What's Causing This Abdominal Pain and Diarrhea?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of symptoms such as stomach cramps and diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation.
Diarrhea affects almost everyone at some point. Often, abdominal pain or stomach cramps may accompany your diarrhea. Some of the most common causes include food sensitivities. Sometimes, you may also suffer bacterial or viral infections, and medication or alcohol use. Other times, your stomach cramps and diarrhea come from stress or chronic conditions. Even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a likely culprit. Here we'll describe some common causes of stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Abdominal pain is pain that originates between the chest and the pelvis. The pain can be cramp-like, achy, dull, or sharp. It’s often called stomachache. The main feature of diarrhea is stool that is loose, bloody, or fatty. You'll also feel a frequent need to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, stomach cramps and diarrhea go together.
Causes of stomach cramps and diarrhea
Diarrhea may be acute and occur suddenly, or chronic and develop slowly and last for a few days.
Some of the most common causes of abdominal pain and acute or chronic diarrhea include:
Diarrhea sometimes comes from a bacterial or viral infection of the stomach and bowel. Something doctors call gastroenteritis or food poisoning. You get bacterial gastroenteritis when you eat or drink contaminated food or water. Symptoms usually occur within a few hours or days of consuming the contaminated food. You may also contract stomach flu, from someone who has the infection.
But your symptoms typically go away without treatment after a few days in both cases. You can try home remedies, such as drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking medication to ease discomfort.
Parasitic infections can also cause acute diarrhea and abdominal pain. This type of infection often clears up within a few weeks. Persistent outbreaks may require medical treatment.
Reactions to food
Something you ate or drank can potentially cause diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and other types of stomach problems. Symptoms typically occur for short periods and will usually go away a few hours after you have eaten.
Diarrhea after eating may have causes including:
- sudden changes to your diet
- eating rich, fatty foods
- food sensitivities
- celiac disease, where your body cannot break down gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley
It is not always clear why diarrhea occurs after eating, but keeping a food diary can help. Once you know which foods are causing the problem, you can address it.
Remedies include introducing new foods and dietary changes slowly, eating fewer rich meals, and limiting or avoiding trigger foods. If you have celiac disease you'll need to remove gluten from your diet permanently.
Indigestion and overeating
Overeating can result in indigestion, diarrhea, and stomach ache. This is because your digestive system struggles to deal with large amounts of food.
To avoid overeating, you can:
- practice portion control and measure out foods
- fill up on high-fiber, low-calorie options, such as vegetables
- take the time to chew food thoroughly
Another helpful technique is mindful eating. It involves paying attention to the taste and texture of each bite of your food. This includes avoiding distractions, such as television, during mealtimes.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Persistent diarrhea may a chronic condition, such as IBS. This condition does not damage your digestive tract but, may cause you symptoms including:
- stomach cramps
There is no cure for IBS, but you can manage your symptoms by:
- reducing stress
- making dietary changes
- getting enough good quality sleep
- drinking plenty of liquids
- taking supplements
- using medications
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of conditions that affect your bowel. Symptoms include:
- abdominal pain
- bloody stool
- weight loss
IBD may cause damage to your digestive tract, unlike IBS. It is therefore essential that you manage your symptoms.
Treatment will reduce the inflammation that causes bowel damage and digestive symptoms. Options include medication, supplements, dietary changes, and surgery.
Your stress and anxiety can stimulate bowel movements, which may result in diarrhea. Stress may also play a role in the development of IBS or make symptoms worse.
For example, occupational stress may stimulate your gastric response.
You can reduce stress by trying:
- meditation and mindfulness
- regular exercise
- deep breathing techniques
- art or music therapy
See a doctor or mental health professional who can recommend medications. Or therapy, or a combination of both for your persistent or severe stress relief.
6. Medications and alcohol
Too much alcohol can interfere with digestion in your body. It will lead to stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, or other symptoms. You should consider limiting alcohol intake to avoid these issues.
Some medications can also cause stomach problems, with many medicines listing diarrhea as a side effect.
Drugs that may cause diarrhea include:
- antacids containing magnesium
- chemotherapy drugs
- laxative overuse
- metformin, which is a diabetes drug
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Diarrhea sometimes goes away after a few days of using a new medication as your body adjusts. If your diarrhea persists for several days after beginning a new drug, you should contact your doctor, who may suggest an alternative.
Pregnant people often experience diarrhea and other bowel changes. It is potentially due to hormonal and structural changes in your body. Changes in dietary habits and new food sensitivities can also cause diarrhea when you're pregnant.
Contact a doctor for a check-up and advice if your diarrhea persists for more than a few days during pregnancy.