About Stomach Cramps
Stomach cramps (also known as abdominal cramps or irritable bowel syndrome symptoms) are very different from period pain, indigestion and heartburn. Often described as "sharp", "stabbing" and "intense", stomach cramps or irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, are spasms in the digestive tract and can be caused by stress, food and lifestyle changes.
They can strike at any time and may have a considerable impact on your everyday life and may be so intense they literally stop you in your tracks or leave you doubled up in pain. This can be really disruptive and may affect your social life, work and personal relationships.
Forty per cent of people in the UK suffers from abdominal pain and discomfort at some point in their lives so you're not alone. According to recent research:
- 39 per cent of abdominal cramps sufferers finds the pain stops them from going out with friends.
- 22 per cent have time off work due to abdominal cramps.
- 19 per cent stop being intimate with their partner during an episode.
Symptoms of Stomach Cramps
Abdominal cramps are very different from period pain, indigestion and heartburn. They can often be triggered by stress, lifestyle changes or eating certain foods.
People who suffer from stomach cramps often describe stabbing or sharp pain. They are caused by spasms in your digestive tract that lead to pain and discomfort.
Stomach cramps may also occur alongside other symptoms. These include constipation and/or diarrhoea and abdominal bloating. However people can be affected in many different ways and other symptoms may include nausea, headache, excessive wind, poor appetite and bladder problems.
Causes and Triggers of Stomach Cramps
The Underlying Cause of Stomach Cramps
Normal digestion depends on your body's ability to push your food through your digestive tract. This process is called peristalsis and involves rhythmic, wave-like contractions of the gut to gently squeeze and break down food and move it along your digestive tract. Usually, you won't feel these gentle contractions at all. The entire digestive tract is very sensitive. A variety of dietary and lifestyle factors such as eating something that doesn't agree with you or a particularly stressful event can aggravate the movement of the smooth muscle along the digestive tract. When this happens, the normally gentle wave-like contractions can go into spasm causing painful abdominal cramps.
How is Stomach Cramps Triggered?
A combination of factors may trigger painful spasms. Many people who suffer from stomach cramps do not know the exact food, lifestyle change, stressful event or situation that is causing their spasms.
The Main Triggers of Stomach Cramps
Stomach Cramps & Diet
You may be sensitive to a particular food or have an allergy or intolerance. Certain foods such as breakfast cereal, brown bread and cabbage are more likely to cause you discomfort. You may find that keeping a food diary helps you to identify dietary triggers.
Stomach Cramps & Lactose intolerance
This is intolerance to dairy products such as milk, cheese and cream, or any foods containing these dairy products. People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough of the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose in the digestive tract. Symptoms of lactose intolerance will depend on how much dairy or dairy containing foods you have consumed and how bad your intolerance is. Symptoms include bloating, nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Because many people think they're lactose intolerant when in fact they aren't, it helps to see a doctor who can diagnose the condition correctly and advise you on ways to manage it.
Lifestyle changes or a change in your routine caused by travelling can result in a change in bowel habit. You may not have felt comfortable to visit a loo on the aircraft or felt anxious about unfamiliar surroundings. Additionally, a change in your diet or dehydration associated with being in a different climate may also affect your bowel habits.
Stomach Cramps & Stress
A degree of stress is actually good for the body, however feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry or overwhelmed can cause a range of different symptoms including stomach cramps. Stress can make the mind more aware of the sensations that arise in the stomach and make you perceive these sensations as unpleasant.
Hormonal factors - hormones can affect your stomach and women who are going through the menopause can suffer intense abdominal cramps. Some sufferers of abdominal cramps also find the problem can flare up around the time of their period.
Stomach Cramps & Food poisoning
Along with vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach cramps are one of the most common symptoms of food poisoning. It is important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. This is particularly important for children. If your symptoms persist or become worse, you should contact your doctor.
Stomach Cramps & Viral infection
There are a group of viruses known as noroviruses that cause "stomach flu" or gastroenteritis. Do these viruses produce similar symptoms to food poisoning? vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. There is no specific treatment for norovirus, apart from letting the condition run its course. It is important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, particularly for children. Babies should be given their normal feed. If symptoms persist longer than a couple of days then you should seek advice from NHS Direct or contact your doctor.
Stomach Cramps & Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Abdominal cramps are a common symptom of IBS. If you suspect you may have IBS, "try keeping a diary of your symptoms" - as this will help your GP in making a diagnosis.
Buscopan & Stomach Cramp Treatment:
Buscopan Cramps is a specialist treatment that is specifically designed to treat the spasms that cause stomach pain or cramps.
The active ingredient in Buscopan Cramps, hyoscine butylbromide, has an antispasmodic action that relaxes the spasms in the digestive tract to ease pain and discomfort. Unlike painkillers which mask the pain, Buscopan® Cramps works directly on the cause of pain, the spasm in the gut and to provide effective relief.