Many cases of abdominal pain may be as a result of trapped wind, causing bloating and expansion of the intestines.
Adopting a few simple diet and lifestyle tips can help you avoid this pain and the associated worry.
Firstly, rule out underlying causes of your abdominal pain – in women, this is most commonly a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
You may have sudden abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhoea, which may be due to a bacterial or viral infection in the stomach and bowel.
Periodic and recurring abdominal pain can be caused by acid reflux, a stomach or duodenal ulcer, gall-stones, pancreatitis, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (for example Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis), or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Once you are sure there is no serious underlying cause to be treated, an abdominal pain plan is very similar to a bloating or excess gas plan in that it seeks to minimise fermentation and discomfort in the gut.
Common triggers to avoid
Abdominal pain, like bloating, can often be due to an imbalance in the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive system and intestines, and food fermenting rather than being optimally digested. Some foods sensitise the gut, and so it is worth experimenting with eliminating these foods completely from your diet:
- Cow’s milk
- Citrus fruit
In addition, I advise my patients to avoid the following foods which can irritate the digestive tract:
- Pork, beef, veal, sausages and processed meats
- Gluten grains: in addition to wheat – barley, spelt, kamut, rye
- Soybean products
- Sugar and sweeteners such as Sorbitol
- Fructose syrups, maple syrup and sugar
- Dried fruit, packaged fruit juices
- Alcoholic drinks
- Look carefully at labels for ‘hidden’ ingredients – avoid MSG, rusk, wheat starch, bran, farina and malt.
Healing foods to try
The goal of an Abdominal Pain Plan is to optimise digestion, manage excess gas, heal inflammation and ensure the levels of “good” bacteria outweigh the “bad”. The following foods are useful additions to your diet:
- Add lean protein to each meal or snack. Try some of these combinations: salmon with leafy greens and quinoa or rice; eggs with tomatoes; fruit sprinkled with nuts and seeds. If eating animal protein, look for organic or free-range options.
- Choose cold-pressed oils, such as olive oil, sesame seed oil.
- Get plenty of fibre from non-starchy vegetables, flax seed and fruits. However don’t eat an excess of fruit – the high fructose (fruit sugar) content mean that fruits ferment in the intestines, creating unpleasant gases and bloating.
- Get essential fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish, coconut oil and olive oil.
- Drink water, green tea, lemon juice and herbal teas. Avoid all fizzy drinks, including sparkling water – you don’t want to add more gas to your system.
- Choose non-gluten grains: rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, tapioca.
- Try yam, soy, chickpeas and anything with gluten-free flour.
- Replace cow’s milk with rice or oat milk, or try goats’ or sheep milk – they contain casein, which can be a problem for some, but they are worth a go all the same.
- Use dairy-free spreads: nut or seed butters, or coconut butter.
- Ground flax seed, fennel, fenugreek and aloe vera all help to soothe the gut.
- Increase your intake of filtered water to 2-3 litres per day.
- Culinary herbs such as sage, papaya and pineapple are antiparasitic and so help balance good and bad bacteria in your digestive system.
- Garlic and caprylic acid are antifungal, so also help with bacteria balance.
- Following an alkalizing diet can be beneficial – the diet includes vegetables, green juices, protein powders and whey protein.
Tailoring your supplements
- In my experience, abdominal pain caused by a digestive imbalance almost always responds to a daily supplement of live bacteria. My high-strength multi-strain Live Bacteria capsules contains four strains and a minimum of 4 billion colony-forming units, and is the product I recommend most often to my clinic patients to help re-colonise their gut with “friendly” bacteria.
- If your abdominal pain is due to a UTI, caused by e-coli bacteria migrating from the bowel to the bladder, supplementation with my high-strength, multi-strain For Women live bacteria capsules may help prevent the e-coli from sticking to your bladder wall.
- The second most important supplement is a digestive enzyme, to help the body digest food so that painful bloating and abdominal pain is less likely to occur. I’ve added calcium to my plant-derived Digestive Enzymes to give your digestive system extra support. Take Live Bacteria with your breakfast and a Digestive Enzyme with your main meal in the evening – I’ve found this to be the best combination of supplements for most cases of non-specific abdominal pain.
- If constipation accompanies your pain, then a daily fibre supplement may help regulate your bowel movements. My Fibre tablets contain four types of vegetable-derived fibre to increase the density of your bowel movements, helping you to go to the loo comfortably every day.
- Finally, if embarrassing, smelly wind accompanies your pain, charcoal supplement is advised. Two capsules of my Charcoal capsules before, and after, each meal will help break up your gas into tiny bubbles so that it can be eliminated more gently and comfortably, before you suffer uncomfortable bloating and pain.
- You might also like to try my Tummy Tea, blended with the herbs and spices that I use every day in my clinic, to aid digestion and soothe those colicky feelings. It’s naturally caffeine-free so will soothe rather than irritate your digestive tract – drink it after meals for a little extra support for your digestion.
Lifestyle tips to address abdominal pain
You may need to implement lifestyle changes in order to successfully manage your symptoms. Try these ideas which I recommend to my patients:
- Think before you eat! Remember that good digestion begins in the mouth, not in the stomach. Chew food thoroughly, at least 20 times, ensuring plenty of saliva (where important digestion enzymes are contained) is mixed with the food before swallowing.
- Try to eat when relaxed. If you are in an eating situation, but you are feeling anxious and tense with your stomach in knots already, then take small mouthfuls of food and chew thoroughly before swallowing. Have a glass of tonic water before the meal.
- Eat little and often – graze don’t gorge!
- Don’t chew gum – this can cause you to take in excess air, adding to your problems.
- Rethink your drinks! Don’t drink water with meals. Drink water half an hour before a meal, and an hour following a meal. Replace caffeine with herbal tea – try chamomile tea to calm the digestive system, licorice and fennel teas are calming and soothing, and peppermint tea is useful if you’re feeling gassy – but don’t have too much as it can slow the bowel down and make you constipated. If you fancy something with a bit of fizz, try tonic water with real (not synthetic) quinine in it. It is very soothing for an irritated stomach and intestines. Try to minimise alcohol as this irritates the lining of the gut and causes bloating and discomfort. Beer contains yeast and this can cause bloating and abdominal pain.
- Keep a record of what you eat and what effect it has on you. This will help to fine-tune a diet that meets your needs and keeps your symptoms at bay.
- Consider colon hydrotherapy to help remove solid waste matter and reduce excessive intestinal gas. This treatment will help relieve spasms in the bowel and reduce the bloating and the abdominal pain.
- A colon hydrotherapist can also help if parasites or fungal yeast overgrowth in the intestines are a problem – the colonic treatment has the mechanical action of washing out parasites and ‘yeasts’ in the large bowel. Some colon hydrotherapists also use herbal tinctures and extracts to implant during the colonic treatment to further treat parasites and ‘yeasts’. This cleansing with colonic water and herbs can have the effect of ‘de-pressurising’ the large bowel and facilitating the release of congestion backing up in the small intestine, giving immediate relief from bloating, gas and pain.