Stomach Pain

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common illnesses seen by family physicians and gastroenterologists. Most patients never receive adequate explanations or treatments. Chronic abdominal pain has numerous underlying causes. The general condition is lumped together under the term irritable bowel. Many patients have had this strange chronic abdominal pain since childhood. The pain seems to come and go.

It is often associated with eating certain foods and may manifest with abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea. Patients who have irritable bowel syndrome should avoid eating out. Many patients find that their symptoms will improve when they prepare their own food. It goes without saying that items they know to cause pain should be avoided. For some patients, spicy foods trigger pain. For others, it may be dairy products, wheat, pizza, alcohol, Mexican food, ice cream, or numerous other foods.

Common Causes

Physicians will order tests to rule out the known common causes of chronic abdominal pain. However, in many cases, they will not be able to identify a curable cause of this type chronic abdominal pain.

Abdominal pain that lasts for a short period time with nausea or vomiting and then resolves is often of little significance. The most common cause of this pain is consuming tainted food or water. Nearly everyone has had vomiting and diarrhea after eating out. The food may have viruses, bacteria, or degraded contents which cause pain. This type of illness is called gastroenteritis. It is much different than irritable bowel syndrome which can recur or persist chronically throughout your life.


Your physician will prepare a medical history to determine your pain pattern, duration, and prior treatment. Patients with irritable bowel syndrome usually have recurrent abdominal pain and often have visited many physicians for help. Patients usually change physicians until they find a suitable answer.  Usually, the patient has learned to live with their pain since treatments are often not sufficient. The minimum recommended tests include blood work for your hemoglobin, white blood cell count, liver function tests, stool for infectious agents, and additional blood tests for Celiac Disease.

The diagnosis of chronic irritable bowel syndrome is usually the diagnosis given when all of the known causes of treatable abdominal pain have been ruled out.


Patients who have had a hysterectomy (uterus removed), gallbladder removal, gastric bypass, appendix removal or any other abdominal surgery can develop adhesions. An adhesion is when the bowel sticks against another piece of bowel or when it adheres to the abdominal wall. An adhesion is similar to a scar on your skin.

Adhesions may or may not cause pain, depending on the location and size. An adhesion prevents the intestines from moving appropriately which result in spasms of the bowel or chronic dull pain. Large adhesions can produce obstructions of the bowel which is a serious but not an uncommon long-term complication of abdominal surgery.


Physicians are usually not able to give a sufficient answer or treatment for this type of chronic pain. If you are lucky enough to find a physician who can adequately treat your pain syndrome, you are fortunate. Most physicians are as frustrated as you are by this condition. Patients may have to seek many different physicians to find one who can adequately treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Reading informational blogs from others with this pain syndrome is a start. There may be some physicians advertising expertise for this problem. A gastroenterologist interested in this syndrome at a large referral center is suggested. Do not expect a miracle even with the most experienced physicians. Treatment may help control the pain but is usually not curative.

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