Abdominal pain, gas and bloating are common symptoms that can indicate a wide variety of medical conditions. The severity of the symptoms does not necessarily reflect the seriousness of the condition. Minor gastrointestinal, or GI, problems can sometimes manifest in excruciating pain, while life-threatening diseases can sometimes cause only minor discomfort. In addition, medical conditions unrelated altogether to the GI tract can sometimes cause GI symptoms. For this reason, you should consult a doctor about GI symptoms that worsen or do not resolve.
Common Food Triggers
The foods that trigger pain, gas and bloating in one person may present no problem to another. Some common food culprits include diary, beans, soft drinks, gluten, wheat, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions and fruits. High-fat foods delay digestion and elimination and can cause bloating and discomfort. An allergy to a specific food may also trigger GI symptoms
Determining Food Triggers
Sometimes you can readily link the cause of abdominal pain, gas and bloating to a particular food or specific occurrence. Other times, the cause may not be apparent. If you cannot determine the cause of GI symptoms, keep a diary to help you identify a particular food or eating habit that may trigger the symptoms. You can also evaluate your food trigger through a process of elimination and reintroduction. Start by eliminating all suspected food triggers, such as meats, diary, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol and gluten, for three days. Slowly reintroduce the foods back into your diet to determine if you react to a certain food.
Production of Gas
Gas in the GI tract can result from swallowed air if you eat or drink too quickly. Your stomach rids itself of the gas by belching or passing gas. You may produce gas if you lack digestive enzymes or bacteria in your small intestines, so that undigested food breaks down in the colon.
Causes of Chronic Pain, Gas and Bloating
Chronic pain, gas and bloating after you eat may indicate a more serious condition. Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, causes abnormal contractions of intestinal muscles, which creates greater sensitivity to gas and bloating. Diseases that cause inflammation, such as colon cancer, GI ulcers or Crohn’s disease, can cause chronic bloating. Heart disease, gallstones or appendicitis can cause abdominal pain that can be mistaken for a GI problem.
Prevention and Treatment
Often, you can treat the symptoms by changing your diet. Once you have determined the food triggers, avoid those foods. In some cases, otherwise healthy foods cause GI symptoms--evaluate which nutrients you previously derived from the prohibited food and include other sources of the nutrients in your diet. If diet does not resolve the problem, your doctor can prescribe medications or other medical treatments.