Bellyache? Before you chalk it up to simple indigestion, check the information below. You could have a true medical emergency. And if you’ve been experiencing new pains or discomfort in your abdomen, see your healthcare provider to determine the cause.
If you have: Infrequent stools (less than three times a week), difficulty passing stools or small, hard stools
You could have: Constipation
What you can do: Eat more fiber, drink more fluid and exercise regularly. If these strategies don’t work, see your doctor.
If you have: Frequent gas, diarrhea, bloating or nausea after eating dairy products
You could have: Lactose intolerance, when the body doesn’t make the enzyme to break down lactose found in dairy products
What you can do: Try soy milk or lactose-free dairy products or ask your doctor about pills that can help you better digest dairy.
If you have: Diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, vomiting, headache or fever and chills
You could have: Viral gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu
What you can do: Drink plenty of fluids to ward off dehydration. Most people recover without treatment in one or two days.
If you have: Abdominal pain—usually severe—especially on the left side, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping or constipation
You could have: Diverticulitis, or small inflamed pouches that bulge outward from the large intestine
What you can do: See your doctor, who’ll likely prescribe antibiotics and a liquid diet. Get 20–35 grams of fiber every day to reduce symptoms.
If you have: Burning abdominal pain, bloating, a feeling of fullness, nausea or vomiting
You could have: Gastritis, or an inflamed stomach lining, which can be caused by anything that irritates the stomach, such as alcohol, aspirin or ibuprofen and smoking as well as bacteria
What you can do: See your doctor. Treatment depends on the cause.
If you have: Abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills or weakness
You could have: Food poisoning
What you can do: Drink clear, noncaffeinated fluids to avoid dehydration. Avoid solid foods. Most people recover in about two days. However, if symptoms are severe and include weakness, and if you can’t keep fluids down, get medical attention.
If you have: Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, itchy mouth, swelling or itchiness especially in the facial area, hives or vomiting
You could have: Food allergy
What you can do: For a severe reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing, get emergency help. Otherwise, see your doctor if you suspect an allergy.
If you have: Abdominal pain or cramps, excess gas, bloating, episodes of constipation and/or diarrhea or urgent stools
You could have: Irritable bowel syndrome
What you can do: See your doctor, who may prescribe drugs and healthful lifestyle changes.
If you have: Diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps or a frequent or urgent need to empty your bowels
You could have: Colitis, an ongoing bowel inflammation, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
What you can do: See your doctor, who may prescribe drugs, supplements or surgery, depending on the type of colitis you have.
If you have: Upper-abdominal pain or burning especially between meals or at night, dark or black stools or vomiting blood
You could have: Ulcer
What you can do: See your doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics, stomach acid neutralizers or other drugs.
If you have: Upper-right abdominal pain lasting for 30 minutes to several hours, nausea, vomiting, bloating, indigestion or gas
You could have: Gallstones
What you can do: See your doctor. In most cases, you’ll need surgery to remove your gallbladder.
If you have: Acute pain or swelling in the abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, inability to pass gas or low fever
You could have: Appendicitis
What you can do: Get emergency medical assistance.
If you have: Bloody stools; a change in bowel habits; narrowed stool, abdominal pain; weight loss or fatigue; indigestion; stomach discomfort; heartburn; nausea; appetite loss; or a bloated feeling, vomiting or stomach pain after eating
You could have: Colon or stomach cancer
What you can do: See your doctor for a diagnosis. Treatment depends on the extent of the cancer and can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.