causes of stomach pain

(img source: wikimedia via creative.commons.org)
(img source: wikimedia via creative.commons.org)

Americans consume an estimated $2 billion per year in over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol, Advil and Motrin.

The most common reason for taking them is for arthritis.

However, these drugs are not without side-effects. It also doesn’t take as much as you might think to cause damage. And the variety of side effects includes high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and other problems.

A study of more than 80,000 women found that women who used acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, for 22 days or more a month had the greatest risk of high blood pressure, estimated at twice that of non-users. And even those who used the drug as little as one to four days a month had a 22% greater risk of having high blood pressure than non-users.

The risk for those taking NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), including ibuprofen products such as Advil and Motrin and naproxen drugs such as Aleve, was similar. Heavy users had a risk of high blood pressure 86% higher than those who didn’t use the drug. Light users carried a 17% higher risk. (Journal Hypertension November 2002 20(11):2301-2307)

Significantly, researchers report that patients with pre-existing kidney disease who took these painkillers at least twice a week for 2 months were two to three times more likely to have the beginning stages of chronic kidney failure, compared with individuals who did not use these painkillers on a regular basis. (The New England Journal of Medicine December 20, 2001;345:1801-1808)

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The word gastroparesis often gives people the impression that their stomach is paralyzed and that there is nothing that they can do to solve their problem.

Fortunately, this is often not the case, certainly not in the same way that someone with a serious spinal cord injury may suffer from paralysis.

The diagnosis of gastroparesis simply means that there is a delay in how long it takes the stomach to empty. It is then typically assumed that this is due to damage to the vagus nerve, which helps control the emptying time of the stomach. In some cases this damage is actually seen or verified. But in many cases is only an assumption of nerve damage based solely on the delayed emptying time of the stomach.

What should be remembered is that a delay in gastric emptying time is a symptom with several potential causes and is not necessarily due to damage to the vagus nerve. Constipation and diarrhea are also symptoms with multiple causes. The fact that one represents a delay in bowel transit time (constipation) and the other represents an expedited transit time (diarrhea) does not mean that there is permanent damage to the nervous system, or even any damage at all to the nervous system.

These symptoms of gastroparesis, diarrhea, and constipation simply mean that the digestive tract isn’t working properly. In the case of gastroparesis, unless you have a confirmed diagnosis of damage to the vagus nerve, it is very possible that something else is causing it and that you can resolve it.

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