What are the Most Common Causes of Digestive Pain?

Digestion is the process of swallowed food being further broken down in the digestive tract, a group of organs which includes the mouth, stomach, intestines, and rectum. Food moves through the digestive tract and collects in the large intestine. Once food is digested in the large intestine, it mixes with water to become a solid, which then leaves the body through the rectum as a bowel movement. Digestive pain is caused by factors, such as preexisting conditions or types of foods, that interfere with the digestive process by either preventing the breakdown of food or its exiting of the body.

One of the most common causes of digestive pain is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition in which the intestines don’t function properly and either push food too forcefully out of the body or don’t use enough force for waste to exit the body. IBS can result in diarrhea, or uncontrollable passage of feces that is either thin or mostly liquid because it hasn’t remained in the intestines long enough to become solid. It can also cause constipation, in which the intestines don’t push digested food fast enough and it begins to build up, making bowel movements painful or infrequent. IBS is more common in women and may cause pain after eating or during bowel movements. The condition has no cure, but can be helped with stress reduction or avoiding any foods that make pain worse.


Indigestion is a source of digestive pain and typically occurs as soreness in the abdominal area during a meal or after eating. The condition can occur at any age and has a variety of causes including stress, drinking alcohol, or gastrointestinal disorders. It can also be a side effect of medication such as birth control pills, aspirin, antibiotics, or steroids. Indegestion will often subside without treatment, but can be prevented by a healthy diet and eating slowly.

Digestive pain can also be due to ulcers, or sores that form in the small intestine or stomach lining. Ulcers do not have a definitive cause, but bacterial infection, high amounts of stomach acid, or painkillers may contribute to their development. They usually cause a severe pain in the stomach after eating and may worsen at night. Ulcers typically go away on their own; if not, they can be treated with medications to get rid of any bacterial infection or to prevent the stomach from making too much acid. If ulcers don’t subside on their own or with medication, they can be treated surgically to repair any damage to the stomach or intestines.



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