Eating regular meals is beneficial for physical and gastric health, but many people skip meals due to lack of time or out of an erroneous belief that it will help bolster a weight-loss diet. Skipping meals can lead to a number of negative health consequences, including painful stomach cramps.
Causation of peptic ulcers has been a matter of debate in the medical and scientific communities for some time. A theory that ulcers are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori replaced earlier theories that ulcers were caused by stress and personality factors, but more recent research indicates that the bacteria theory is too simplistic and stress indeed plays a role, according to a 1999 "Journal of the American Medical Association" comment by doctors from Italy and the United States. Skipped meals and interrupted sleep patterns can contribute to an increased duodenal acid load, leading to development or exacerbating the symptoms of a painful peptic ulcer. Regular meals along with regular, unbroken sleep can decrease stomach acids and increase production of substances that fight inflammation and promote healing, thus reducing stomach pain from ulcer formation.
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome refers to a collection of chronic symptoms of gastric distress, including stomach cramps and pain, constipation or diarrhea, bloating and gas. Although doctors do not know the precise cause of irritable bowel syndrome, most people can control or minimize their symptoms through dietary changes, according to the University of Minnesota Life Science Foundation. Eating regular meals at the same time each day is a key dietary habit to support digestive health and avoid irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Avoiding large meals, eating more fiber and drinking water rather than alcohol or caffeinated beverages can also help alleviate irritable bowel syndrome.
Nonulcer stomach pain refers to the common symptoms of bloating, belching, nausea and cramping not identified as originating from any specific disease or disorder, according to MayoClinic.com. Skipping meals, leaving the stomach empty except for stomach acid, can create feelings of nausea. Large meals, especially those eaten after the stomach has been empty a while, can create sensations of bloating and an excess of gas, accompanied by stomach pain. Eat small, regular meals and avoid fatty, greasy and overly spicy foods to minimize incidences of nonulcer stomach cramps. If dietary changes do not ameliorate stomach problems, consult a doctor to help rule out more serious gastric disorders.
Both stomach pains and skipping meals can be symptoms of excessive stress. When faced with mental or physical stress factors, the body responds with a natural fight-or-flight reaction. While this is useful in a short-term crisis, living with stress on an ongoing basis can result in numerous negative health consequences, according to the Georgetown University Health Education Services. Missing meals, working through breaks and chronic fatigue are all symptoms of ongoing stress, as are headaches, feelings of anxiety and stomach problems like cramps and digestive disorders. Reducing stress through exercise and relaxation may relieve these symptoms, but see a doctor if stress is unmanageable, as ongoing mental and physical effects of stress can lead to serious health consequences.
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.