There are hundreds of common stomach problems that people face every day. Most are treatable simply by letting your immune system do it’s job as it sends an army of white cells to combat whatever infection is making you sick. Sometimes we take over the counter medications to help combat the nausea, such as Bismuth, commonly known as the name brand Pepto Bismal. Let’s explore some of the more common stomach problems and the treatments that go along with them, as well as which symptoms could be indicative of something more serious and when you should seek help from your provider.
Probably the most common digestive problem that people experience is called GORD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. This is when the stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and causes pain from the top of the abdomen up the chest and bottom of the throat, commonly known as Heartburn. Heartburn problems can be extremely painful, and it is usually treated by antacids. However, in some cases the deterioration is severe and medicine must be prescribed to first bring down the acid levels and then repair the damage to the esophagus.
Before you take painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofin or other NSAIDs for stomach pain that you can’t find a cause for, consider getting it checked out first. You may have a peptic ulcer, a condition experienced by some twenty five million Americans, and taking aspirin or other painkillers will actually hurt the condition, worsen it rather than making it better. An ulcer can cause internal bleeding at some point if you do not receive treatment, and in fact can eat through the wall of the stomach or the small intestine which puts you at serious risk for infection.
Gallstones is another common stomach problem that many people experience. Gallstones are tiny pebbles that are made up of a combination of bile salt and cholesterol mostly. The pain that gallstones cause is generally a sharp pain in the upper abdomen that will increase for approximately thirty minutes. Some patients may also experience pain in the back or shoulder. Gallstones generally require removal of the gallbladder, which is a common surgical procedure with few risks. Obesity can increase these risks. In most cases, if you aren’t experiencing pain from gallstones your gall bladder does not need to come out.
Many people experience stomach pains due to an intolerance to something such as milk in the case of lactose intolerance. As many as fifty million people in the United States are lactose intolerant, meaning that they lack the enzyme that others have that successfully digests the sugars contained in milk. The symptoms of lactose intolerance include gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. There are treatments available, such as a pill that replaces the enzyme lactase so that you are able to process the sugars. There are also lactose free products that you can replace milk with, and as far as other dairy products go, most lactose intolerant people can consume a limited amount of dairy products.
An extremely common condition suffered by everyone at some time or another is gas pain, and the cramping that is associated with it may cause concern in some, leaving them thinking that something must be seriously wrong with the amount and level of pain they are dealing with. Foods that are good for us, such as greens, fiber and others can cause stomach gas problems. This causes cramping and bloating in your stomach, which is generally alleviated by flatulence, although often to your embarrassment. There are many over the counter medications that prevent gas, or allow your body to pass it easily without pain.
The last condition that we’ll discuss is constipation. As a nation, we tend to eat in ways that don’t allow our body to dispose of waste effectively, leaving us constipated. Constipation is the inability to pass stools and can be an extremely painful condition if it lasts a long time. Most people will experience constipation at some point in their life, and it is usually treatable with laxatives, milk of magnesia or other over the counter medication. Keeping your diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables. However, if you go seven days without a bowel movement then you should contact your primary physician.