Let’s talk about your abdomen. Yes, your stomach. Don’t worry, I’m not here to drag you over the two extra inches you’ve acquired in the past few months. But you see that extra swelling in your ‘tummy,’ that tightness or feeling of fullness that you have? Sometimes it’s not too much food, although that is the usual suspect. The truth is your tummy is not just your tummy. In fact, the entire abdominal region is a very busy part of our body. After all, it’s the space that houses the liver, stomach, intestines, kidneys, uterus, spleen amongst others.
As you can imagine, this means that several things can go wrong in this area and because of the many organs in the abdomen, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact problem. For this reason, many people, especially women, struggle with non-specific abdominal symptoms for years, without any proper diagnosis. This means that if things start to feel different or uncomfortable, you should at least confirm that it’s nothing serious.
Generally, most non-specific abdominal problems are related to the digestive system, that is, how the food goes down. Now, if you have digestive issues, these are some of the symptoms you’d experience.
- Abdominal pain
- Burning chest pain
Some digestive problems based on our diet and lifestyle, sometimes even stress. This means that certain problems will go away if we take steps to change our lifestyle. Yes, including that extra belly you are carrying under that red dress. However, some may require medical treatment and can have fatal complications if not treated properly.
Keep reading to find out more about what some of these symptoms might mean.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The contents of the stomach include acid and when this backs up into the esophagus, it can cause a burning type of pain in the middle of the chest. This is known as acid reflux. This symptom is more pronounced when lying down at night or after a large meal. Some people may experience mild discomfort, while some may have excruciating pain. If you experience this symptom, it may be helpful to take note of what types of foods and beverages trigger the pain episodes and avoid them. Avoiding meals close to bedtime and elevating your head while lying down may also help. It is still a good idea to see a doctor in case medication is required to reduce the acidity of the stomach and inflammation of the esophagus.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
This is a commonly missed diagnosis due to the varied and non-specific nature of its symptoms. Signs of IBS can vary widely from having hard, dry stools one day to loose, watery stools on another. Bloating is also a symptom of IBS.The cause of IBS is unknown, but management of symptoms centers largely on diet, such as eating low-fat, high-fiber meals and avoiding common trigger foods (dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and foods that produce gas). The low-FODMAP diet, which involves eliminating foods that are high in certain carbohydrates called FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), has also been shown to reduce IBS symptoms.
Unfortunately, there is no test that can say for sure that you have IBS. Instead, your doctor must do a comprehensive examination to rule out other possible causes to arrive at a diagnosis of IBS.
Celiac disease is a serious sensitivity to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. In people with this disease, they basically have an allergic reaction when they eat foods containing gluten. It damages the villi, the fingerlike protrusions in the small intestines that help you absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. In children, symptoms may include abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and weight loss. Symptoms in adults can also include anemia, fatigue, bone loss, depression, and seizures.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
This is a group of digestive conditions made up of two diseases. Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis. The cause of these conditions is not known but genetics have been shown to play a role as they tend to run in families. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are very similar to those of Crohn’s, but it only affects the large intestine while Crohn’s can affect any part of the digestive tract.
The most common Crohn’s symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding from your bottom, weight loss, and fever. Treatment depends on the symptoms and can include topical pain relievers, immunosuppressants, and surgery. Avoiding trigger foods like dairy products, carbonated beverages, alcohol, coffee, raw fruit and vegetables, red meat, and foods that are fatty, fried, spicy, or gas-producing can also help prevent flares.
The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning pain in the center of the tummy. The pain usually starts shortly after eating. Stomach ulcers occur when the layer that protects the stomach lining from stomach acid breaks down, allowing the stomach lining to become damaged. This damage can sometimes be because of taking certain types of painkillers known as non-steroidal anti inflammatories for long periods of time. There is another type of ulcer, known as duodenal ulcer and the pain is similar but is usually triggered by not eating for long periods of time.
Other common symptoms of peptic ulcers include heartburn or indigestion, feeling full, even when the stomach is empty, bloating, gas, nausea.
If you have symptoms such as cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, nausea, fatigue, and acid reflux, you may be suffering from a food intolerance. Monitor your diet to find out if there is any relationship between eating certain foods and the appearance of symptoms.
Certain medications have digestive symptoms as side effects.
Aspirin and medicines used to treat arthritis, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), should be avoided if you have a stomach ulcer or get indigestion.
Certain tranquilizers, painkillers, iron tablets and cough medicines can cause constipation and some people get diarrhea while taking antibiotics or blood pressure medicine.
As you can see, many of these conditions share similar symptoms and this can make diagnosis tricky. It is not unusual to be dismissed by healthcare personnel, especially when tests have been done and are non-conclusive. However, nobody knows your body better than you do and if you are certain something is wrong, keep speaking up until you find a doctor that listens.