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Why Does My Stomach Hurt? Do I Have IBS?

“Doc, Why does my stomach hurt?” This statement is so common sometimes people take it as normal, but its not. While everyone suffers from occasional abdominal pain as the result of an infection, stress, or an unhealthy meal, chronic stomach (abdominal) pain should always be pursued by a professional healthcare provider. There are a wide range of conditions, both physical and psychological, that can cause stomach or abdominal discomfort. The sooner your condition is diagnosed, the sooner you can receive the treatment you need to reduce or eliminate your pain, and embrace a healthy and active lifestyle.


Common Causes of Stomach Pain and Discomfort

The following are some of the most common causes of stomach pain with the first two being more functional causes of stomach or abdominal pain:

Diet. Even healthy eaters can unknowingly ingest foods that are doing more harm than good stomach painfor their digestive tracts and their bodies. Despite the lack of knowledge about it, food sensitivities and food allergies can reek havoc on your digestive tract. Ingesting foods your body is allergic to can result in gas, stomach pains, and may even cause permanent damage the delicate tissues in your G.I. tract. If you think this might be the problem for you, it can be very helpful to keep a food journal.

For one week, write down everything you eat. Bring it with you to your doctor’s appointment so the two of you can review it and correlate any potential triggers.


Stress. Unfortunately, the stress we deal with on a day-to-day basis has a direct effect on our physical well-being, in particular the digestive process. If you are someone who carries more stress and tends to worry, stress may be the culprit or your stomach pain. Perhaps you have already noticed a relationship between certain interpersonal relationships, interactions, or scenarios that seem to trigger your pain.

The optimal digestive environment requires a certain state of mind. It's true, our nervous system can be thought of as having two separate but opposite states, sympathetic and parasympathetic.  The sympathetic is fight or flight, ie stress. The parasympathetic is rest and digest. 

For example the stress and worry about work or home life can shift the energy away from digestion to other areas of the body. Then the food you eat ends up sitting there, undigested or partially digested.

Acupuncture for stomach pain and digestive issues is highly effective as it promotes relaxation and facilitates healthy digestive function. An integrative physician can work with you to learn other relaxation techniques and natural medication that can help as well.


Hormone imbalance. Many women are familiar with the stomach and back pain their menstrual cycle bring. This is the result of uterine cramping and the release of a hormone like substance called prostaglandin from the uterus. Some cramping is normal but severe cramping and pain can be the result of hormone imbalances, like excess estrogen. In the beginning of the cycle estrogens build up the uterus wall in preparation for pregnancy. When no egg is fertilized the uterine wall breaks down in the end of the cycle. The more estrogen the thicker the wall and the more breakdown. With more breakdown there is more prostaglandins and cramping. Since the cramping and prostaglandins are what cause the pain, excess estrogen may be to blame. In some cases the bowels may also be effected. 

This is an example of how hormone levels can affect digestion and abdominal pain but there are other hormone related causes of stomach pain as well. PCOS and ovarian cysts both can cause pain at various times in the cycle.

If your stomach is irritated on a regular basis, and you experience other symptoms of hormone imbalance, work with a doctor who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement in Phoenix for long-term relief.


Digestive Disorders. It may be that your chronic stomach pain is the result of bona fide digestive disorders. Some of the most common include:

These conditions are more classically identified in Western Medicine but that doesn't mean you have to use western medicines for treatment. IBS for instance, often does not respond well to western medicines. Celiac's Disease is commonly miss-diagnosed as Celiac's or IBS. GERD is very commonly associated with certain types of foods and lifestyles but some foods and causes are often overlooked in place of the easily prescribed "acid blocker." In some case more aggressive approaches with western based pharmaceutics are needed. This is the advantage of working with and integrative medicine doctor. 

When you visit doctors who use an integrative approach, you will enjoy the benefits of holistic treatments, and only get prescriptions when they are absolutely necessary. With this approach you are less likely to have negative side effects and have better chance treating the root cause of your problem. 



Visit Integrative Doctors who Look Beyond the Numbers and Find Real Solutions

Are you always wondering, “Why does my stomach hurt?” Stop wondering and get some answers. Contact the holistic physicians at Southwest Integrative Medicine to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work closely with you and your current provider (if you wish) to get to the bottom of things and find a solution that truly helps and heals!


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