Lower left abdominal pain after eating is relatively common. In most cases, the pain's source is benign, and you can treat the problem quickly. In some instances, the pain is indicative of a more serious problem. To understand your lower left abdominal pain, there are a few aspects of the problem to consider.
Lower left abdominal pain after eating is commonly caused by irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. The American College of Gastroenterology reports that IBS is very common, with more than 58 million people afflicted. One of the symptoms of IBS is a sharp pain in your lower left abdomen after eating. Lower left abdominal pain is also associated with diverticular disease, as explained by Cedars Sinai Medical Center. The pain can be more pronounced after eating, though it will likely also recur at other points during the day.
Along with pain after eating, other concurrent symptoms often appear alongside IBS or diverticular disease. Patients with IBS experience gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation along with pain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some patients also experience depression and anxiety with IBS. Diverticular disease is associated with vomiting, bloating, rectal bleeding and frequent and painful urination.
To determine the source of your pain, your doctor will ask you questions about the pain, as well as your diet and lifestyle. Most doctors can diagnose IBS with basic patient history and a simple physical examination, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If your doctor suspects the pain is caused by diverticular disease, a colonoscopy or colon X-ray is used to test for the disease.
Once your doctor determines the cause of your post-eating abdominal pain, treatment typically consists of dietary regulation and medication. IBS occurs when the intestine's muscle movement is impaired, either from illness, stress or poor nutrition. To treat this, you must increase fiber and fluid consumption, exercise regularly and reduce your stress level with counseling or medication. Anti-diarrheal or laxative medications are also prescribed in some cases. Diverticular disease occurs when small sacs on the colon called diverticuli become inflamed. To fix this problem, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication or surgery are in order.
Irritable bowel syndrome is manageable once identified. On the other hand, diverticular disease can recur. It is a serious condition that causes immense pain, often aggravated after meals, when solid waste is processed by the colon. The disease is not fatal, but it causes daily discomfort. While recurrence is probable, however, it is not likely. Cedars Sinai Medical Center explains that mild diverticular problems only develop into recurring diverticulitis in one out of five patients. Do not overreact to lower left abdominal pain after eating, because it is usually treatable IBS or a mild diverticular problem. You should still see a doctor for testing and treatment, but do not stress too much, as most abdominal pain is benign.
Is This an Emergency?
- University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- McKinley Health Center: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Cedars Sinai Medical Center: Abdominal Pain – Unexplained
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Irritable Bowel Syndrome – All Information
- Cedars Sinai Medical Center: Diverticular Disease