The term “weak stomach” is neither a medical term nor does it refer to any specific stomach condition. When people use the term “weak stomach”, they may be referring to any abnormal condition of the stomach, intestine, or other abdominal organs. The sensation of a “weak stomach” is highly subjective. Therefore, different people may be referring to different ailments when they use the term “weak stomach”. The ailments may either be acute or chronic conditions, requiring different treatments.
In most cases, people use the term “weak stomach” to describe symptoms of gastritis, acid reflux, indigestion, and upper abdominal pain that may arise after eating. In other cases, one may use the term “weak stomach” to describe bowel conditions such as flatulence, bloating and diarrhea that is precipitated by eating. The common feature in all these conditions that people may describe as “weak stomach” is the onset of symptoms upon eating something. Consumption of food may either trigger or worsen the symptoms in the affected individual.
People often associate any abdominal symptom with the state of the stomach. However, the abdomen contains many other organs besides the stomach, and symptoms may arise from any of these other organs. In fact, in many cases, the problem may not involve the stomach at all. People also use the term “sensitive stomach” interchangeably with the term “weak stomach”.
These terms are often used to describe any digestive symptom that may arise after eating something (such as spicy food, unusual foods, and alcoholic beverages). In some cases, the problem may be nothing more than excessive eating.
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Causes of a Weak Stomach
Since “weak stomach” is such a nonspecific term, it can be used to describe a variety of different conditions within the abdomen. The organs of both the upper as well as lower digestive tract may be involved in causing the symptoms. The symptoms of a “weak stomach” are typically triggered or worsened by consumption of food. Due to the potential involvement of multiple organs and tissues, a “weak stomach” can have many different causes.
The upper digestive tract is comprised of esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Symptoms that may be caused due to the involvement of these organs include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain.
The lower digestive tract is comprised of the second half of the small intestine and the different segments of the large intestine (such as cecum, colon and rectum). Symptoms that may be caused due to the involvement of these organs include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal distension, abdominal pain, and pain or discomfort during defecation.
Many of the conditions described below can also be triggered or worsened by stress, illness and pregnancy.
Indigestion is not a disease. The term “indigestion” refers to a collection of symptoms, which includes nausea, abdominal discomfort, sensation of abdominal fullness, and a burning sensation in the stomach after eating. One may often describe the sensation of indigestion as “feeling queasy”.
Gastritis refers to an inflammation of the lining of the stomach wall. The most common causes of gastritis include infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria and excessive usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly abbreviated as NSAIDs). The symptoms of gastritis include nausea and burning sensation or pain in the stomach. These symptoms typically arise when one is hungry or has just consumed food.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (commonly abbreviated as GERD) refers to a reflux or backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. The most common cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease is a weak lower esophageal sphincter that fails to prevent the reflux of stomach acid. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is characterized by symptoms such as nausea and chest pain (commonly referred to as heartburn).
Peptic ulcer disease
Peptic ulcer disease is characterized by the formation of ulcers or sores in the stomach, esophagus, and duodenum. The ulcers in the upper gastrointestinal tract cause pain when they come in contact with food. Intake of food may also provide an initial, temporary relief from pain, before the pain worsens.
Gallstones are stones that form from concentrated bile in the gallbladder. These stones may also get lodged in the bile duct. The presence of gallstones causes considerable pain, which worsens upon intake of fatty foods.
Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas. Like the gallbladder, the pancreas is not a part of the gut, but plays an important role in the digestive processes within the gut. Pancreatic enzymes aid the process of digestion within the duodenum. Pancreatitis is characterized by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. These symptoms usually arise after intake of food.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (commonly abbreviated as IBS) is a functional disorder of the bowels. No pathological changes are apparent in the gut. However, irritable bowel syndrome causes symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (commonly abbreviated as IBD) is characterized by an inflammation of the gut. Ulcers form in the gut as a result of the inflammation process. Typical symptoms include diarrhea and the presence of mucus or blood in the stool.
Infections of the bowel
Infections of the bowels can be caused by a variety of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Most infections of the bowels are acute in nature. Typical symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Food intolerance is a condition in which an individual is unable to digest certain food components due to lack of an appropriate enzyme. For example, lactose intolerant people are unable to digest dairy products. Consumption of dairy products causes stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in lactose intolerant individuals. In certain individuals, there may also be a problem with the absorption of certain nutrients from the food. Such a condition is known as malabsorption syndrome.
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Remedies for a Weak Stomach
The exact treatment for a weak stomach depends on the underlying cause of the symptoms. Many cases may be treated with medications. In some cases, however, surgical treatment may be necessary. The following are some simple dietary and lifestyle changes that may help in the management of a weak stomach:
- Identify the foods that irritate the stomach and avoid them. Dairy products are a frequent cause of stomach problems.
- Instead of having three large meals a day, have smaller meals at more frequent intervals throughout the day.
- Avoid or reduce intake of alcohol, caffeinated beverages and spicy foods.
- Light physical activity such as walking after a meal can aid digestion.
- Avoid eating two hours before bedtime.