Common Causes of Stomach Pain

We’ve all experienced stomach pain at one point or another in our lives, and on most occasions, it is something that is usually temporary, often precipitated by things like not eating food or eating too much of it — or, eating a particular food that doesn’t necessarily agree with you. Another common cause of stomach pain is constipation, which can be treated by improving your diet (i.e. increasing your fibre intake, as well as eating more fruits and vegetables, and drinking water.) But there are certain stomach conditions that are much more severe and require medical intervention.

Food Poisoning

As mentioned, you can develop stomach pain as a result of eating something that doesn’t agree with you. In some cases, the foods that you eat could cause what’s known as food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness.) Food poisoning is caused by eating certain foods that have been contaminated with bacteria or toxins, often the result of not being cooked thoroughly or raw, unwashed foods cross-contaminating. Along with experiencing stomach pain, food poisoning can also cause symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and these are symptoms that can last for several days. To prevent food poisoning, always make sure the foods you’re eating are washed and cooked thoroughly (especially meats and poultry), and also avoid eating items that are expired. You should also wash surfaces and your hands regularly, and keep raw foods separate from foods that are already cooked and ready to eat.

If you develop any of the aforementioned symptoms and think you might have food poisoning, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. Depending on the type of bacteria you have come into contact with, your doctor may decide to prescribe antibiotics, though in most cases food poisoning will resolve on its own. In cases where food poisoning is severe, you may need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluids to prevent/treat dehydration and replace lost electrolytes, and you may also need to take an anti-emetic medication to help with nausea.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also commonly known as IBS, is a condition that occurs when you are unable to digest certain foods properly, which then results in stomach pain and other unpleasant symptoms such as gas and bloating, as well as constipation and/or diarrhea (often alternating.)

When it comes to treating IBS, it is focused on relieving your symptoms so that you are able to live as normal of a life as possible. This means avoiding any foods you know that tend to trigger your symptoms, eating foods that are higher in fibre, drinking plenty of fluids (water), and getting regular exercise. In some instances, physicians will also recommend eliminating specific foods from your diet all together, such as high-gas foods and beverages (i.e. carbonated and alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and certain vegetables such as cabbage or broccoli) and gluten (wheat) to see if this has any improvement on your symptoms.

Stomach Ulcers

If you have a stomach ulcer, this can cause persistent stomach and lower abdominal pain, in addition to other symptoms such as indigestion, bloating and even weight loss. Among the most common causes of stomach ulcers include the bacteria known as H. pylori, as well as overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (also known as NSAIDs.) It’s also common — though much rarer — to develop a stomach ulcer as a result of excess or hyper-acidity, and things like genetics, alcohol consumption and smoking also put you at an increased risk.

If you have a stomach ulcer caused by the H. pylori bacteria, you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics. If your stomach ulcer is the result of overuse of NSAIDs, you should avoid these medications and switch to something that isn’t as harsh on the stomach.

Originally published at on July 10, 2019.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store