Do cramps have your stomach in knots? As a pharmacist, I often get questions about how to manage stomach cramps and the associated pain. Over 90 per cent of women suffer from belly pain at least sometimes with an important impact on their quality of life, and the pain that comes with it ranges from a mild ache to a severe and sharp pain that for some people can be chronic and debilitating.
So what do you do? The first step is to understand what is happening in the body. Stomach cramps occur when there is a sudden, strong tightening of the muscles in the stomach and intestines. These spasms can arise from a range of conditions, including digestive disorders and infections such as a stomach flu or food poisoning. Food sensitivities and intolerances, such as reactions to lactose, gluten and histamine can also bring on stomach pain as well as gas and bloating. Stress and exercise are other possible triggers that could lead to an unhappy tummy.
When people try to manage their stomach cramps, they aren’t always sure if they are choosing the right treatment path. When it comes to stomach cramping, it’s best to target the source of the pain.
As with any other health problem it is important to listen to your body and work with your health care provider to identify the underlying problem and get the appropriate treatment.
Here are some tips to consider for managing those tummy troubles:
Watch what and how much you eat
To keep stomach cramps from disrupting your day, try increasing your intake of foods that provide beneficial bacteria (probiotics) such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. Improve bowel regularity by consuming soluble fibre (oats, chia seeds and fruit are some examples) and keep a food diary to help you identify your personal food triggers for stomach spasms. And when it comes to frequency, eat small meals throughout the day to keep your tummy happy and satisfied.
Prep for your workout
Avoid eating large meals or drinking lots of fluids before a vigorous exercise routine. Sip small amounts of water during your workout and be sure to rehydrate afterward with a good electrolyte beverage such as coconut water.
Target your cramps
Consider trying an antispasmodic, such as Buscopan®. This product has been around for decades and remains an effective treatment for stomach cramps. It works by relaxing the muscles in the digestive tract and addressing the underlying problem rather than masking the pain. Buscopan® is available without a prescription, but it is kept behind the counter so remember to ask your pharmacist for it. To help avoid side effects and ensure proper use, talk to your pharmacist before taking Buscopan®.
Find your zen
Keep stress levels at bay by doing relaxation activities such as yoga, stretching exercises and deep breathing techniques to calm both mind and body.
If you experience high fever, blood in your stools, vomiting blood, swelling of the stomach or severe and unrelenting pain it is important to seek immediate medical attention as these symptoms could indicate a serious medical problem.