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Back to Gut Basics: Tummy Cramps – with Dr Chris George

NHS GP Dr Chris George breaks down why we get excess gas, what it is, and GP-approved ways to help.

Tummy cramps: What are they?

Tummy cramps can occur after eating and can feel like a dull or a sharp pain across the abdomen and is sometimes associated with other symptoms such as diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually short lived and not due to a serious underlying issue. Severe pain is however a cause for concern, and you should see your doctor. There is a whole range of causes of tummy cramps with the most common being:

What are the common symptoms?

  • Bloating and passing gas = possible cause, trapped wind
  • Feeling full after eating, bloating and sickness = possible cause, indigestion
  • Unable to pass stool = possible cause, constipation
  • Watery stool, nausea and vomiting = possible cause, gastroenteritis which can be due to things like food poisoning and viral illnesses


4 GP-approved ways to help

  1. Stomach cramps with bloating is often caused by trapped gas. You can see your pharmacist and try over the counter treatments such as Mebeverine and Buscopan.
  2. Indigestion symptoms can be improved by chewing food carefully before swallowing, drinking water with meals, and avoiding highly processed foods and alcohol which can worsen symptoms.
  3. Constipation tummy pains can often be alleviated by using an over-the-counter laxative, ensuring good hydration and increasing dietary fibre.
  4. Stomach cramps due to gastroenteritis usually get better after a few days without treatment. It’s worth having a very plain diet and avoiding foods high in protein and fat as this can often cause worsening tummy cramps followed by urgency to open your bowels.


When to see your GP?

The bottom line is if you notice any changes in your digestive symptoms or have concerns then you should speak to your GP. In clinic I often hear patients say that their symptoms are trivial and that they don’t want to waste resources, but this really shouldn’t be the case. If you’re worried or embarrassed, then writing things down or bringing a friend can sometimes help.

The emergency symptoms that require an urgent appointment include:

  1. Blood in the stool or on the paper
  2. Persistent change in bowel habit
  3. A pain or lump in the tummy
  4. Unexplained weight loss
  5. Extreme tiredness for no reason


Whilst in most cases these symptoms are nothing to worry about it is important to get checked up.

Find out more: 

Back to Gut Basics: Excess Gas  

Back to Gut Basics: Bloating

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