Got stomach pain? It could be gas or indigestion—or something worse. Here's what's going on.
If it been a few days since you had a bowel movement, you might be constipated. To get things moving, add four glasses of water a day to what you're already drinking, and ramp up the fiber: You need at least 25 grams each day. (A packet of instant oatmeal has 4 grams.) Next, exercise daily, even if it's just a walk, to stimulate your gut. You also can try a stool softener, like Colace. Call your doctor if you're still stuck after four days. Your doc can check to see if an underlying condition such as hypothyroidism is causing the problem.
Gallstones or a Gallbladder Infection
Does the pain start in your upper abdomen and shift to your back or shoulder, and does it worsen when you eat fatty or greasy food? You could have gallstones or a gallbladder infection. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
That's the name for any irritation of the stomach and intestines caused by bacteria or viruses. Signs of an irritation include diarrhea, fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea or vomiting. Avoid dehydration by sipping water, Gatorade (which also helps to replace electrolytes) or ginger ale, or by sucking ice chips. After 24 hours, start on the Brat diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. Call your doctor if you haven't kept liquids down for 24 hours, or have a fever, or if symptoms last for more than two days.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Notice any pain in your lower abdomen, and do you have blood or mucus in your stools? You might have an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, in which chronic inflammation in the digestive tract can lead to symptoms such as cramping, bloody stools and weight loss. Check in with the doctor any time you see blood in your stool.
If it's gastritis (or an irritating of the stomach lining) or an ulcer, you'll most likely have a burning sensation in your upper abdomen that gets better or worse with eating. Take an OTC antacid such as Pepcid or Zantac, but if symptoms persist for more than a week, call your doctor.