Stomach Pain and Diarrhea: Causes & Treatments (Medically Researched)

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Stomach pain and diarrhea can cause a lot of intestinal discomfort, not to mention embarrassment. Acute bouts of abdominal pain and loose, watery stool could be due to viral infections, food poisoning, or indigestion. Other digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disorders can cause chronic stomach aches and diarrhea.

Severe stomach pain can feel like short, sharp cramps that come and go. Or, the stomach ache could be a dull, constant gnawing feeling in your gut. Sometimes, passing watery stool can help to alleviate the pain in your stomach. Diarrhea could be fatty with bits of mucus in it or you may notice diarrhea with blood.

In some cases you may suffer from burning diarrhea or painful diarrhea especially if you ate spicy foods or when you have chronic diarrhea.

Usually, acute bouts of stomach pain and diarrhea could last a few days if caused by an infection. If you start to have persistent stomach cramping and diarrhea, it is best to visit your doctor.

The symptoms of diarrhea and stomach pain can sometimes help to diagnose the exact cause.

Diarrhea or Burning Diarrhea – What Is It?

Diarrhea is described as frequent loose watery stools that you pass frequently with or without pain.

In some cases, especially when having chronic or intense diarrhea, you may feel pain or burning sensation during or after the bowel movements. This is described as burning diarrhea.

Symptoms Related to Stomach Pain and Diarrhea

Cramping aches in your stomach with diarrhea can cause an urgent need to frequently run to the bathroom. As if that wasn’t enough, stomach pain and diarrhea can be accompanied with other unpleasant symptoms like:

Common Causes of Stomach Pain and Diarrhea

Here are the most common causes of stomach pain and diarrhea.

Stomach flu (gastroenteritis)

Gastroenteritis causes stomach pain along with acute bouts of watery diarrhea. The stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, is caused by a viral or bacterial infection that also causes nausea or vomiting.

The journal American Family Physician reports that foodborne diseases, contaminated water, parasites, norovirus, or rotavirus can cause symptoms of gastroenteritis. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are common in most cases of stomach flu. In more severe cases, like with a C.diff infection, you could pass bloody diarrhea during a bowel movement.1

Bacterial gastroenteritis is generally caused by contaminated food. The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews reports that there are over 40 strains of bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis symptoms. These usually result in severe and prolonged diarrhea along with stomach cramping.2

If you have gastroenteritis with stomach pain and diarrhea, it is important to drink enough fluids to prevent complications of dehydration.

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For other ways of treating the symptoms of gastroenteritis, please see my article on natural remedies for diarrhea.

Gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach)

Another reason for having severe stomach pain and passing watery poop is gastritis. Inflammation of the stomach lining can be caused by the H. pylori infection or reaction to an irritant.

According to researchers from Brazil, gastritis can cause abdominal pain under the ribs as well as belching, excessive gas, heartburn, and nausea. In many cases, patients also experienced painful diarrhea and a sour stomach.3

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that chronic gastritis can cause more serious intestinal problems. For example, an H. pylori infection can cause peptic ulcers that can result in pooping watery stools with blood. Depending on where the bleeding occurs in your intestines, you may also have black, tarry stool along with symptoms of anemia.4

Find out some of the best natural home remedies for treating an h. pylori infection.

Food poisoning

Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water can cause acute bouts of diarrhea with painful stomach aches.

Dr. Roberto M. Gamarra, a consultant gastroenterologist, reports that many bacterial pathogens can result in food poisoning. In some cases, diarrhea from food poisoning could last between 1 and 2 weeks. Depending on the severity of food poisoning, you may have bloody stools or pass diarrhea that looks like water.5

To find out how to recover faster from food poisoning, please see my article on the best way to treat food poisoning at home.

Traveler’s diarrhea

Traveler’s diarrhea causes the same symptoms as food poisoning like stomach pain, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.

A study from 2016 found that symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea usually last about 3 days. Mild stomach cramping and having 4 or more watery bowel movements a day are common with traveler’s diarrhea.6

Food allergies

A food allergy is an adverse reaction to a certain food that involves your immune system. Food allergies are commonly caused by foods that contain lactose or gluten. However, soybean, peanuts, fish, and shellfish are also known to cause an allergic reaction.

Dr. Shereen M. Reda, who is a Professor of Pediatrics, says that the most common symptoms of an allergic reaction to food are stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. In some severe cases, itching around the mouth, swelling of the lips or throat, and nasal congestion can also occur.7

It is important to avoid foods that contain allergens. You may also find helpful advice about treating allergies in my article about natural antihistamines to combat allergies.

Food intolerance

A food intolerance is an adverse reaction to food that can cause stomach pain and diarrhea after eating. Food intolerance is different than food allergy because it does not involve the immune system. The adverse reactions can be immediate or delayed for up to 20 hours after a food is eaten.

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Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic report that food intolerances differ from food allergies or food poisoning. Although food intolerances cause similar symptoms like nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, the underlying reason is connected to the digestive system.8

Common foods that cause symptoms of a food intolerance are dairy products (lactose intolerance) and foods that contain gluten.

Bile acid malabsorption

Malabsorption of bile acid can happen if you have certain gastrointestinal diseases that prevent your digestive system from absorbing bile acids properly.

The Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology reports that chronic and persistent diarrhea is a common sign of bile acid malabsorption. In most cases, patients also suffer upper abdominal pain, stomach gurgling, constipation, and smelly farts.9

Stress and anxiety

Emotional stress or anxiety can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and aggravate other gastrointestinal conditions.

Stress responses in your body reach nerves in your gut and can be a reason why you have symptoms of digestive upset. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic say that stress and anxiety can be factors leading to bad stomach pain along with diarrhea.10

Very often, dealing with chronic stomach pain requires learning how to deal with anxiety better to help improve your quality of life.

Indigestion

Indigestion is often referred to as an upset stomach and can cause watery diarrhea and stomach pain.

The journal Medscape General Medicine published a study on the different manifestations of indigestion. Scientists found that sharp stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are common in people with indigestion. Sometimes, underlying digestive diseases can intensify indigestion symptoms. Or, stress may also play a role in causing indigestion with stomach upset.11

To find out what can help to relieve the symptoms of indigestion, please check out my article on how to treat bloating and excess gas naturally.

Chronic Stomach Pain and Diarrhea

If you have frequent bouts of watery diarrhea accompanied by cramping stomach aches, it could be a sign of a chronic digestive issue.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is an intestinal disorder that can cause chronic diarrhea and stomach pain. In some cases it can cause burning diarrhea along with the stomach ache. IBS can also cause lower abdominal cramping after a meal, sulfur burps, flat ribbon-like stool, bloating, or episodes of explosive diarrhea. You could also have constipation followed by diarrhea and stomach pain with IBS.

The journal Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology says that some people who suffer from IBS have chronic stomach pain with diarrhea (IBS-D). Others have frequent abdominal pain with constipation (IBS-C).12

You can find out how to use peppermint oil to improve your digestion in my article on the best natural remedies for IBS.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

You may suffer from diarrhea after eating and stomach spasms that cause abdominal pain if you have an inflammatory bowel disease.

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Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that two forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These gastrointestinal conditions cause sores in the digestive tract that cause stomach pain and frequent diarrhea. Treating the symptoms of IBD usually requires reducing the number of flare-ups to allow the digestive tract to heal.13

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune reaction to gluten which can cause severe diarrhea and abdominal pain.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that the main symptoms of celiac disease are stomach pain, chronic diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss. Some celiac sufferers also have fatty or greasy stool because of malabsorption.14

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis describes a condition when small pouches in the colon become inflamed and infected. Very often, diverticulitis causes left-sided abdominal pain followed by diarrhea.

According to Dr. Minesh Khatri on WebMD, diverticulitis can cause abdominal cramping that is relieved by passing gas. Diverticulitis can result in pooping bloody feces, having episodes of diarrhea followed by constipation and abdominal pain.15

Please see my article on the best natural ways to treat diverticulitis.

Causes of Stomach Cramps and Diarrhea

Many causes of digestive upset will also result in stomach cramping and diarrhea. Cramps in the lower abdominal area usually feel like short, sharp pains that don’t last very long. Stomach cramps may also feel as if your belly muscles are tightening.

Some of the reasons for stomach aches that also cause stomach cramping and loose stool are:

  • Diverticulitis
  • Food poisoning
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Causes of Stomach Pain and Diarrhea Affecting Women Only

Female reproductive organs are close to organs in the digestive system. This means that there are some causes of stomach pain and diarrhea that only affect women.

Premenstrual syndrome

You may find that you have an increase in stomach pain, cramping, and even diarrhea in the days before your period is due.

A study published in the journal BMC Women’s Health reported on the link between gastrointestinal disorders and PMS symptoms. It was found that over half of women experience cramping before their period and during it. Also, about one-quarter of women also had stomach pain and diarrhea during their period.16

The reasons for premenstrual cramping and instances of loose stool can be connected to emotional strain or hormonal fluctuations.

Endometriosis

You might experience stomach pain with no period and an increased frequency of diarrhea if you have endometriosis. This is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus and results in spotting between periods and female pelvic discomfort.

A 2015 study into the effect of endometriosis on the gastrointestinal system found that the condition aggravates digestive disorders. Many women with endometriosis complained of severe abdominal pain and an urgent need to have bowel movements. Researchers also found that endometriosis worsened the symptoms of IBS.17

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer can produce symptoms similar to many other medical conditions that cause digestive upset, including pelvic pain and diarrhea.

Dr. Jerry R. Balentine on eMedicineHealth says that ovarian cancer can cause abdominal swelling, pain in the lower abdomen, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Sometimes the lower abdominal pain can be sudden and sharp.18

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If you notice signs of abnormal spotting between periods or you have spotting after the menopause, you should see a doctor.

Related: Early Warning Signs Of Ovarian Cancer You Shouldn’t Ignore

Abdominal Pain and Diarrhea Caused by Medications

There could also be a chance that any painful stomach cramps and diarrhea that you experience could be the side effects of medication.

Here are some common medications that are known to cause abdominal pain with diarrhea:

Antibiotics. Mayo Clinic staff say that taking a course of antibiotics can cause watery, loose stools as well as lower abdominal pain. The stomach pain and diarrhea could start about a week after taking antibiotics.19

NSAIDs. The long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs has the side effect of stomach pain and loose stools. In some cases, the side effects of NSAIDs also include bloating, heartburn, nausea, or constipation.20

Laxatives. The overuse of laxatives for constipation can make you have constant diarrhea with stomach pain. A review published in 2016 found that some types of laxatives cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.21

Chemotherapy. Cancer treatment involving chemotherapy can cause unpleasant side effects like persistent diarrhea. The journal Frontiers in Pharmacology reports that stomach pain is also a common side effect of chemotherapy.22

Other Causes of Stomach Pain, Nausea, and Diarrhea

In some cases, problems with internal organs can result in stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

Appendicitis

Dr. Sandy Craig on Medscape says that the most common symptom of appendicitis is severe lower right abdominal pain where your appendix is located. However, in around 90% of cases of appendicitis emergencies, people feel nauseous and throw up. Although less common than abdominal pain, diarrhea happens in about 20% of appendicitis cases.23

Please read this article to know how to spot the first signs of appendicitis.

Gallbladder attack

Gallstones or gallbladder inflammation can cause symptoms of a gallbladder attack that result in severe upper right abdominal pain and possibly diarrhea.

Doctors from the National Health Service report that gallstones can block the bile duct causing severe abdominal pain. In addition to the persistent right-sided excruciating abdominal pain, you may also have loose watery stool that may look pale, and jaundice.24

To find out what to do about gallstones, please read my article on getting rid of gallstones.

Liver problems

Dysfunction of your liver can be another cause of stomach pain and diarrhea that may also cause vomiting.

Dr. Jeffery A. Gunter on eMedicineHealth says that serious liver disease can cause itching all over the body, swelling in the ankles, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. A person with liver disease may show signs of jaundice and pass dark-colored urine.25

Find out how to avoid habits that can damage your liver and where liver pain is felt.

Fecal impaction and constipation

It may surprise you to know that constipation can also cause symptoms of diarrhea. How is it possible to have impacted hard stool as well as watery diarrhea?

Doctors from the National Health Service explain that what looks like diarrhea is actually anal leakage. Fecal impaction can make it almost impossible to having a bowel movement. However, watery stool can leak around the hard stool and look as if you have constipation and diarrhea at the same time.26

Please read my article on the best way to treat anal leakage naturally and avoid embarrassment.

How to Treat Stomach Pain, Cramping, and Diarrhea

There are many effective home remedies to help effectively treat the symptoms of stomach aches and pain that are accompanied by diarrhea.

The best kind of natural ingredients to use if you have stomach pain and diarrhea are ones that help reduce stomach spasms and soothe irritation. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Chamomile. Research has shown that chamomile contains anti-spasmodic properties and can help to relieve stomach pain. The benefits of chamomile also help reduce the frequency of loose stool and improve symptoms of digestive upset.27

Ginger. Ginger has an anti-diarrhea effect and can help to soothe stomach cramping and nausea. Research published in 2016 found that you can use ginger as a natural remedy for stomach aches and pains, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.28

Chamomile tea and ginger tea are just 2 herbal teas that can help improve your digestion.

When you feel that your symptoms of an upset stomach and loose stools are getting better, you should switch to a bland diet. This contains foods that are low in fiber and don’t place a burden on your digestion.

At the same, you should avoid fatty or spicy foods to prevent burning bowel movements and irritation of the extra-sensitive lining of your digestive system.

For more information, please check out my article on how to naturally get rid of diarrhea based on science.

When to See a Doctor

With using home remedies, stomach pain and diarrhea should start to get better in a few days. However, if your symptoms persist or worsen, you should see a doctor.

According to advice from doctors at the Mayo Clinic, you should seek medical care for diarrhea and stomach pain in the following circumstances:29

  • The abdominal cramping or pain is especially severe
  • You pass bloody diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting accompany diarrhea and gastrointestinal pain
  • You notice signs of yellowing skin and your urine turns a dark amber color
  • There is tenderness when you press on your upper or lower abdomen

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