Wellness

7 Causes and 2 Cures for Stomach Cramps

BY Health 1+1 TIMEJuly 7, 2022 PRINT

Stomach cramps are also called gastro spasms, which can feel like a sharp pain in the abdomen and can in serious cases even result in vomiting.

In our busy lives, it’s very common for us to have lunch while working at the same time. Sometimes, after eating some spicy food, one may experience upper abdominal cramps or even cold sweat, and one may end up vomiting. At first, you may think that it’s a stomachache and rush to the emergency department, only to be told by the doctor that it’s stomach cramps.

This is an increasingly common symptom in our modern world where many lead stressful lives.When gastro cramps take place, there are two ways to relieve the pain prior to needing medical attention.

According to Dr. Hao Yu Kao, attending physician at the Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, MacKay Memorial Hospital, the main location of the pain is at the area of the xiphoid process below the sternum and above the belly button. Some people will feel pain in their entire abdomen.

The pain is not a type of stuffy pain, but a colicky pain, because the stomach is stimulated, and the stomach wall muscles’ rapid peristalsis causes the symptoms. The duration of one episode may range from seconds, minutes, to hours.

Patients may also experience other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, constant burping, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, including constipation and diarrhea.

7 Causes of Gastro Cramps

The causes of stomach cramps are mostly dietary habits and life stress, and a small percentage of cases are caused by diseases.

  • Diet

Diet is the most common cause for stomach cramps. Spicy food, overly coarse fiber, desserts, greasy meals, and hard-to-digest glutinous rice can all cause stomach cramps.

In addition, poor eating habits such as irregular meal schedules, eating too fast and overeating can also make the stomach prone to inflammation and cramps.

Dr. Kao pointed out that while having a meal, many people also take meetings, or continue working or playing on their cellphones, which can easily cause stomach cramps. He explained that these distracting actions actually affect the blood flow that should go to the stomach and intestines. A meal should be consumed in relaxation, with us concentrating on eating, and that is the best for our stomach and intestines.

  • Stress

The symptoms of most of Dr. Kao’s patients with gastrointestinal spasms are triggered by pressure at work and poor dietary habits. According to the Liver Disease Prevention & Treatment Research Foundation, emotional factors are often strongly associated with digestive symptoms and weakened gastrointestinal mucosal resistance. Most people with gastro cramps are under long-term life and work stress.

  • Alcohol consumption and tobacco use

Long-term smoking and excessive alcohol consumption will affect the normal function of the gastrointestinal tract, weakening the stomach’s immunity and making the stomach sensitive to the slightest irritation.

  • Gastrointestinal diseases

Constipation, acute gastroenteritis, gastric erosion, gastric ulcers, intestinal adhesion, intestinal obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gastrointestinal diseases can also cause gastro spasms.

  • Drugs

Regular use of painkillers may cause stomach damage.

  • Gynecological diseases

When abdominal pain is caused by menstrual pain, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammation, endometriosis, and other diseases, the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and vagus nerves in the abdomen will be affected, which may also cause stomach cramps.

  • Liver and gallbladder diseases

Gallstones, cholecystitis, and liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure, can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Other diseases such as food allergies, food intolerance, appendicitis, colorectal cancer, pancreatitis, abdominal trauma, abdominal aortic aneurysms, abdominal tumors, peritonitis, cystitis, and acute congestive heart failure can also cause gastro cramps, because discomfort in other organs of the body may affect the stomach. However, these conditions are relatively rare.

2 Ways to Relieve Gastro Spasms

Gastro cramps can be extremely painful. Dr. Kao pointed out that there are two ways to relieve the pain when the cramps occur:

  • Lying on your side and applying a hot compress to the painful area: The hot compress helps relax the muscles, as the stomach cramps are caused by excessive muscle contractions.
  • Pressing acupuncture points: You can press the Liangqiu point (ST-34), which is located two cun (Chinese proportional unit) (three finger-breadths) above the superior lateral border of the patella. The Liangqiu point is the xi-cleft point of the stomach meridian, so it can be pressed to relieve acute pain.
Epoch Times Photo
(Health 1+1)

The stomach meridian starts between the eyeball and the infraorbital ridge, and then tracks the infraorbital foramina and continues to the lateral margin of the mouth in a straight line. The stomach meridian acts together with the spleen meridian to control the preaxial border of the lower limbs.

You can also press the Zhongwan point (CV-12), if it doesn’t hurt when being pressed, to relieve pain. The Zhongyu point is located four cun (five finger-breadths) above the umbilicus, on the anterior median line of the upper abdomen.

Epoch Times Photo
(Health 1+1)

Zhongwan point is a commonly used point to cure spleen and stomach diseases, and it is useful for improving hiccups, stomach pain, bloating, belching, loss of appetite, gastritis, and gastric ulcers. It can even be described as the body’s “natural stomach medicine.”

After the pain is relieved, it is still necessary to seek medical treatment to find out the cause of the stomach cramps.

Eat 3 Food Items to Nourish Your Stomach

Gastro spasms are treated differently depending on the cause. For instance, for patients with poor bowel movements, medications are usually used to promote smooth bowel movements. If the condition is caused by stress, then there are also medications that can adjust and relax the autonomic nerves.

Gastro spasm patients can eat three food items to nourish their stomach in daily life: okra, ginger, and yams. Okra is good for the health of the mucous membrane of the stomach; ginger helps with gastrointestinal motility and alleviates gastrointestinal discomfort; and yams are a wonderful food for the stomach and intestines, as they contain mucopolysaccharides, which can promote the decomposition and absorption of protein and starch.

They can also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and exercise to make bowel movements smooth and to avoid constipation. If there are foods that make them feel uncomfortable after consumption, they should avoid them in the future.

According to Dr. Kao, it is best not to sit down immediately after eating a full meal, which will make the food accumulate in the stomach. It is best to walk for 10 to 15 minutes after the meal. Also, we should not eat too fast, as it is best to chew each bite of food 15 to 20 times, in order to reduce the occurrence of gastrointestinal cramps.

Health 1+1
Health 1+1 is the most authoritative Chinese medical and health information platform overseas. Every Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. EST on TV and online, the program covers the latest on the coronavirus, prevention, treatment, scientific research and policy, as well as cancer, chronic illness, emotional and spiritual health, immunity, health insurance, and other aspects to provide people with reliable and considerate care and help. Online: EpochTimes.com/Health TV: NTDTV.com/live
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