Chronic abdominal pain is a common medical condition, defined as any kind of stomach pain that lasts for more than six months. In general, the pain could either be persistent or be recurrent. It is important to diagnose the pain in its early stages and not take it lightly as constant pain triggers in the body are often an indication of serious illnesses, such as H. pylori infection or stomach cancer.
At times, stomach pain is also accompanied by other conditions such as vomiting or headaches. Some patients may even experience intensifying pain after eating or taking stress. It’s best to consult a doctor for a differential diagnosis as the symptoms of chronic abdominal pain vary from person to person.
With that said, we have listed a few reasons why chronic abdominal pain occurs and how to treat it.
1. Bacterial Infection- Relieving pain with medication
One of the most common causes of chronic abdominal pain is H. Pylori infection which is caused by bacteria. Almost 30% to 40% of Americans get infected with H. Pylori but are unaware of it, as the symptoms never appear.
Pylori or Helicobacter Pylori is a bacteria that attacks the stomach lining and causes it to release less acid. As the stomach’s acid production declines, its protective abilities deteriorate, making it vulnerable to other pathogens.
Some of the most common symptoms of H. pylori infection include stomach ulcers, anemia and blood in stools. It is better to diagnose the infection early for an effective cure. One common way to diagnose H pylori is to look at the nature of your abdominal pain. Burning pain, which gets worse on an empty stomach, is often caused by Helicobacter Pylori.
Your doctor may order a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis and will most likely prescribe you antibiotics and acid-suppressing drugs. Antibiotics will kill H. pylori, and suppressants will heal the stomach lining. The treatment may take weeks or months, depending on the severity of the condition, but the pain is likely to subside in weeks.
2. Celiac Disease- Relieving pain by avoiding allergens
Another cause of chronic abdominal pain is celiac disease or gluten-sensitive enteropathy. This is an autoimmune disease that was not very common previously but now (for unknown reasons) is one of the most common diagnoses for chronic abdominal pain in adults. According to research, celiac disease diagnoses are rising at a rate of 7.5% per year.
Celiac disease will cause the individual’s body to react to gluten – a protein found in bread, cereals and rye.
The small intestine is an organ that absorbs nutrients from the body and produces antibodies against gluten. Over time, these antibodies damage the lining of the intestines, preventing them from functioning properly.
Both children and adults can experience different symptoms when the intestinal tract stops absorbing nutrients. The disease also causes weight loss, diarrhea, anemia, and dull abdominal pain in addition to bloating and stomach cramps.
The treatment for abdominal pain associated with celiac disease is diet control. Those who suffer from celiac disease should avoid consuming foods made from wheat, barley or rye. It’s important to note that celiac disease is a permanent condition that cannot be cured. However, one can manage the pain with simple changes like drinking more water, eating fruits and vegetables, and avoiding gluten.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)- lifestyle and medication
IBS is a digestive system condition that causes one to experience bouts of constipation, diarrhea, and rampant abdominal cramping. While there is no particular cause for IBS, many doctors believe stress is a contributing factor. As a result of stress hormones, the bowels become more sensitive, disrupting regular patterns of bowel movements.
The abdominal pain caused by IBS usually manifests as a sharp sensation. It is known to cause rapid cramps accompanied by gas. These symptoms tend to ease once bowels are empty. IBS also comes along with other symptoms like bloating, flatulence and lethargy.
Like celiac disease, IBS is a condition that requires effective management, as it does not have a particular cure. The most common way patients can ease the abdominal pain associated with IBS is by adjusting their diets. Eating more fiber-containing foods, drinking more water, and avoiding stimulants like coffee, alcohol, and high-fat foods will help.
Another method involves exercising every day for at least 30 minutes. Depending on the condition, it may also be necessary to take medication, such as antispasmodics – to relieve muscle spasms – and laxatives.
4. Home-based remedies
Certain home remedies may also reduce cramping. There are many different ways to reduce stomach tension, one of which is soaking in a warm salt bath, which is proven to calm anxiety. Hot water bags are also an effective remedy that relaxes your blood vessels, thus relaxing the muscles in your abdomen. Some other habits you can adopt to relieve abdomen pain are sipping fruit juices or soda water once a day and avoid laying down on the floor.
Living with chronic abdominal pain can be difficult, especially if the nature of the pain is persistent. However, it is not entirely impossible! Regardless of what causes your abdominal pain, you can successfully manage the symptoms with the right steps and knowledge in hand. With time, you can also learn to control the severity of your abdominal pain and go about your busy day. You can do this by choosing medicine, changing your lifestyle, or even trying home remedies like drinking soda or juice.