What is it?
Abdominal pain is pain felt anywhere between the chest and groin. This is often referred to as the stomach region or belly.
Very often the pain is so acute that it leads to vomiting, nausea, fatigue, belching, flatulence or stomach growling or rumbling sounds.
The pain can be continuous and manifest through spasms or contractions.
In the abdominal region, the most important organs, such as intestines, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, kidneys, uterus and ovaries in women are found. Therefore, in general, the pain can depend on these organs.
There are different types of pain associated with different abdominal pain conditions:
- Cramping pain, i.e. the presence of continuous and recurring cramps;
- Colic pain manifests with cramping pains in the belly that can range from mild to intense;
- Localized pain, affecting a specific region of the abdomen;
- Diffuse pain, affecting the entire abdomen region.
In any case, the patient should contact their doctor immediately if they experience abdominal pain:
- In case of pregnancy;
- In case of jaundice;
- If the patient is diabetic;
- In case of urine blockage;
- In case of shortness of breath.
Your doctor can make a first diagnosis based on your symptom history, a physical examination. They will then suggest the most appropriate laboratory test to be performed.
The main questions the doctor shall ask are:
- Characteristics of pain;
- Frequency of pain;
- Specific painful areas;
- Presence or absence of stomach sounds.
Based on the outcome of the physical examination, the doctor will suggest one of the following testing:
- Complete blood count, to evaluate the status of white or red blood cells;
- Antibody test;
- Alanine transaminase (ALT) test, to assess liver function;
- ESR, to detect inflammation;
- Urine culture test;
- Stool analysis, to look for bacteria, parasites, or blood in the digestive tract;
- Abdominal X-ray examination to assess the functionality and health of the organs of the abdominal cavity;
- Abdominal CT scan for evaluating vascular malformations of the organs of the abdominal cavity;
- Gastroscopy to confirm or rule out the presence of medical conditions;
- Colonoscopy to confirm or rule out the presence of medical conditions in the colon.
Drug treatment can vary depending on the cause of the problem:
- Antibiotics if it depends on an intestinal infection;
- Antacids in case of gastritis;
- Pancreatic enzymes if digestion is slow;
- Pro-kinetic drugs in case of constipation;
- Antidepressants, if the pain is related to depression or anxiety.
Different herbs have soothing, antispasmodic properties, very useful for relieving abdominal pain:
- Cumin has carminative and digestive properties;
- Mint has antiseptic, digestive and carminative properties;
- Fennel stimulates peristalsis;
- Angelica has detoxifying properties;
- Lemon balm has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Certainly a correct diet plays an important role in the prevention of abdominal pain.
The general guidelines are:
- Prefer high quality organic and unprocessed foods;
- Temporarily avoid gluten, in case of gluten sensitivity;
- Elimination of lactose, in case of lactose intolerance;
- Eliminate alcoholic beverages;
- Eliminate sparkling mineral water;
- Prefer decaffeinated coffee;
- Limit the quantity of vegetables with a fermentative action, such as cabbage, broccoli, savoy cabbage, spinach or turnip greens;
- Consume pureed or unpeeled legumes
- Prefer whole grains having detoxifying and soothing properties;
- Insert in your diet foods with probiotic action such as kefir, miso, natto or white yogurt with no added sugar.