5. If the pain is like… a sharp pain in the lower-right side of the abdomen
It could be: appendicitis
“It’s caused when the entrance of the appendix becomes blocked, leading to infection,” says Dr Rakshit.
“If it’s left untreated it can lead to a burst appendix or an abscess.”
What else to look out for: Other symptoms of appendicitis are vomiting, fever and nausea.
What to do: If you are concerned you have the condition, you should visit A&E immediately as you will need to have your appendix removed.
6. If the pain is like… continual indigestion
It could be: heartburn
Heartburn or acid reflux affects up to 20 per cent of the population and is the result of a loose valve in the oesophagus.
“Sufferers will normally experience a burning sensation in the chest too,” says Dr Rakshit.
What else to look out for: Another symptom of heartburn is an acid taste in the mouth.
What to do: Sufferers may need gastroscopy – a camera is fed down into the gut. But most will be advised to lose weight, stop smoking and eat smaller meals.
7. If the pain is like…abdominal pain and diarrhoea
It could be: gastroenteritis aka stomach flu
Although the common name for gastroenteritis is stomach flu, the condition is actually an infection of the digestive tract.
“It’s fairly common and is mostly caused by food poisoning or an infection, such as the norovirus,” says Dr Rakshit.
What else to look out for: Other symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhoea, stomach pain, vomiting and fever.
What to do: If you are suffering from gastroenteritis you should stay hydrated and take painkillers. Also it’s advised you wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating.
If the symptoms continue for longer than a few days then you should visit your GP.
8. If the pain is like… stomach pain accompanied by bloating
It could be: irritable bowel syndrome
One in 10 people in the UK suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the causes are unknown but it’s usually made worse by stress.
“There are three types of IBS,” says Dr Rakshit.
“The first causes tummy pain accompanied by diarrhoea and bloating, the second causes pain, bloating and constipation, and the third is a mix of both.”
What else to look out for: Other symptoms of IBS include an urgent need to go to the toilet, feeling like you haven’t emptied your bowels completely and passing mucus from your bum.
What to do: “IBS is treated according to the type you have e.g. with antispasmodics, peppermint oil or laxatives. “If you think you have IBS see your GP,” says Dr Rakshit.
“It’s a life-long diagnosis and needs a long-term management plan.”