Stomach pain can be uncomfortable and maybe even frightening. Luckily stomach pain has some common causes, is usually self-limiting and in many cases can be self-treated at home. Firstly, it is important to rule out causes for concern. If you are suffering from severe debilitating pain, or experiencing any other serious symptoms such as large volumes of blood in your vomit, fever, or unable to stay hydrated – you should seek advice from your doctor.
Stomach pain can be caused by many things, these can include food poisoning or a diarrhoea and vomitting illness. Heartburn and stomach ulcers are another cause of stomach pain, where the symptoms can include a burning pain below the ribcage that is often related to eating. Other causes of stomach pain include irritable bowel syndrome, but these require tests and investigations with your doctor to confirm a diagnosis. Unless you have seen your doctor and been advised of a cause, it would be best to seek advice before self-diagnosing yourself.
Food poisoning or diarrhoea and vomiting illness caused by a virus will get better on its own. Diarrhoea can last for up to 14 days, but many people commonly suffer from symptoms for a shorter time period. The most important thing you can do is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids, like water or oral rehydration solutions for optimal hydration and recovery. Pain from stomach cramps may be eased with the use of paracetamol or Buscopan. Diarrhoea can be treated with loperamide, although use with caution if there is fever and severe tummy pains. General discomfort, nausea and diarrhoea may also be treated with Silicolgel or Pepto-bismol, they both form a protective coating in the stomach.
Another common cause of stomach pain can also be heartburn or excess acidity in the stomach. You may experience a feeling of fullness, bloating or burning sensation which is commonly related to eating or drinking. Treating heartburn and early stomach ulcers is done in the same way. Antacids such as milk of magnesia and Rennie help to reduce excess acid in the stomach and relieve feelings of heartburn. The reduction in stomach acidity also relieves pain caused by irritation of stomach ulcer and helps it to start healing. Gaviscon is a form of antacid that also forms a raft on the stomach contents which help with heartburn symptoms. Acid suppressants such as esomeprazole are available to purchase over the counter and are effective at turning off the mechanism for stomach acid production. These medications (known as proton pump inhibitors or PPI’s) are more effective and longer acting than antacids and are particularly useful for treating ulcers. If you are suffering from heartburn, it’s important to avoid any medications from the group called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen, as they can make the symptoms worse.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that causes symptoms of cramping, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, so has to be investigated and have other conditions ruled out first. The painful cramps of IBS can be treated with antispasmodics hyoscine (Buscopan) or peppermint oil which helps to relax the large intestines and relieve cramping. Other lifestyle changes such as stress management or change of diet can also be modified to see what works best for you.