One in 10 people suffer from habitual abdominal pain related to meals , according to a recent research presented at the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Virtual Week 2021 based on the Global Epidemiology study of the Roma Foundation .
In this sense, about 11% of the entire world population experiences this sensation, which affects women to a greater extent , according to a survey of more than 50,000 people in 26 different countries.
The results reveal that 13% of women suffer this type of pain after eating compared to 9% of men . Abdominal pain can be mild or severe, continuous or intermittent, acute or chronic, and can be accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms such as: bloating, a feeling of fullness after eating, constipation or diarrhea.
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These were the clinical manifestations experienced by the research participants, without forgetting the emotional and psychological discomfort that suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder can cause. In fact, 36% of the people surveyed who suffered from this pain also suffered from episodes of anxiety, and those with more frequent attacks also had higher rates of depression (35%).
In most cases it is not due to a serious health problem and some of the most common causes are abdominal gas, indigestion or muscle strain, explain specialists from the Mayo Clinic . However, if the pain is accompanied by more serious symptoms such as fever, blood in the stool, sudden weight loss or persistent vomiting, it is necessary to see health professionals to determine the origin.
More common in 18 to 28 year olds
Research has revealed that pain associated with eating tends to be more common in young people between 18 and 28 years of age, accounting for 15% of the people surveyed.
“There is a greater burden of psychological and somatic symptoms, such as back pain or shortness of breath.”
In this way, the results reveal that “people who experience this pain also experience other gastrointestinal symptoms more frequently”, underlines in a statement issued by UEG one of the authors of the study and joint doctoral researcher at KU Leuven, Belgium and the University of Gothenburg, Esther Colomier .
Thus, these people have “a greater burden of psychological and somatic symptoms, such as back pain or shortness of breath, which are associated with great anguish and functional problems in daily life ,” adds the expert.
What are the most common symptoms?
Regarding gastrointestinal symptoms, 30% of the people surveyed say they suffer from constipation and diarrhea after meals , compared to 20% who suffer these symptoms occasionally and 10% have no symptoms. The group of people with frequent pain also claimed to have abdominal distention up to once a week.
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“Many patients with disorders of the gut-brain interactions (DGBI), such as irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia, attribute their symptoms to food and eating,” details Professor Ami Sperber , lead author of the Global Epidemiology Study of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (FGID) of 2021.
One of the most frequent complaints in people with these conditions is “pain after meals,” he adds. However, there are no substantial data on this phenomenon, “despite its potential importance for patient care and the study of the pathophysiology of these disorders.”
Patients should benefit from “dietary advice, psychological support and drug therapy”.
For this reason, ” the consideration of food-related symptoms in future diagnostic criteria should be encouraged,” insists Esther Colomier. In addition, the treatment should be individualized and “the association of meals should be evaluated in all patients” so that they can benefit from a multidisciplinary approach that includes “dietary advice, lifestyle, psychological support and pharmacological therapy” , he concludes.
How do we know if we have functional dyspepsia?
Functional dyspepsia refers to recurring indigestion symptoms “that have no obvious cause.” Its clinical manifestation is accompanied by abdominal distention, nausea, belching, burning in the stomach or satiety after eating.
But the obstacle of this condition is that a concrete and cause professionals is not known “consider it a functional disorder, which means that tests can not show abnormalities” , stressed at the Mayo Clinic . There are factors that can increase the risk of functional dyspepsia, such as the following:
Consumption of certain pain relievers that cause stomach problems, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Anxiety or stress.
Having other types of psychological disorders, such as depression.
A ‘Helicobacter pylori’ infection.
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
On the other hand, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a “chronic and benign functional digestive disorder” whose most characteristic signs are “bloating, abdominal pain and alterations in stool habit that can vary from constipation, diarrhea or both”, they detail. at the Spanish Foundation for the Digestive System (FEAD) .
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It is a very common condition among the population, since it affects 10-15% and represents 25% of the consultations in the Digestive System. Although this syndrome “does not predispose or entail a greater probability of suffering from cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.” However, it does have a relevant impact on the quality of life of patients.
As of today, the exact cause of this syndrome is unknown , although there are theories that suggest that it is motivated by “abnormal contractions of the colon and small intestine” or by having suffered a serious gastrointestinal infection.
Also, ” people who visit the doctor for this reason are more likely to suffer from anxiety and stress” , disorders that affect the intestine and worsen symptoms. “It is important to highlight that they can modulate the perception of symptoms, but they do not seem to be the cause of this pathology,” they add.
Currently, there is no curative treatment for this pathology as it is a functional and chronic process. The approach is based on alleviating the associated symptoms by combining good hygiene-dietary habits with a pharmacological treatment directed by health professionals.