Whether you’re young or old, you’ve more than likely had a stomach ache at some point in your life.

A stomach ache is often characterized as a dull, aching pain in the abdomen, sometimes described as cramping. A stomach ache can be the cause of something relatively mild, or it could be the result of something more severe – and, in some cases, may even be life-threatening. Below you will find information on some of the most common stomach ache-causing conditions and tips on how to find relief.

The Flu
If you suffer from stomach cramps with bloating and/or diarrhea, it may be the result of a stomach bug – such as the flu, or even food poisoning. The flu is something that affects thousands of Canadians each year, and is even more common for those vacationing in areas that are more prone to having contaminated foods and/or beverages. If the flu is the cause of your stomach ache, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends getting vaccinated against the flu so that you can not only protect yourself but keep it from spreading to others.

Passing Gas

Alternatively, stomach cramps and bloating can also be a result of the urge to pass gas. While this can be an embarrassing topic of discussion, it’s something that can be treated with medications like buscopan or mebeverine.

Food Poisoning

If food poisoning is the cause of your stomach ache then that means you’ve eaten contaminated food (things like uncooked meats, fish and salad are frequent culprits) or had contaminated drinking water. Along with stomach cramps and diarrhea, food poisoning can also result in other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Food poisoning generally resolves on its own after a few days, but if your symptoms worsen or persist for longer than that then you should contact your family physician as they may want to rule out other causes or simply want to provide you with some kind of treatment to help speed the recovery process along.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

If you have repeated occurrences of stomach cramps with diarrhea, you may have a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome – also known as IBS. Alternatively, IBS can also cause constipation. Certain foods and beverages such as breads or cereals made with refined grains, chocolate, dairy products, and coffee, alcohol, or carbonated drinks can all contribute to IBS. It is important to know your triggers and make a list so that you know what you should avoid and start incorporating more healthy foods into your diet. You can find more IBS prevention strategies here.

Sudden Stomach Aches

If you develop a sudden stomach ache and the pain is excruciating or unbearable, this may be an indicator that you require immediate medical attention. While it may not necessarily be a matter of life or death, there are certain conditions that can cause stomach aches that, if left untreated, will only worsen, and may even result in hospitalization – sometimes even needing surgery. These include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Acute cholecystitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Stomach ulcers

In some cases you may need to have kidney stones, your appendicitis, or your gallbladder removed, while conditions like diverticulitis are treated with antibiotics, over-the-counter pain relievers, as well as a brief liquid diet to allow the bowels to heal.

Recurring Stomach Aches

For those with long-term or recurring stomach pain, the cause is not usually serious, though in many cases it may require ongoing treatment. Unlike IBS, which does not cause inflammation, IBD (also known as Irritable Bowel Disease) does. Someone with IBD may have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, and may often find that the pain is relieved after using the toilet.

UTI and Acid Reflux

Things like urinary tract infections, acid reflux, and periods can also all be contributing factors when it comes to stomach aches. If a UTI is the cause, you will need to go on an antibiotic. If acid reflux is the cause, you may need to take an antacid or similar prescription-strength medication.

Menstrual Cramps

If having your period is the cause, you can find relief by taking over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or Advil, as well as applying a warm compress to the abdomen.