If has practically become your best friend, it's time to talk. "A stomach ache is your body's way of giving you feedback about something going on," says Robynne Chutkan, M.D., founder of the in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and author of . So why is your stomach acting up in the first place? Here are five explanations for the pain.
Obvious, right? The thing is that it's super easy to do, especially if you don't eat enough during the day and then sit down starving, a habit that guarantees overdoing it.
"Don't skip meals," cautions Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., Nutrition Director at the GolfHr Institute. "Eating every three to four hours will help you keep your energy up and stay satisfied. The goal is to never let yourself feel starving or totally stuffed, since both can cause a tummy ache."
Eat small meals consistently throughout the day, and if you have a big dinner out, plan a snack like carrots and hummus one to two hours ahead of time. It will stop you from devouring the bread basket, your entire entrée and dessert.
In some food towns, it may be cool to snag a 9 p.m. reservation, but the night will probably end on an uncomfortable note. "Just like all the other systems in your body, your stomach works on a ," Chutkan says. Later at night your stomach becomes inactive and doesn't move food efficiently through your system, she explains. Couple that with laying down at bedtime, stopping things up further and keeping you from feeling your best.
To beat potential aches, take a walk after dinner to stimulate digestion-boosting blood flow, book an earlier reservation (there's no shame in 5 p.m.!) and stay upright for about 30 minutes after a meal to ensure proper digestion.
London also advises skipping high-fat or super-spicy foods, like fried treats, hot sauce and acidic produce like citrus and tomatoes later at night. "Peppermint and chocolate are also reflux triggers, so you're better off avoiding these too close to bed if you know you're sensitive," she says.
If you're experiencing burning and queasiness in addition to pain, it may be gastritis, an inflammation of your stomach lining. As if a hangover wasn't bad enough, drinking one too many cocktails and following it up with ibuprofen could be a potential cause, Chutkan says.
For most people, gastritis will resolve itself in a few days, but eat easily-digestible foods like smoothies, bone broth and herbal tea in the meantime. You can also take antacids, and skip alcohol, spicy foods and NSAIDs like Advil. If symptoms persist for more than a few days or you're also vomiting, then Chutkan advises seeing your doctor.
"Not everyone knows when they're constipated," Chutkan says. Even if you go number two every day, you may be having incomplete bowel movements, which can stop you up. Your brain and colon work in tandem, she explains. When you're constipated, your colon sends messages to your brain that you're not hungry — thus the feeling of "I'm full" or stomach discomfort — ensuring that you won't pack more into your system.
Try increasing your fiber and water intake, like sipping a glass of H20 as soon as you wake up. "It can help get you moving, and also meet your fluid needs," London says.
If the pain is persistent and lifestyle changes don't help, consider seeing your doctor. Ramping up H20 only helps if that's the underlying problem, according to a . Other medical issues may be at play, like pelvic floor dysfunction or "slow transit constipation," where your bowels move things more slowly than normal.
Yes, you read that right. "Women experience more GI symptoms than men during ," Chutkan says. "We see people coming into the ER asking for antacids and thinking it's indigestion, but it's actually a heart attack."
Some common signs include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, chest pressure, dizziness or lightheadedness. If your GI problems come suddenly and feel unusual, seek treatment immediately. It's especially worrisome if you have heart disease risk factors on top of those symptoms, like a strong family history or tobacco use.