Stomach Ache Map: This Is What Your Stomach Ache Reveals About Your Health

You have gallstones.

If you find yourself experiencing a “stomach ache” in the upper right side of your abdomen, the real culprit is unlikely to be your stomach at all, since it resides in the upper left side instead. It’s far more likely that you actually have gallstones—small, crystalline masses in your gallbladder that can cause blockages and abdominal pain. But if it’s your gallbladder that’s telling you what’s wrong, it’s your stomach that offers corroborating evidence: nausea, vomiting, and darkened bowel movements are all typical of this common gallbladder condition.

“Gallstones are the product of cholesterol and bile,” says Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “Tis may result in infection, irritation, and inflammation.” He explains that gallbladder surgery is one of the most common surgeries in the country, so patients should be on the lookout for this combination of symptoms.

You have IBS.

If you find yourself enduring cramps, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habits that last longer than three months, odds are your stomach is trying to tell you that you have irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS.

“The three ways the ‘altered bowel habits’ can present is with constipation, diarrhea, or the double whammy, both constipation and diarrhea,” says Sherry Ross, MD, an OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

Or you have inflammatory bowel disease.

If you’re no stranger to frequent and recurring diarrhea, abdominal pain, a low appetite, and unexplained weight loss, your stomach may be trying to tell you that you have a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, IBD currently affects an estimated 1.6 million people in the United States. Though the exact cause for IBD is still unknown, it is likely influenced by genetic and environmental factors, as well as the strength of a patient’s immune system.

You have GERD.

Battling with stomach discomfort and heartburn? Your stomach may be trying to tell you that you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD.

“This common digestive disorder occurs when acid from the stomach enters the esophagus because the lower part of it–the esophagus sphincter–relaxes at the wrong time,” explains Bedford. These symptoms are frequently accompanied by difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or stomach acid, the sensation of a lump in your throat, and nausea.

You have an infection in your GI tract.

If you’ve been experiencing watery stool, abdominal pain or cramping, and nausea or vomiting, your stomach may be trying to tell you that you have a gastrointestinal infection.

“Gastrointestinal infections are either viral, bacterial, or happen because of a parasite,” Bedford says. “Inflammation occurs in the stomach and intestines and can lead to symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.” So what should you do to mitigate some of that infection’s worst effects? “Staying hydrated is optimal treatment for gastrointestinal infections because you may lose a lot of fluid,” notes Bedford.

You have hepatitis C.

If you’re experiencing a combination of abdominal swelling, lack of appetite, nausea, and stomach pain, you may have hepatitis C. According to Bedford, this particular viral disease can fly under the radar for a significant period of time. In fact, “unless someone is getting routinely checked by a doctor, it may go undiagnosed for years,” he says.

This is particularly troubling, considering that hep C can lead to irreversible damage to the liver, and even liver cancer. “Acute hepatitis C will clear up on its own, but chronic hepatitis C will never go away,” Bedford adds.

You have peptic ulcer disease.

If you are suddenly stricken with a sharp, burning abdominal pain paired with a feeling of fullness, your stomach may be trying to alert you to your peptic ulcer disease.

“Peptic ulcer disease is most commonly caused by [the bacteria] H. pylori, and will cause stomach pains. This bacteria disrupts the protective layer within the stomach, leading to ulcers,” says Bedford. You should also be on the lookout for an intolerance to fatty foods, heartburn, and nausea, all of which can help confirm the diagnosis.


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