There is a high emotional cost to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders that cause abdominal pain. (1) Are you paying a high price?
The real life experience of a patient who suffered with gastrointestinal issues for years:
Thankfully, she found help and has been doing well for many years.
Other things patients have said to me over the years about their gastrointestinal pain. Does this sound like you?
- “IBS is a living hell”
- “For me, it is like a mix of period pain, severe bloating, and upset stomach.”
- “I find the attacks stop me from having a normal day. As soon as I feel it coming, I know the next few days will be hell”
- “On a bad day… It feels like someone is taking a knife to my intestines and ripping them out.”
- “I am so bloated I feel pregnant.”
Many people I encounter have no clue what to do to recover. They have symptoms that are often debilitating and life-altering. And no one has given them any solutions.
Yet, there is hope for a pain-free life with IBS and other gastrointestinal problems that cause abdominal pain. It is helpful to have an understanding of what might be the source of your particular symptoms. I hope this article and website help you.
Rule out any serious conditions.
If you haven’t already, please see a gastroenterologist before working with me.
Most of my patients have been to multiple doctors over the course of many years. They came to me after much desperate searching with no solutions. Whether you are new to this, or you have seen multiple doctors, I can help you get to the root of your pain, yet you need to rule out any serious conditions. If you have not seen a gastroenterologist, it is a good idea to do so.
Always see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- severe pain that does not go away
- diarrhea at night or persistent diarrhea
- bloody stool
- unexplained vomiting
- difficulty swallowing
What causes abdominal pain?
Many conditions elicit abdominal pain, severe bloating, and unexplained diarrhea or constipation. And there are other things, such as colon cancer, that have similar symptoms. Hopefully, you are screening for that.
These are the most common conditions that lead to gastrointestinal pain:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and involves chronic inflammation.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder affecting 7-16% of the US population. There are no visible signs of disease, and there are no tests to date. It is a significant cause of missed work and school.
- SIBO means small intestinal bacteria overgrowth. SIBO is often misdiagnosed as IBS. I will write more about this soon.
- Bacteria, fungi, viruses from food, and water can cause a multitude of symptoms.
- Minor bowel obstruction can occur after surgery or from inflammation. Often it clears itself, yet sometimes surgery is required.
- Chronic constipation is difficulty passing stool or infrequent stool. It can be quite painful.
- GERD is a gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Parasites often cause acute abdominal pain, yet some cause no symptoms.
- Diverticulitis is the infection and inflammation of pouches in our intestines.
- A food allergy or intolerance can lead to gastrointestinal pain.
What is underlying these digestive issues?
What is the root cause of gastrointestinal pain and disease? Some causes are known, and some are not.
There are physical, emotional, and environmental factors that lead to painful gastrointestinal disorders.
- Physical stressors include infection, inflammation, and particular foods that your body may not tolerate.
- Emotional stressors, such as anxiety, depression, and life stress, significantly impact gut health. (2)
- Environmental factors such as contaminated water, air, and toxins take a toll on our GI tract, causing a range of acute to chronic symptoms.
Some dietary substances that can cause unwanted symptoms:
- Artificial sweeteners can cause gas and diarrhea.
- Sugar alcohols (usually end in -ol, such as mannitol) are carbohydrates similar to sugar and alcohol. They can have a laxative effect in higher quantities.
- Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley and causes painful symptoms in people who cannot tolerate it. (Read my article about gluten)
- Fructose is a sugar naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. It is highly processed and added to many packaged foods. Some studies show that over 30% of the population are fructose intolerant. (Read my article about fructose intolerance)
- Unhealthy fats such as margarine, shortening, and vegetable oils can cause digestive issues, especially if they are rancid. Rancid oil is more common than you might think.
Where there is pain, there is inflammation.
Inflammation is a leading cause of gastrointestinal pain.
Often associated with inflammatory bowel disease, inflammation is present in other painful GI disorders also. Where there is pain, there is inflammation.
When the immune system attacks a bacteria or food that appears to be a threat, inflammation in the intestines occurs. It is also difficult to digest food well when the intestines are inflamed.
Inflammation is an essential function in the body that can help and hurt. If the inflammation does not resolve quickly enough, it can damage the intestines and cause disease, chronic pain, and exacerbate the inflammation.
When you eat inflammatory foods regularly, you repeatedly trigger the inflammatory response causing your pain.
See the list of foods to avoid below.
Five foods to avoid if you have gut pain, or any pain for that matter:
- Sugar of all kinds
- Oils with high omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation. Avoid vegetable and seed oils such as soybean, canola, corn, and safflower oil. And also mayonnaise and salad dressings made with soybean oil.
- Refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta can be problematic, whereas whole grains with lots of fiber may not be.
- The gluten from wheat, rye, and barley can cause inflammation, especially in celiac or wheat allergy.
- Processed meat, such as deli meat, has many additives, and they are often inflammatory.
What kinds of tests are there for causes of abdominal pain?
These are some of the available tests:
- Food allergies – blood test and skin prick test
- Overgrowth of harmful bacteria (dysbiosis) – stool test
- Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) – breath test (3)
- Inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, bowel obstruction – endoscopy
Different things work for different people. I recommend cleaning up your diet and following my dietary recommendations to start. Below you will see a list of very helpful things to add to your diet and lifestyle.
How to help yourself get better and feel better!
- Exercise!! Exercise!! I cannot stress the importance of movement enough. There are multiple reasons why getting exercise is so important. Recent studies are showing the direct benefit of regular exercise to gastrointestinal pain.
- Hypnosis has been shown to have a very positive impact on the symptoms of IBS. The research shows lasting results up to 5 years. (4)
- Fiber (some can make you feel worse, and some may help a lot) Stay tuned for an article on dietary fiber.
- Eliminate certain foods such as alcohol, fructose, gluten, dairy, and fried food.
- Herbs that can help soothe the stomach and intestines: ginger and chamomile tea
- Yoga and meditation are very helpful because they calm the vagus nerve (5) which plays a role in the gut-brain connection.
- Digestive enzymes
- Digestive bitters
Healing your gut and digestive problems takes some time, effort, and consistency. It is well worth the effort.
YOU are well worth your time and effort.
Your results will be a great reward.
I am available if you need additional help. Just send me an email, text or call.