Stomach pain and difficulty digesting food can be a sign of various digestive disorders or conditions. These symptoms are most likely the result of a food intolerance or a food allergy. These conditions are commonly confused and improperly diagnosed. In both conditions, the gastrointestinal tract is affected, leading to similar symptoms. If you experience stomach pain and difficulty digesting food on a regular basis, make an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation.
A food intolerance is the body's inability to produce the proper enzymes to effectively digest food. The most common food intolerances are lactose intolerance, a sugar found in milk, and gluten intolerance, a protein found in wheat, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Because the body cannot properly break down the various substances in foods, the digestive tract attempts to rid itself of the food as soon as possible. This leads to common food intolerance symptoms, such as stomach pain.
Food allergies are common in young children. Some food allergies are more common in adults, such as a fish or peanut allergy. Typical foods that can cause an allergic reaction include fish, nuts, wheat, soy, eggs, milk and peanuts, according to MedlinePlus. If you have a food allergy, your immune system overreacts to certain proteins found in that specific food. The immune system attacks the proteins in the food and causes a chain-reaction in the body that produces various chemicals. These chemicals lead to common food allergy symptoms.
Stomach pain and difficulty digesting foods will be accompanied with other symptoms, common in both conditions. This includes vomiting, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, foul smelling stool and loose stool. If you notice blood in your stool, this may be a sign of a more serious condition and needs to be discussed with your doctor.
If the stomach pain and digestive difficulty are the only symptoms, it is likely you have a food intolerance. If you develop more symptoms, unrelated to the digestive system, you may have a food allergy. Food allergy symptoms, aside from the gastrointestinal tract, include shortness of breath, wheezing, hives, nasal congestion, a runny nose, skin rashes, eczema, watery eyes and throat irritation. You may also experience tingling or swelling in the mouth, lips or face, according to MayoClinc.com.
Your doctor may recommend implementing an exclusion diet that eliminates the most common foods related to intolerance or a food allergy. If the diet doesn't help in diagnosing the condition, your doctor may recommend blood work and allergy testing.