Pain in your stomach is a common sign for many medical conditions. It is important to know the reasons behind such pain along with its root cause. The types of stomach pain can vary. At times, it can occur all of a sudden and in a mild manner. Some pains may show up with as an acute discomfort. You may need to stay aware of the most common causes for stomach pain and also about over-the-counter (OTC) drugs available as possible options to treat such pain.
Pain in the stomach is often considered as a common medical condition. It can be triggered by many different causes. Often the type of stomach pain – i.e., severity, its suddenness, the time at which pain occurs, etc. – can give vital insights into your medical condition. It is difficult to start treating stomach pain without a clear idea about its triggers.
Possible causes of stomach pain include flatulence (gas formation), ulcers in your stomach, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), presence of stones in your gall bladder, etc. Incidence of pain in your tummy all of a sudden may be due to food poisoning, viral infections resulting in gastroenteritis, stone formation in your kidneys, etc.
Flatulence or gas formation
Gas can form in your digestive channel if you swallow air when you drink 1or eat. This can lead to accumulation of nitrogen and oxygen inside your tract – leading to the anus. Gas can also develop inside your tract when carbon dioxide or methane – known as gases of digestion – gets formed as you digest foods or drinks. Flatulence is often characterized by a sharp pain in your upper abdomen as well as stomach.
Ulcers in your stomach
You may run the risk of developing ulcers if you have been using drugs like naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin; these belong to a class of medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Stomach ulcers may also form due to bacterial infections. A strand of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori is known to trigger ulcers in stomach. Ulcers are an outcome when the walls or linings of your stomach are exposed to digestive acids or juices. When the thick mucus walls are thinned down, you are very likely to develop ulcers. The most common sign of ulcer formation is pain experienced in the middle of the abdomen – i.e., area between your bellybutton and chest.
This occurs when you consume foods which can trigger digestive juices to rise up in your food pipe (esophagus). It may also occur when you have eaten or drunk too much for your stomach to handle. Foods made of tomato or excessively spicy foods and a few drinks can cause this condition. Pain in the upper abdomen and stomach due to heartburn is one common sign of acid reflux.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
This condition can show up with different ways, mainly based on your metabolism rate and other factors. The most common sign experienced by most people is a pain in the upper abdomen or stomach pain. It is often accompanied by indigestion or difficulties experienced while passing stools.
Other reasons for stomach pain include formation of stones in gall bladder, food poisoning, viral infections resulting in gastroenteritis and formation of stones in kidneys. You may feel an acute pain in stomach when stones block the duct of your gallbladder. Consumption of contaminated or infected foods can also lead to nausea and stomach pain. These signs may occur shortly after you have consumed such foods. Stomach pain can occur due to viral infections – which you may have contracted from another individual. Gastroenteritis is also characterized by vomiting, fever and nausea. Kidney stones may cause pain in your lower back. This pain may soon reach your lower abdomen and stomach. The severity and intensity of stomach pain may vary based on the location of these stones and their movements in your urinary system.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat stomach pain
OTC medications available for treating stomach pain can be broadly categorized as upset stomach medicines and antacids.
Upset stomach OTC medications –
Simethicone – It is administered to offer relief from stomach pain by treating flatulence or gas formation. It can also relieve you from discomforts and build-up of pressure in your gut or stomach. This drug essentially breaks the bubbles of gas formed in your digestive system. When you are taking this drug in the OTC mode, ensure that the daily dose does not exceed 500 mg.
This drug is unlikely to cause any major side effects. However, if you experience signs such as itchiness, drowsiness, respiratory problems, etc., you are advised to take needful medical help. You need to tell your pharmacist if you are pregnant; this is very important to share information about your pregnancy prior to taking this drug. Also, if you are taking any thyroid medications or supplements, this drug may diminish the absorbing capability of such substances.
Cimetidine – This drug is taken for the treatment of stomach pain caused mainly by ulcers. It can also be used for treating acid reflux as well as to neutralize an excessive presence of stomach acids. It can offer relief to stomach pain and heartburn mainly by reducing the quantum of digestive acids or juices. If you are taking it as an OTC drug, you are advised not to consume it for more than 10 days.
The most common side effects of taking this medicine include – a feeling of dizziness and headache. But, if you experience serious side effects such as drop in libido or mood shifts (including depression) you may need to see a doctor. Inform your pharmacist if you are already having conditions such as renal dysfunction, diabetes or hepatic disorders. This drug may interact with blood thinners, antidepressants (especially of tricyclic genre) as well as with a few calcium channel blocking drugs. Hence, you need to inform your pharmacist about the medicines you are currently taking and also about pre-existing medical conditions.
Dimenhydrinate – This drug is used for the treatment of general discomforts in your stomach, including nausea. Common side effects of taking this drug include difficulties to pass stools and dizziness. It is unlikely to cause any major adverse reactions. However, if you experience respiratory problems or acute level of drowsiness, it is recommended to take medical attention without delay. If you have a medical history of bronchitis or asthma (or any other respiratory disorders), hypertension in your eyes (i.e., glaucoma), internal blockages in intestines, etc., you need to share these inputs with your pharmacist.
It is also a good practice to tell your pharmacist about the other drugs you are currently taking. This is needed as this medication can interact with sleep inducing as well as muscle relaxing drugs.
Omeprazole – This drug is used for reducing acids or digestive juices in stomach, problems in esophagus, etc. This medication can also be taken for the management of peptic or gastric ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disorders (GERD), etc. Main actions of the drug are to (a) decrease acid levels in your stomach or gastrointestinal tract and (b) cure inflammation of your intestines. It belongs to a family of medicines called Proton Pump Inhibiting (PPIs) drugs.
Common side effects of this drug include an excessive spell of tiredness and weakness. It is recommended to talk to your pharmacist if you have a medical history of respiratory problems, kidney problems, etc. This medication can interact with methotrexate and with a few chemicals or reagents used in diagnostic tests.
Lansoprazole – This drug can treat stomach pain by reducing acidity in esophagus, stomach, etc. As an added benefit, the drug can also treat ulcers, GERD and related disorders. Its key activity comprises – dropping the levels of acidity in your gastrointestinal tract and thus offer relief from inflammation or ulcers in the esophagal or upper abdominal region. This drug also is categorized under a family of medications known as Proton Pump Inhibiting (PPIs) medicines.
Common side effects of this drug are headache, indigestion, etc. If you have conditions such as excessive drowsiness or allergies and hypersensitivity to this drug, you are advised to talk to your pharmacist about it. This drug is capable of interacting with other medications – especially, methotrexate and ampicillin or other such antibiotics.
Antacids –These are commonly taken over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to treat acid build-up in your stomach. These drugs work to stop or decrease the production of acids in your gastric tract, and thus treat stomach pain. Antacids are popularly used to treat indigestion, gas formation, acid redux as well as heartburns.
These drugs are generally considered as safe for consumption by all people. However, you are advised to take a few needful precautions before using antacids that may have magnesium hydroxide or aluminum hydroxide in them; especially, those with a recent history of cardiac arrests or heart-based disorders who may have to limit their intake of sodium. As antacids can build up sodium levels, it is necessary to take prior approval from your treating doctor before taking some of these drugs’ variants.
Magnesium hydroxide – This medication is used for the treatment of acids in stomach and thus can relieve stomach pain. It also enables extra presence of water in your intestines and thus dilutes acidity levels in the gastrointestinal tract. Most common side effects of taking this drug are weakness, tiredness and a marked decrease in appetite. Drop in appetite may also be due to an altered sense of taste. If you have a clinical history of internal blockages in your intestines or appendicitis, you need to inform your pharmacist about such medical conditions. Also, if you are planning to get pregnant or already pregnant, you need to share such information with your pharmacist. This drug may interact with a few other medications – especially, calcium carbonate, aspirin, etc. Hence, it is recommended to inform about the other drugs you are currently consuming.
Calcium carbonate – This drug is also taken to reduce the quantum of acids in your stomach and thus help manage stomach pain. It can treat signs such as upset stomach, indigestion and heartburn. It is available both in liquid and chewable forms. This drug is however not recommended for long term use. If your current symptoms persist for more than 10 days, you need to stop this medication and consult a qualified medical practitioner.
Common side effects of this drug are excessive burping – owing to release of gas, inability to pass stools, etc. However, if you notice an excessive discharge of urine or mood shifts (such as depression or confusion) you may need to see a doctor without delay.
Also, if you have an existing condition of high calcium levels in your body (a condition called hypercalcemia) or renal disorders (such as formation of kidney stones), etc., you are advised to talk to the treating doctor. This medication may influence the absorption of a few drugs – such as ciprofloxacin (and other such quinolone antibiotics), minocycline and a few other antibiotics of the tetracycline genre.
Aluminum hydroxide – This is an antacid used for treating indigestion, stomach pain due to excessive acids, heartburn, etc. You may need to know that it can also be used to decrease the levels of phosphates in some patients; such as those who have renal disorders. This medicine may rarely trigger any side effects. Some people have however reported difficulties while passing stools and soreness of throat. In a few instances – mainly among people with allergies to this drug, side effects such as itchiness, mild respiratory problems, etc. have been observed.
This medication may interact with a few other drugs such as ciprofloxacin, aspirin and certain types of vitamins (mainly, vitamin C and D3). If you are planning to get pregnant or if you are already pregnant, you need to share this information to your pharmacist. Also, if you are nursing a baby, the effects of this drug on breastmilk are not fully known; hence, it is recommended to talk to your doctor if you are breastfeeding.
The key difference between these antacids resides in the time taken for each to start their actions as well as how they interact with other drugs. A few antacids may also have alginates. These are gummy substances that can rest on the top of all the other contents of your stomach. Thus, alginate virtually guards your stomach from the upper part of the abdomen. It is mainly used to get needful relief from stomach pain caused by acid reflux.
In sum, OTC medications for treating stomach pain are safe if used well within the recommended dosage levels. Also, their use is restricted only for a short span of time. If your stomach pain or related discomforts persist for long, it is highly recommended to see a qualified medical practitioner without delay.