The Most Common Causes Of Stomach Cramps
And what you can do about them
It's a familiar sensation to both men and women; the mild to extremely painful squeezing in the belly that comes and goes and elicits moans and groans. Not just a 'tummy ache', stomach cramps are usually the indicators of other things going on inside you, alerting you to take action. Technically, stomach cramps do not really take place in the tummy at all, but rather they are a spasm of the lower intestine.
From babies to the elderly, stomach cramps rear their ugly head in nearly all people and are caused by a range of health issues.
- Constipation - Insufficient fiber in a person's diet results in the intestines becoming 'backed up' with waste products that need to be released. Increasing fiber and fluids, and taking light exercise can help significantly.
- Over-eating and eating too quickly - In order to properly digest your food, you need to eat slowly, chew adequately and allow enough saliva to mix with your food to break it down in the stomach. Neglecting these considerations means your stomach has to work harder.
- Drinking cold fluids - Sometimes, gulping down large amounts of cold drinks can cause the stomach muscles to spasm. Slow down and perhaps even wait until the drink is less icy.
- Food poisoning - Food that has been allowed to sit at room temperature will spoil sooner than if refrigerated. Bacteria multiply and turn the food 'off'. Immediately stop consuming the offending foods. For extreme cases, see your doctor.
- Anxiety - Eating while you are anxious or stressed reduces the supply of blood to your stomach and makes digestion more difficult. Try to avoid eating when you are under mental stress, or at least eat small amounts, slowly, and try to relax while doing so.
- Lactose intolerance - Avoid consuming dairy products and switch to lactose-free foods instead.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome - People diagnosed with IBS will be familiar with the triggers for stomach cramps and how to customize their diet to avoid pain. To prevent attacks, it's best to avoid large meals, caffeine and stress, and avoid eating wheat, rye and barley products, chocolate and milk products, and drinking alcohol.
- Exercising after eating - Engaging in strenuous or aerobic activity immediately after eating can result in stomach cramps. This is why your mother told you that you couldn't go swimming for 45 minutes after lunch!
- New exercise routine - Anyone who undertakes a new fitness regimen to lose weight and tone up may find they experience stomach cramps as their body becomes accustomed to the increase in activity. Lifting weights or doing high-level aerobic activities can cause this kind of cramping.
Serious stomach cramps
Ongoing stomach cramps can indicate more serious conditions such as appendicitis or a disorder of the liver. The onset of a heart attack can be mistaken for an attack of indigestion. Any suspected indigestion accompanied by chest pain, breathing difficulty, sweating and vomiting should be reported to a doctor for urgent investigation and treatment.
Patients taking medication for conditions such as anemia will find that stomach cramps may be an uncomfortable side effect.
Detoxing might help
If your stomach cramps don't seem to be attributed to anything that you can single out, a detoxification program might be in order. It could be especially useful if you also have other symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, lack of energy, any recurrent infection, excess fat, ulcers and boils, or if you have been taking antibiotics for an extended period of time. A detox can help to cleanse the digestive system and clear out any toxins that are causing many of these issues. Before undertaking detoxification, see a naturopath or other health care professional so that you can determine the best course of action.