Why Does My Stomach Hurt? 8 Common Causes

Your stomach can hurt due to conditions like anxiety and stress, or due to medication use, like antibiotics and laxatives. It is not always considered to be a serious clinical finding. 

However, if you stomach hurts for more than a few days, or if you notice other symptoms like bloody stool, intense diarrhea, fever or shortness of breath, the stomach pain can be a sign of gastroenteritis, a good intolerance or intestinal inflammatory disease. 

If your stomach hurts frequently, or if it appears with any of the symptoms above, you should see a doctor or gastroenteroloigst for assessment, so that the underlying cause of pain can be identified and treated. It may require treatment with medications, like antibiotics or analgesics for example. 

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Common causes

Your stomach can hurt for the following reasons: 

1. Intestinal infection

Intestinal infections are generally caused by viruses, protozoans or bacteria, and can cause stomach aches that are accompanied by symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever. Learn more about the symptoms of an intestinal infection and what can cause them.

What to do: Stomach pain usually improves within 3 days without any necessary treatment. In the meantime, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and eat easy-to-digest foods to prevent dehydration and promote recovery. 

If symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to consult a family doctor or gastroenterologist, as treatment with antibiotics and analgesics may be necessary. You should drink an electrolyte solution to help replenish lost electrolytes. You can also incorporate these intestinal infection home remedies into your medical treatment plan to help speed-up recovery. 

2. Medication use

Laxatives and other medications, like antibiotics, prokinetics, anti-inflammatories and metformin, can help to accelerate intestinal flow or decrease fluid absorption in the gut. This can lead to stomach aches that may be accompanied by diarrhea. 

In this case, pain generally occurs a few hours after using the medication and does not cause other symptoms. 

What to do: When your stomach hurts from medication, the pain is usually mild and tends to resolve within a few days of using the medication. However, if the stomach ache does not improve, you should consult your prescriber about possibly changing the dose, swapping to an alternative medication or discontinuing use.  

3. Food allergy or intolerance

An allergy or intolerance to foods with lactose or gluten, for example, can cause symptoms in some people, like stomach aches, diarrhea and increased gas. This condition can also interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. 

In these cases, symptoms generally appear after eating the specific food, while severe allergies can also cause shortness of breath, itchiness and a swollen face. 

What to do: If you suspect a food allergy or intolerance, you should identify the triggering foods and avoid ingesting them. When removed from the diet, the stomach ache and other symptoms tend to improve. 

You are advised to see a family doctor, allergy specialist or immunologist for assessment and testing to determine which good is causing your stomach to hurt. 

4. Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can increase adrenaline and cortisol levels in the blood, as well as reduce the gut's ability to absorb certain foods during digestion. This can lead to stomach pain and diarrhea. Read more about stress-induced gastritis and how it can present. 

What to do: A stomach ache can occur in cases of intense stress, fear or anxiety, and generally improves after the person has relaxed or the stressful situation as passed. Check out herbs for anxiety that you can use to prepare soothing teas to help you relax. 

5. Hepatitis

Liver inflammation caused by a hepatitis virus can lead to a stomach ache. This condition typically presents with other symptoms, like general malaise, loss of appetite, vomiting, and yellow skin and and eyes. 

What to do: Treatment for hepatitis depends on the underlying cause of it. The family doctor or liver specialist may advise you to improve dietary habits and increase fluid intake, or prescribe medication that inhibits viral replication. 

6. Appendicitis

Appendicitis can cause a stomach ache that initially spreads across the abdomen, and then become localized in the bottom right abdomen. It typically presents with symptoms like fever, nausea and vomiting. 

What to do: If you suspect your may have appendicitis, you should proceed to an emergency room for assessment and testing, like an ultrasound or CT scan. Once confirmed, it is usually treated with surgical removal of the appendix. 

7. Inflammatory bowel syndrome

Inflammatory bowel syndromes, like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, can cause a stomach ache. These conditions are associated with intense swelling of the intestines, which can lead to gut damage and reduced functioning. 

In addition to stomach pain, other symptoms include frequent diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, bleeding and mucus in the stools. 

What to do: If you suspect you may have an inflammatory bowel syndrome, you should see a family doctor or gastroenterologist for assessment and treatment. Treatment generally involves the use of immunomodulating medications and dietary changes. Learn more about the IBS diet that your doctor may advise. 

8. Intestinal cancer

Intestinal cancer can cause stomach aches, as cancer will typically interfere with bowel habits and may even cause deformities to the intestinal walls. It can also cause other symptoms such as blood in the stool, constipation or frequent diarrhea. 

What to do: It is important to consult a family doctor or gastroenterologist, who can prescribe tests like a colonoscopy to confirm a diagnosis. When confirmed, treatment may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery.