What Causes Stomachaches?

"Stomachache" is a generic term used to describe a variety of common ailments in the abdominal area that can develop suddenly or be chronic in nature. They can include everything from a knotty feeling to sharp, stabbing pains or worse.

The causes of stomachaches are just as varied, ranging from viral infections to urinary tract infections or food poisoning caused. Other causes of abdominal ailments can be long lasting, including a number of gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Some additional causes of stomachaches include:

  • Gynecological conditions such as premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea (severe uterine pain during menstruation), ovarian cysts, fibroids, tumors and ovarian cancer.
  • A variety of cancers, including colon, liver, bladder, stomach and pancreatic, which can cause severe pain that doesn't subside.
  • Emotional distress such as depression, anxiety and stress can cause mild stomach problems.
  • Obesity and dieting can both take their toll on the body. Obesity can cause abdominal pain because fat deposits around the stomach put pressure on the abdominal walls and dieting and hunger can cause stomach muscle contractions, causing pain in the pit of the stomach.
  • Almost every medication has the potential to cause an upset stomach. Unless your doctor has specifically said you should take your medications on an empty stomach, you should always take them with food.

Finding Relief

Usually, stomachaches go away on their own, but if they persist and aren't relieved by over-the-counter treatments (OTC) or if the OTC treatment you're using provides only temporary relief, you should seek advice from your doctor. See your doctor right away if your stomach pain is severe or accompanied by fevers or blood in the stool.

For temporary, mild stomach problems, try these tips:

  • Chew on an antacid l to neutralize stomach acids. For heartburn problems, try an acid suppressor like a H2 blocker.
  • Keep a food diary to determine which foods might be causing you digestive problems and eliminate them from your diet. 
  • Eat small, frequent meals until your stomach is feeling better and stick to easy-to-digest foods like cooked rice, dry saltines or dry toast.
  • Take sips of decaffeinated liquids such as chamomile herb tea, flat ginger ale or chicken broth. Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, regular tea or colas, which can irritate the stomach and the digestive tract.