Home Symptoms Stomach pain: causes, treatment, self-help tips

Stomach pain: causes, treatment, self-help tips

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 269 views

Stomach pain can feel stabbing, sharp, burning, aching, or cramping. They are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Stomach pain is often harmless. Then there is, for example, a too rich meal or stress behind it. However, pain in the stomach area can also have a serious cause such as gastritis, stomach ulcers or stomach cancer. They can even be an accompanying symptom of a heart attack! Read everything you need to know about the symptom “stomach pain” here.

quick overview

  • Causes: wrong or overly sumptuous meals, hectic eating, stress, grief and worries, inflammation of the gastric mucosa (gastritis), stomach ulcer , gastrointestinal infection, food poisoning , intolerance (such as lactose intolerance , histamine intolerance ), irritable stomach , stomach cancer
  • Attention: In addition to stomach diseases, diseases of other organs can also trigger stomach pain or upper abdominal pain, e.g. heart attack , inflammation of the pancreas , etc.
  • Diagnostics: Collection of medical history ( anamnesis ), physical examination, ultrasound , gastroscopy (gastroscopy), blood tests, etc.
  • Treatment: depending on the cause of the stomach pain, e.g. adjustment of the menu and eating habits in the case of an unhealthy lifestyle, relaxation methods in the case of chronic stress and stomach ulcers, medication, surgery (for stomach cancer), etc.

Stomach pain: description

The term stomach pain (medical: gastralgia) summarizes a variety of different pains in the stomach area. In contrast to general abdominal pain , it is upper abdominal pain that is localized on the left to the middle and usually feels burning, pressing, boring or stabbing . They can be brief or last for a long period of time. Stomach cramps are stomach pains that occur suddenly and often at short intervals one after the other.

Depending on the cause, people who suffer from stomach pain often have additional symptoms : These can be, for example , loss of appetite , belching , nausea, vomiting, constipation , diarrhea , bloody stools or abdominal and abdominal discomfort.

Stomach pain: causes and possible diseases

Stomach pain has many different causes. In principle, they can be caused organically or be triggered or intensified by diet and lifestyle. Here you will find an overview of the most important causes of stomach pain or upper abdominal pain:

Stomach pain as a result of illness

Sometimes pain in the stomach is caused by diseases. These often affect the stomach itself, for example in the case of inflammation of the gastric mucosa, a stomach ulcer or an irritable stomach.

But stomach pain is not always due to the stomach. There are a number of other diseases that also cause problems in the stomach area. These include, above all, other diseases of the digestive tract. The intestines are particularly often affected. But also diseases of the pancreas, liver and even the heart can cause pain in the upper abdomen, usually accompanied by other symptoms.

The most common and important diseases that can cause stomach pain or upper abdominal pain are:

  • Inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis): Acute or chronic gastritis causes stomach pain and often other symptoms such as loss of appetite , nausea and vomiting . Possible causes of the inflammation are irritants (alcohol, drugs such as ASA, etc.), stress, an infection with the stomach germ Helocobacter pylori and autoimmune reactions.
  • Stomach ulcer (Ulcus ventriculi): Typical symptoms are burning or oppressive pain in the upper abdomen, which often occurs in connection with eating or drinking. Loss of appetite, bloating , nausea and vomiting, and weight loss are other common signs of a stomach ulcer.
  • Gastrointestinal infections: They are often accompanied by stomach pain or abdominal pain, as well as vomiting and diarrhea. The trigger is an infection with bacteria or viruses , more rarely with parasites. In children, gastrointestinal infections are often caused by rotaviruses, in adults by noroviruses. Colloquially, this is often referred to as gastrointestinal flu .
  • Food poisoning: Eating food contaminated with pathogens or toxic substances usually causes severe stomach pain with cramps and vomiting. Mild food poisoning will go away on its own within a few days. In severe cases, hospital treatment is required.
  • Irritable stomach: The term includes various complaints in the upper abdomen for which no organic cause can be identified. This can include upper abdominal/stomach pain, a feeling of pressure and fullness, loss of appetite, aversion to certain foods, acid reflux, flatulence and heart ache. Possible causes of an irritable stomach include a disturbance in gastric mobility, an oversensitive nervous system in the upper digestive tract and psychological factors.
  • Intolerance : Some people have an intolerance to certain food ingredients, such as milk sugar (lactose intolerance), fructose ( fructose intolerance ) or gluten (gluten intolerance, celiac disease ). The consumption of the substance in question can then trigger stomach pains in addition to other symptoms.
  • Stomach cancer: At first, gastric cancer often shows symptoms similar to gastritis or a stomach ulcer. As it progresses, there is a sudden aversion to certain foods (often meat, coffee, fruit). Vomiting blood and tarry stools also indicate stomach cancer.
  • Reflux disease (reflux esophagitis): This is a pathologically increased reflux of acidic stomach contents into the esophagus . This usually manifests itself as a painful burning sensation behind the breastbone or in the upper abdomen. If this heartburn occurs repeatedly, the lining of the esophagus can become painfully inflamed by the acid (reflux esophagitis). Pain in the upper abdomen occurs when swallowing. Vomiting and severe diarrhea are also possible.
  • Duodenal Ulcer (Ulcus duodeni): The duodenum is the part of the small intestine that connects directly to the stomach. An ulcer in this area causes, among other things, upper abdominal pain (typically on an empty stomach), a feeling of pressure and fullness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, gas and acid reflux.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis): Inflammation of the pancreas causes severe upper abdominal pain, often accompanied by loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
  • Heart attack: Not every heart attack triggers the classic acute pain in the chest that radiates to the left arm. Women in particular often have a different set of symptoms, such as sudden pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Eating disorders: Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia can also be the cause of stomach problems.

Diet related stomach pain

Harmless stomach pains are often caused by eating the wrong food or eating too much. Because even the stretching of the stomach wall after a pleasurable feast can trigger discomfort in the stomach area. There are also various foods and beverages that irritate the gastric mucosa and can cause stomach pain.

Diet or eating habits can be responsible for stomach pain for the following reasons:

  • Food that is too fatty or too spicy irritates the stomach lining. It stimulates the release of gastric acid. People with sensitive stomachs in particular often react to this with stomach pains.
  • Alcohol and smoking can also be to blame for too much stomach acid.
  • Coffee, cola, onions and citrus fruits can also irritate the stomach lining.
  • Fizzy drinks (especially if drunk quickly) cause bloating in the stomach. The result is a feeling of fullness, heartburn or belching.
  • Cabbage and beans are “explosive” foods that can also cause (painful) bloating.
  • Eating large, greasy foods right before bed can trigger heartburn. This is because stomach acid flows back into the esophagus more easily when lying down.
  • Eating in a hurry is also not advisable: if you wolf down your meal quickly, you often have to pay for it with stomach problems. This is especially true if you eat while walking and/or the food is very greasy or spicy.

Stress & Co. as a trigger for stomach pain

Sorrow and worry hit the stomach. There is a lot of truth in this adage, as stress is a common trigger of stomach pain. Other accompanying symptoms such as heartburn, diarrhea or nausea can also occur in the case of psychological causes. In the worst case, chronic stress can also cause organic diseases such as stomach ulcers.

Stomach pain from medication

There are also some medications that can cause stomach pain. These include the so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) . These are painkillers and anti-inflammatories, some of which are available in pharmacies without a prescription. Well-known representatives of this group of active ingredients are acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen and diclofenac . People with a sensitive stomach in particular often react with stomach pain when taking these medications. The reason: NSAIDs cause less protective gastric mucus to be formed.

Stomach Pain: When Should You See a Doctor?

Stomach pain is often harmless – namely when it only occurs occasionally and you can attribute it to a specific event: Perhaps you ate too quickly, too much, too much fat or wolfed down your meal hastily? This type of stomach discomfort can be treated with simple home remedies (see: Stomach pain: what can you do yourself?) or it will go away on its own after a while.

If this is not the case, you should see a doctor. It is also advisable to see a doctor if the stomach pain:

  • persist or recur repeatedly over a longer period of time, i.e. over several days.
  • Although they occur for a short time, they are very severe (e.g. with severe cramps).
  • be accompanied by other symptoms (e.g. vomiting or blood in the stool ).
  • are completely inexplicable from your point of view.

In such cases, serious stomach diseases can be behind the stomach pain. The insidious thing about these is that they often do not cause any symptoms for a long time or only cause unspecific symptoms such as a feeling of fullness, nausea, upper abdominal pain or loss of appetite. These can easily be mistaken for a simple upset stomach.

Attention, emergency!

Severe stomach cramps with simultaneous vomiting are particularly alarming . This points to food poisoning, for example from poisonous mushrooms. Then you should contact a doctor immediately.

Supposed stomach pain with nausea can also be symptoms of a heart attack . If in doubt, it is better to alert the emergency doctor once too many than once too little! Many sufferers tend to have left upper abdominal pain or chest pain , which often radiates to the left arm. Often there is a feeling of constriction in the chest, shortness of breath and a strong feeling of anxiety up to the fear of death. Especially in women, a heart attack can also manifest itself in other ways, such as diffuse acute upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and a feeling of pressure and tightness instead of chest pain.

Stomach pain: what can the doctor do?

In order to get to the bottom of your stomach pain, the doctor will first talk to you in detail. In this way, he can collect your medical history (anamnesis). Possible questions from the doctor include:

  • How long have you had stomach pain or upper abdominal pain?
  • Where exactly is the pain?
  • How bad is the pain?
  • Do the symptoms occur in connection with the intake of food or drink?
  • Do you have other symptoms such as a feeling of fullness, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss , etc.?
  • Do you take any medicine? If yes, which?
  • What is your diet like?
  • How often do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke?
  • Are you currently under a lot of stress?

The time at which the stomach pain occurs is particularly important for the diagnosis. For example, the pain of a stomach ulcer is often felt about an hour or two after eating. On the other hand, patients are usually pain-free in the morning on an empty stomach. In people with irritable stomach syndrome, stomach pain and other upper abdominal symptoms usually occur independently of food intake.


After the anamnesis interview, a physical examination follows . Among other things, the doctor will feel and tap your abdomen.

Various apparatus-based examinations often follow in order to determine the exact cause of the stomach pain. These include various imaging methods such as an ultrasound examination . This simple, fast and risk-free method provides the doctor with rough information about the condition of the stomach and other abdominal organs. In many cases, for example, the ultrasound makes a stomach ulcer visible.

Gastroscopy ( gastroscopy ) provides even more precise results . In addition to gastric ulcers, this can also be used to detect, for example, inflammation of the gastric mucosa and tumors in the stomach wall. As part of this endoscopic examination, the doctor can also take tissue samples from (suspicious) areas of the gastric mucosa ( biopsy ) and send them to the laboratory for analysis.

Tests of blood, stool and urine samples sometimes also provide valuable information about the cause of stomach pain (e.g. in the case of an infection).

The doctor decides on a case-by-case basis when which examinations are necessary and useful.

Stomach pain: treatment

What you can do about stomach pain depends on what is causing it. If the symptoms are caused by an illness that requires treatment, the doctor will discuss the treatment plan with you. This often consists of the administration of medication. For example, the doctor often prescribes proton pump inhibitors for gastritis. These inhibit the formation of aggressive gastric acid, so they act as a kind of gastric protection. Acid-binding drugs, so-called antacids, can also help with gastritis. Both groups of drugs can also be used for stomach ulcers. In rare cases, the ulcer needs to be treated surgically.

Stomach pain: home remedies

What to do with stomach pain? Various home remedies can help against stomach pain and its accompanying symptoms such as nausea – even if there is not always a scientific explanation for this effectiveness. You can become active yourself, especially if you have stomach pains caused by nutrition or stress.

Warmth against stomach pain

Heat is a proven home remedy for stomach pain and cramps. It relieves pain, promotes blood circulation and relaxes. You can try different methods.

Hot-water bottle and grain pillow

Fill the hot water bottle with hot (not boiling!) water and place it on your upper abdomen. If the bottle is too warm, place a tea towel or towel between your skin and the hot water bottle.

A warm grain pillow (cherry stone pillow) also works. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, heat the pillow on the heater, in the microwave or in the oven and place it on the upper abdomen.

Let the heat work for as long as it is comfortable.

Belly pad with chamomile

The moist, hot abdominal pad with chamomile has a pain-relieving, cramp-relieving and relaxing effect. To do this, pour half a liter of boiling water over one to two tablespoons of chamomile flowers. Leave the tea covered for a maximum of five minutes. Then sieve off the plant parts.

Place a rolled up (inner) cloth in a second cloth and roll the whole thing into a wrap. Soak it in the hot chamomile tea with the ends hanging out and then wring it out. Caution hot! Then place the inner cloth around your stomach without any creases and wrap a dry cloth around it.

Now let the abdominal pad with chamomile work for 20 to 30 minutes and then rest for at least half an hour. You can use this home remedy twice a day.

People with neurological or cardiovascular diseases should consult a doctor before undergoing heat treatment.

belly rub

A belly rub with diluted fennel, lemon balm, chamomile or caraway oil warms, relieves cramps and pain, calms and stimulates digestion . Caraway oil is particularly good for stomach pain. The body absorbs the active ingredients through the skin.

To do this, warm a few drops of oil in your hands and rub gently on the stomach in a clockwise direction for a few minutes. Don’t work with too much pressure! Then rest, well covered, for about half an hour. You can do the abdominal rub several times a day as needed.

Which tea for stomach pain?

Various medicinal plants can help against upper abdominal pain. The following medicinal plants have proven to be effective as tea for stomach pain:

  • Chamomile : calms and reduces inflammation
  • Cumin : helps with gastrointestinal cramps and bloating
  • Peppermint : relieves stomach cramps
  • Lemon balm : helps with stress-related stomach pain
  • Fennel : relieves digestive problems such as stomach pain, bloating, flatulence
  • Ginger : absorbs acid and relieves nausea

You can find out more about the effect and the preparation of the teas in the relevant medicinal plant texts.

Roll cure with chamomile tea

During a roll cure, the medicinal plant tea is distributed in the stomach in such a way that it comes into contact with the entire gastric mucosa. So the chamomile tea can act on all parts of the stomach wall. It reduces inflammation and calms the stomach.

To do this, drink two cups of chamomile tea and then lie on your back, left side, stomach and right side for ten minutes each.

Stomach pain: what to eat?

What calms the stomach? If you have a stomach ache, it is best to eat bland foods. Avoid lavish and fatty meals. The following foods are good for calming the stomach:

Honey : It contains substances that support the gastric mucosa. Ideally, eat a tablespoon of natural, cold-spun honey on an empty stomach in the evening before going to bed.

Bread : Eating a piece of bread can help with acid-related stomach pain. In addition, bread (like pasta) is easy to digest. But be careful: This does not apply to fresh bread and coarse wholemeal bread!

By the way : When eating acidic foods such as salads with lots of vinegar or wine, make sure they have a firm and “absorbent” basis such as potatoes, bread or pasta.

Ginger : The ingredient gingerol absorbs acids. This can relieve acid-related stomach pain. Ginger also drives away nausea. Since this root tuber is very hot, it is best to prepare a ginger tea. You will achieve the best effect if you grate the ginger.

Flaxseed : The mucilage in flaxseed helps with mild inflammation of the gastric mucosa. To prepare it, boil a tablespoon of flaxseed in a quarter liter of water for half an hour. The resulting mucus is strained off. Take small amounts of it throughout the day. The flaxseed mucus lays on the stomach wall and protects it from acid.

Healing earth : Healing earth can be used internally to help with acid-related stomach pains. You can read how to properly consume healing earth in the article “Healing Earth”.

adjust lifestyle

Relaxation Exercises: If stress is causing your stomach pain, try autogenic training, Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation, or similar relaxation techniques.

Avoid harmful influences : Also, give your upset stomach time to recover. Try to keep away additional damaging influences. Therefore, avoid:

  • alcohol
  • nicotine
  • stress
  • Fat food

Home remedies have limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not improve or even get worse despite treatment, you should always consult a doctor.

prevent stomach pain

Your stomach will be happy if you heed the following tips:

  • Eat healthy, varied and low-irritant. This means avoiding very greasy and/or spicy food and large portions. In addition, if you have a sensitive stomach, you should only consume irritating foods such as citrus fruits in moderation. Be careful with foods that are difficult to digest, such as beans. Their flatulence can be reduced by soaking the vegetables in water for at least 12 hours before cooking.
  • For the sake of your stomach (and the rest of your body) you should avoid alcohol and nicotine .
  • Do n’t eat too late in the evening: Eat your last meal of the day at least two to three hours before bedtime.
  • You should also avoid stress and anger .

If you follow these recommendations, you can effectively prevent (renewed) stomach pains as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.

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