I share my tips for how to stop stomach cramps and pain, and discuss causes, symptoms and remedies.
Let’s be real. Stomach cramps are just not fun. I can tell you that I’ve had my fair share of annoying tummy troubles and have come up with some really great strategies to get rid of stomach cramps in their track. But first, let’s take a peek at what’s actually going on.
What the Heck Are Stomach Cramps?
Stomach cramps are the tightening of the stomach and intestinal muscles. It’s usually intermittent, but can become chronic in some specific conditions. We all know the feeling, and it never feels good.
What are the Causes of Stomach Cramps?
There are a lot of common reasons for stomach cramps, so it’s important to speak to your family doctor if it’s becoming a regular occurrence. Here are some of the most common reasons for stomach cramps.
1. You’re Feeling Stressed
The brain interacts with the body through the enteric nervous system (among other systems, of course), which helps regulate our digestion. Stress can disrupt the natural digestive process, causing abdominal pain and cramps. Just another reason why stress totally sucks.
2. You Need to Up the H2O
When we get dehydrated as a result of excess vomiting, diarrhea or sweating, we lose a lot of important electrolytes. Since electrolytes (like calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium) are key players in proper muscle contractions, skimping out can cause painful spasms.
3. You’re Feeling Farty
Hey, everyone farts, nothing to be ashamed of there. But when you have a lot of gas in your gut, your intestinal muscles tend to spasm and cramp in an effort to get rid of it. Not fun times.
4. Gastrointestinal issues
If you’ve been diagnosed with an actual digestive issue, stomach cramping may become part of your everyday life. Definitely speak to your doctor about a long-term solution if this sounds like you.
5. You’re Backed Up
When you’re low on water, fibre, or a combination of both, you might find yourself a wee bit constipated. In this situation, your bowels start to cramp up as they try to deal with the built-up pressure inside. It’s bad news bears all around, really. Make sure you’re staying hydrated and getting your 25-38 grams of fibre each day.
6. You Ate Too Much, Too Fast
Hey, even eating too much salad too fast can cause some gastric distress. When your body has to work extra hard in a short period of time, you can experience some mild cramping so slow down your eating pace.
7. You Went a Little Crazy on the Fatty Foods
Fat is harder for our body to digest than carbohydrates so overdoing it on greasy foods like gravy, butter, and fried foods can do a number on the ol’ digestive tract.
8. Your Mouth is on Fire
The active component in hot peppers, capsaicin, has a tendency to irritate the stomach lining, perpetuating stomach pains and cramps. If you’re already prone, go easy on the spicy curries and sauces.
9. You OD’d on Coffee
Caffeine can increase stomach acid and irritate the stomach lining, both of which can cause stomach cramps and even diarrhea if you’re not used to it. Maybe switch to a gentle camomile tea if coffee isn’t your friend.
10. You Ate a Little Too Many Sweets
We know an excess of sugar isn’t the best for us, and our stomach definitely agrees. As sugar is processed through our gut, some of it can get fermented in our lower intestine by bacteria, causing bloating, gas and cramps.
11. You Got into the Bag of Sugar Free Candies
Sugar free candies may seem like a good idea, but they’re typically sweetened with a sugar alcohol like sorbitol which is notorious for causing bloating, cramping and yes, even rampant diarrhea. Stay away. Stay far away. That’s all I’m going to say.
12. You’re Lactose Intolerant and Ate a Tub of B&Js
Considering one in five Canadians are lactose intolerant, stomach cramps can be expected after massive ice cream sundaes. Take a lactase enzyme supplement or just pace yourself.
13. You Had One Too Many Adult Bevvies
Alcohol in excess can damage the stomach lining, resulting in pain, cramps, diarrhea and in extreme cases, serious damage. Always know your limits and stick within it!
How to stop Stomach Cramps and Pain
Friends, you really don’t have to live in pain with stomach cramps. In addition to avoiding or cutting back on some of the aforementioned scenarios, here are a few natural strategies to get rid of stomach cramps.
1. Heat it Up
Heat can help relax your tight spasming tummy by increasing blood circulation, so grab a heating pad or run a warm bath.
2. Starchy Foods and Grains
While an excess of sugar may be inflammatory, slow burning carbs like starches and whole grains help to coat the lining of the stomach, easing digestion and promoting a soothing effect.
There is some research that ginger may be effective for abdominal discomfort and indigestion because it helps to reduce the time for the stomach to empty. Try steeping some fresh ginger in water for a quick tea, or adding grated fresh ginger to stir-fries and juice.
4. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint is a natural anti-spasmodic, meaning it helps to sooth our intestinal tract and calm muscle contractions that cause cramps. It also helps stimulate the gallbladder to secrete bile used to digest fats so it’s a good pairing for those fattier holiday meals.
5. Treat Yourself to a Massage
If it’s just a little gas, you may need to work that out so giving yourself a gentle tummy massage may help ease stomach cramps.
6. Up the Electrolytes
When we’re experiencing a lot of cramping, like stomach cramps, it may be a sign that we’re low on sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium since these electrolytes are responsible for muscle contractions. Aim to up your intake with foods like bananas, coconut water, milk, tomatoes, citrus, pumpkin seeds and sea salt.
Buscopan® is an antispasmodic medication that helps calm cramping muscles and reduces tummy pain. It’s specifically formulated to help target the pain at the source (and not just mask it), while providing relief of stomach cramps. It’s available behind the pharmacist’s counter without a prescription so you don’t have to suffer from those tummy troubles.
8. Easy Exercise
9. Rest and De-stress
If it’s stress related (and hey, that’s totally common), you might just need to pull back and take a break. Try to get in some extra sleep or just lay down for an hour to see if the stomach cramps disappear.
Hopefully this post helped give you some ideas on how to get rid of stomach cramps?
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I would love to know what foods or scenarios you have found cause stomach cramps for you?
What tricks and remedies have you’ve found to stop stomach cramps?
Leave me a comment below and for more information on Buscopan®, speak to your pharmacist or check out Buscopan.ca. To help avoid side effects and ensure proper use, talk to your pharmacist before trying Buscopan®.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Buscopan®, however, all opinions are genuine.
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.