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Recurrent Stomach Discomfort

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on

This article contains self-care information for the selected condition. If you have questions or need more comprehensive treatment advice, please consult a medical professional.

What is recurring stomach discomfort?

Recurring stomach discomfort is a common complaint. 1 It is characterized by stomach pain, bloating and is often accompanied by general digestive problems, especially postprandial (after eating).

The stomach discomfort is usually recurrent, but it can also persist and then become chronic. The exact causes are still unknown. 2 In most cases, no identifiable causes can be found. However, stress, certain eating habits as well as alcohol and nicotine consumption may have an influence on the stomach issues.

To diagnose recurring stomach discomfort, a healthcare professional first needs to rule out other causes for stomach pains. It may help to reduce stress and to adjust one’s eating habits. Although recurring stomach discomfort can be very uncomfortable, there is usually no need to worry. There are no serious complications. Most people learn how to manage their symptoms well.

Recurring stomach discomfort summarizes several conditions. 3 4 These include:

  • epigastric pain syndrome
  • functional dyspepsia
  • functional abdominal pain syndrome
  • postprandial distress syndrome.

If you think you or a beloved one may be experiencing symptoms of recurrent stomach discomfort, try the free Ada app for a quick health assessment.

What are the causes and risks of recurring stomach discomfort?

Unlike chronic gastritis, where the causes of stomach issues are well known and can be treated, the causes of recurring stomach discomfort are still unknown. 4 In most cases, no identifiable cause can be found.

However, there are certain risk factors that can influence stomach discomfort. Including eating habits.

For many affected individuals, heavy meals, eating too quickly, and alcohol consumption can result in fullness, early satiety and stomach pain. Stress, anxiety, and depression can also increase stomach discomfort, as can nicotine. In some affected individuals, the stomach is infected with a bacterium called H. pylori. Women are affected slightly more often than men. Stomach pain is most common in middle-aged individuals.

What are the symptoms of recurring stomach discomfort?

The most common symptom is dull or burning stomach pain, especially in the upper belly and under the rips. The stomach pain very often, but not always, occurs postprandially, after eating. Other complaints include: 4

  • general digestive problems
  • postprandial fullness
  • early satiety
  • bloating
  • less common: nausea and burping.

Do these symptoms sound familiar? Try Ada to find out more.

How is recurring stomach discomfort diagnosed?

Since there often is no medically identifiable cause, a healthcare professional first needs to rule out other causes for any stomach issues. 4 This includes checking an individual’s medication and a physical examination. A breath test can be used to rule out an infection of the stomach with the bacterium H. pylori.

Often, a gastroscopy is also done. A small tube camera (endoscope) is used to look at the mucosa of the esophagus and stomach, sometimes also the beginning of the small intestine. This helps to rule out conditions such as chronic gastritis, Crohn’s Disease or complications such as stomach ulcers. Blood tests can also provide further evidence for inflammation or anemia. In the case of recurring stomach discomfort, often all of the above mentioned tests are normal.

What helps against recurring stomach discomfort?

Since the exact cause is often unclear, there is no specific therapy for recurring stomach issues. Nevertheless, there are a number of actions that can help affected individuals. These include:

  • Stress reduction: improved sleep, meditation, yoga and stress management courses can help to reduce stress permanently. Those courses are supported by many health insurance companies. In the case of high stress levels and especially anxiety and depression, psychotherapy can help affected individuals. 1 4
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine consumption: It is best to completely cut down alcohol and nicotine - which also has a positive effect on overall health. 4
  • Change eating habits: It is better to eat several small meals rather than a few large ones. Also, take enough time to eat and do not eat too late in the evening and avoid foods that are known to aggravate stomach problems. These may include dairy products or gluten, even if individuals do not suffer from celiac disease (gluten intolerance). 4
  • Peppermint and chamomile teas: have a soothing effect on the stomach mucosa, contribute to relaxation and can especially help with postprandial fullness.
  • Antibiotics: Needed for stomach infections with H. pylori. 1 4 5
  • Stomach acid-reducing medications: Help with heartburn and burning stomach pain. 1 4 6
  • Antidepressants: Regardless of whether affected individuals have depression, a small dose of so-called tricyclic antidepressants can help against stomach pain. Whether this option makes sense for affected individuals should be discussed in advance with a healthcare professional. 1 4

What is the outlook for recurring stomach discomfort?

Recurring stomach discomfort is often a long-lasting problem. Although the discomfort can be very uncomfortable and worrisome, there is usually no need to worry.

Recurring stomach discomfort does not cause any serious complications. It is important to have other causes for stomach pain and digestive problems excluded. With a combination of the treatment options above, most affected individuals learn to manage their chronic stomach issues well. These treatment options also help to prevent stomach issues in the future and can prevent them from becoming chronic.

Use Ada's symptom assessment now to find out if you suffer from recurring stomach discomfort.

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  1. Medscape (2002). Functional Dyspepsia. Accessed: February 28, 2022

  2. Tack J, Bisschops R, Sarnelli G. Pathophysiology and treatment of functional dyspepsia. Gastroenterology. 2004; 127(4):1239–55.

  3. Tack J, Talley NJ, Camilleri M, Holtmann G, Hu P, Malagelada J-R, et al. Functional gastroduodenal disorders. Gastroenterology. 2006; 130(5):1466–79.

  4. Corsetti M, Fox M. The management of functional dyspepsia in clinical practice: what lessons can be learnt from recent literature? F1000Res. 2017 Sep 28; 6:1778.

  5. Moayyedi P, Soo S, Deeks J, Delaney B, Harris A, Innes M, Oakes R, Wilson S, Roalfe A, Bennett C, Forman D. Eradication of Helicobacter pylori for non-ulcer dyspepsia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25; (1):CD002096.

  6. Redstone HA, Barrowman N, Veldhuyzen Van Zanten SJ. H2-receptor antagonists in the treatment of functional (nonulcer) dyspepsia: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2001 Sep; 15(9):1291-9.