TUMMY pain is never fun, and often, it can really disrupt our day to day life.
Plus, the pain we experience – if any – can fluctuate over the course of a day, as our tummy houses the vast majority of our bodily organs which are constantly working to keep us alive and well.
Chris Barker is an advanced nutritional therapist and weight loss practitioner at the Lifestyle Clinic London.
He says that for most of his clients, the stomach pain they are referring to is usually mild and ‘we can usually connect it with potential food intolerances, poor eating practices, alcohol and for women changes in their hormones around their cycle’.
However, Chris says that there are certain forms of stomach pain that should never be ignored as they could be a sign of something more serious.
If you notice any of the below, Chris suggests visiting a doctor as soon as possible. It may well be nothing, but it’s wise to get checked.
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Chris explains that if the sudden pain begins around your navel and often shifts to your lower right abdomen, it can be a sign of appendicitis.
“This pain is likely to get worse as time goes on and it’s important you get seen straight away," the guru said.
Other symptoms to look out for here include a fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, swollen stomach and vomiting.
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“These symptoms could also represent something called ovarian torsion. This occurs when the ovary, and sometimes the fallopian tube, twist on the tissues that support them. This cuts off the blood supply to the ovary, which if not treated promptly, can cause tissue in the organ to die," he says.
Chris adds that this pain can also occur in the left lower region of your abdomen too. Again, it’s vital to go and see your doctor.
This refers to severe abdominal or pelvic pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
“This can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy,” warns Chris.
“This may also be accompanied by extreme light-headedness, fainting and shoulder pain. This is why women presenting with abdominal or pelvic pain may be given a pregnancy test first to rule this out.”
Chris adds that as the fertilised egg grows in the improper place, signs and symptoms become more noticeable.
Is your pain trapped wind?
Trapped gas can be excruciating at times, and incredibly uncomfortable.
“It can even feel like a stabbing pain in your chest or abdomen,” says Chris.
“The pain can be sharp enough to send you to A&E, thinking it’s appendicitis, intestinal obstruction or even a heart attack. Many women refer to the feeling of trapped gas as feeling pregnant as they lose control over their abdominal section causing their stomach to protrude more.”
Chris recommends these simple tricks to ease trapped wind…
- Movement or light exercise can help you expel any trapped gas
- Specific yoga poses can be used to help release gas. These usually involve drawing knees into the chest.
- Peppermint tea
Chris adds that chewing gum, smoking, or taking fibre supplements can all increase gas production.
This refers to sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen.
Chris says this could be a sign of gallstones. The pain can also be sudden and rapidly intensifying in the centre of your abdomen, just below your breastbone. Plus, the pain caused by gallstones typically worsens after eating fatty foods.
“The pain is sometimes referred to as ‘colicky’ which is a fancy way of saying cramping-like pain, so it will come and go, rather than getting progressively worse,” says Chris.
“Gallstones may cause no signs or symptoms but if a gallstone lodges in a duct and causes a blockage the symptoms can be severe and require immediate medical attention.”
PAIN AND CRAMPING
If your stomach pain is severe, and you’re also experiencing vomiting, a feeling of fullness even when you haven’t eaten, you’re unable to pass gas and you’ve been constipated for a long time, it could be a sign of an intestinal obstruction.
“There are many causes for intestinal obstructions, from hernias and previous abdominal surgery causing scarring, to IBD, diverticulitis and tumours (benign or cancerous),” says Chris.
Again, see your GP at the next possible chance.
BLOOD IN YOUR STOOL
This could be a sign of various different health concerns, and Chris does add that it isn’t always necessarily easy to spot as the blood can be bright red, or it might be dark red or black.
“The colour of the blood usually indicates where the blood is coming from. Spots of red blood on the toilet paper, drops in the toilet bowl or blood on the surface of your stool can indicate the bleeding is coming from the anus or lower rectum. The most common conditions associated with bright red blood are anal fissures, piles, IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), colon polyps and diverticulitis.”
If the blood is slightly darker and mixed in with your stool, this suggests bleeding might be from higher up in the bowel.
Chris warns that this can be a sign of bowel cancer, colon cancer or gastrointestinal disease.
“If your stools are black and like tar, and they smell bad, this is also probably because the blood is coming from higher up in the bowel and could be a sign of an upper GI bleed, in which case, go to A&E immediately. This is likely to be accompanied by sharp pain in the centre of your tummy.”
SUDDEN CHANGES TO YOUR BOWEL HABITS
If you notice that your bowel habits are different and this is accompanied by other factors such as unexplained weight loss, persistent diarrhoea, mucus in your stool or severe pain, then it’s worth getting checked out.
“Our bowel habits are very individual and usually reflect certain lifestyle and dietary practices, so while many changes can be explained when we may change our diet, or maybe we come under more stress, sudden changes to your bowel habits that are accompanied with other symptoms can be a good sign something is not right and therefore it is always better to get checked,” advises Chris.
HOW NORMAL IS BLOATING?
Often, eating fast or drinking too many carbonated drinks can cause bloating.
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“Ingesting certain cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts can feed our gut bacteria and create excess gas; this is also normal,” says Chris.
“However constant bloating after ingesting food can also be a sign of food intolerances, gut dysbiosis or as mentioned depending on the severity of the symptoms could be an indicator of a bigger problem.”
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