Intestinal cramps can be extremely painful and discomforting. This article lists all the possible causes and treatment methods for the same. Read on…
The intestine is an important organ of the body located between the anus and the stomach. An intestine has two sections – the large intestine and the small intestine.
The digestion and absorption of food takes place in the small intestine, while the large intestine performs the function of absorption of moisture from food residues and elimination of wastes.
When food and waste products pass through the intestines, they are propelled by the rhythmic contractions of the muscles of the intestines, known as peristaltic movements. If for any reason the intestines do not function normally or if the movement of the muscles is hampered, a person experiences intestinal cramps.
There are a number of conditions which can cause cramping in a person. Here are the causes, followed by the treatment methods.
Cause – Tapeworm Infection
Tapeworm infection is generally caused by the intake of food or water that is contaminated by tapeworm eggs or larvae. The larvae are sometimes ingested by eating raw or uncooked food as well. Due to this a person experiences intestinal cramps after eating. It is often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fever and weakness.
Treatment: For the treatment of tapeworm infection, the doctor usually prescribes parasite-killing medicines to kill the intestinal parasite. Examples of such medicines are praziquantel (biltricide) and nitazoxanide (alinia). To prevent tapeworm infection, wash your hands properly before eating and after using the toilet. Also, maintaining hygiene in the kitchen is recommended. Get your meat and fish from a reliable source and cook them thoroughly as all the eggs are killed in the process.
Cause – Constipation
Another reason behind this problem is constipation. In this condition, the frequency of eliminating stools is greatly reduced, even lesser than thrice a week. Under normal conditions, the waste products are moved by the muscle contractions from the small intestine to the large intestine. The large intestine performs the function of absorption of water and salt. But sometimes, there may be excessive absorption of water, which can make the stools very dry and hard. If the muscle contractions are slow, it can cause the stool to move very slowly through the colon, leading to constipation and intestinal cramps.
Treatment: For treating this condition, certain over-the-counter laxatives can be taken. Eating a high fiber diet, drinking lots of fluids, and exercising regularly also provides relief from constipation.
Cause – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If the cramping is accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain, mucus in stool, constipation or diarrhea, stomach bloating and gas, it could be due to irritable bowel syndrome. The main reasons behind this condition are stress, allergic reactions to certain food items such as dairy products, hormonal imbalances, certain medication and other diseases such as diarrhea.
Treatment: Intestinal cramps caused due to irritable bowel syndrome can be treated by making dietary and lifestyle changes. If stress is triggering the cause, then the doctor may prescribe certain antidepressants. For constipation caused due to irritable bowel syndrome, fiber supplements such as methylcellulose can be taken. For getting rid of the cramps and gas, eliminating gas-causing food such as soft drinks, cabbage, raw fruits and vegetables, from the diet, helps.
Cause – Green Stool
Intestinal cramps could be due to a condition known as green stool. In this condition, the food passes through the intestines very quickly and hence does not get time to change from green color to the normal brown color. The main reason behind this decreased bowel transit time is diarrhea. Other causes include increased laxative usage, side effects of certain medicines, bacterial overgrowth, ulcerative colitis, food poisoning, consumption of iron supplements and celiac disease.
Treatment: In most cases, getting a green stool is not a cause of worry as it can be due to taking certain iron supplements or consuming a lot of green vegetables. But if it is accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and discomfort, that last for more than 2 days, then seek medical help at the earliest.
Cause – Crohn’s Disease
This inflammatory bowel disease causes swelling in the lining of the digestive tract, thus, causing intestinal cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain, blood in stools and malnutrition. Crohn’s disease is a very serious condition and can even be life-threatening.
Treatment: For reducing the swelling in the digestive tract as well as for providing relief from cramps due to Crohn’s disease, anti-inflammatory drugs such as mesalamine, sulfasalazine and corticosteroids are prescribed. Certain antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and metronidazole are also recommended. Vitamin B-12 shots, calcium, vitamin D supplements and iron supplements are also given along with these medicines. If the condition still fails to resolve on its own, then a surgery, which might involve removing a certain portion of the digestive tract, is suggested as the last resort.
As you can see, intestinal cramps could signal some serious underlying health issues that need to be addressed. So seek medical help for a proper diagnosis and treatment, to prevent further complications.