Stomach pain and discomfort are among the top reasons people seek emergency medical care. In fact, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey between the years 1999 to 2008 found that visits to the emergency room for abdominal pain increased nearly 32 percent.
The National Institutes of Health explains that when you eat, your body breaks the food down so that it can be digested and the nutrients absorbed. For those who have a digestive disorder, eating certain foods can cause pain, nausea, vomiting and other abdominal symptoms. Digestive diseases like lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal infections affect up to 70 million Americans, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NDDIC.
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If you only have pain after eating cheese, but can consume foods in non-dairy food groups without a problem, you may be lactose intolerant. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, the most common food intolerance is to lactose, a sugar that's found in dairy, including milk, cheese and ice cream. Lactose intolerance occurs when the person lacks an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down lactose into a simpler form that the body can easily absorb. For those who do not have enough lactase, nausea, cramps, bloating and diarrhea can occur about 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking any kind food containing lactose.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The NDDIC explains that irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, is a group of symptoms caused when the colon, also known as the large bowel, becomes irritated. The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Foods that can worsen your symptoms include dairy products, like cheese.
Changing your diet could help minimize or even eliminate symptoms. The NDDIC suggests upping your fiber intake. Fiber helps minimize symptoms of constipation and can improve bowel function. The Allergy, Sensitivity & Environmental Health Association states that fiber-rich foods with lactose foods may reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Try eating apples, peaches, raw broccoli and carrots, kidney and lima beans and whole grain breads and cereals. The ACG recommends limiting dairy. You can also take lactase enzymes, available over the counter, to help you better tolerate lactose in cheese products.
The National Institutes of Health reports that if you have abdominal pain for more than 24 to 48 hours, you should contact your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if the pain is so intense that you cannot stand, if there is blood in your stool, if you feel persistently nauseated, your skin appears yellow and your belly is hard or rigid and tender to the touch.
- USA Today: ER visits for abdominal pain up, chest pain down
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Emergency Department Visits For Chest Pain and Abdominal Pain: United States, 1999-2008
- American College of Gastroenterology: Common GI Problems
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I need to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- MedlinePlus: Digestive Diseases
- National Institutes of Health: Abdominal Pain
- Allergy, Sensitivity &amp; Environmental Health Association: Some Facts on Lactose Intolerance
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.