Remedies, Treatments, and When to See a Doctor

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The term “stomachache” is a catchall for discomfort in the abdomen or belly. The discomfort can include pain, but nausea and other symptoms may be present too. However, most stomachaches are not serious. Oftentimes, you can treat even a bad stomachache at home.

There are many organs and structures in the abdomen, a system that stretches from the ribs to the pelvis. While people may call it a stomachache, it may not involve the stomach at all.

This article will describe some simple at-home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to get rid of a stomachache. It will also explain common causes of stomachache and when to see a doctor.

ginger root and lemon next to cup of hot water

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For common stomachache causes, such as gas and bloating, you can take steps to ease the pain and feel better more quickly. Here are some tips for how to get rid of gas and the bloating it can cause:

You can also use OTC medicines, such as antacids, to relieve common causes of stomachaches. According to a 2009 evidence-based summary of gas management, medicines include: 

  • activated charcoal (Actidose-Aqua, EZ Char)
  • alpha-galactosidase (Beano)
  • bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate)
  • simethicone (Mylanta Gas, Gas-X)

Note that pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and aspirin can worsen stomach pain. These medicines can irritate the stomach lining. In general, you should not use them to try to relieve stomach pain. Follow the directions and cautions on the label of any OTC medicine you use.

To avoid stomach upset in the future, experts recommend limiting the following foods and beverages:

  • acidic foods, such as citrus or tomato products
  • artificial sweeteners
  • carbonated drinks
  • drinks containing caffeine or alcohol
  • dairy containing lactose
  • fatty, fried, or spicy foods
  • high fiber foods that produce gas, such as cruciferous vegetables and beans

It can also help to reduce the amount of air you swallow during the day. Things that lead to excess swallowed air include:

  • chewing gum
  • drinking through a straw or gulping drinks
  • eating too fast and not chewing food thoroughly
  • smoking
  • wearing dentures that do not fit properly

Oftentimes, stomachaches are due to harmless causes that will resolve on their own. Common causes of everyday stomachaches include:

These conditions can sometimes cause severe discomfort in the abdomen in and around the stomach and intestines. However, pain that is constant, severe, or worsening usually indicates a more serious problem. Less common but potentially serious causes of abdominal pain and stomachache include:

In people assigned female at birth, problems with the reproductive tract can mimic a stomachache. This includes endometriosis, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, and menstrual cramps.

Other causes of stomach pain outside the digestive tract include urinary tract infections and kidney stones.

Emotional stress can also cause stomach discomfort or pain. This is especially true in children who may not be able to adequately express how they are feeling emotionally.

A stomachache is pain in or around the stomach, in the upper part of the abdomen. However, most people use the term stomachache when referring to pain or discomfort anywhere in the abdomen. Abdominal pain could involve abdominal organs besides the stomach, such as the gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, liver, and some parts of the intestines as well as nerves and muscles.

Contact your doctor or make an appointment if you have a mild stomachache that persists or recurs often. Other symptoms that should prompt a visit include:

There are also times when immediate medical care is the safest way to handle stomach pain. Go to an emergency room or see a doctor right away for a stomachache with any of the following:

At-home remedies that might work to get rid of a stomachache fast include sitting upright, sipping cool water, applying moderate heat, and gently rubbing your tummy. OTC remedies include Pepto-Bismol, Mylanta Gas, and activated charcoal products.

Contact a healthcare professional if your stomach pain does not go away or comes and goes often. Also contact your doctor for stomachaches accompanied by a change in your bowel or urination habits, fever, or weight loss. Get medical help as soon as possible for sudden or severe stomach pain, or when you also experience chest pain, problems breathing, or other serious symptoms.



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