For the media

Decoding digestive pain

By The Health News Team | February 21, 2022
Woman holding her stomach in pain

Almost everyone knows the feeling: Sometimes it’s a sharp pain or a dull ache that lets you know something isn’t sitting right with your stomach. But whatever the type, abdominal discomfort is common, with a vast range of causes from mild to serious.

Abdominal pain can come from any of the organs in the abdomen, commonly called the belly — such as the gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, and large and small intestines — or the abdominal wall, which is the outer shell of the body. Sometimes pain felt in the belly is actually coming from the chest, back or pelvis.

While many causes of stomach pain can be relieved with at-home remedies, it’s important to understand when pain is more serious and requires medical care.

The importance of timely care
“Abdominal pain is serious if it’s a new type of pain, if you’ve never experienced it, or if it is more intense than your usual pain,” says Dr. Mohammed Saadi, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “An abdominal pain associated with food intake gives rise to a gastrointestinal origin. Therefore, seeking an immediate medical evaluation is very important and could be lifesaving.”

Certain conditions that have abdominal pain as a symptom include:

  • Stomach ulcers

  • Small bowel ulcers

  • Heartburn

  • Indigestion

  • Diverticulitis

  • Gallstones

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Heartburn

  • Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis

If left untreated, these conditions can worsen and lead to serious complications, including severe bleeding, perforations and infections that could be fatal.

Identifying the source and treating the pain
According to Dr. Saadi, treating abdominal pain is based on an extensive workup, which starts with identifying the origin of the pain. Scheduling a visit with a stomach specialist is a vital step.

“The pain might be related to the stomach or an intestinal ulcer, which is typically treated by testing for a bacterial infection that causes ulcerations,” he says. “We exclude stomach cancer by performing an upper endoscopy with a sampling of the stomach. Other common causes for abdominal pain are due to gallbladder stones and pancreas pain.”

No matter the cause, if abdominal pain is unfamiliar, ongoing or severe, it’s important to contact your doctor. Together, you can work to rule out anything serious and make a treatment plan.

For the news media: To speak with Dr. Saadi about abdominal pain for an upcoming story, please contact

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