A hard stomach can happen for various reasons, including constipation, gastric cancer, and some chronic digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In this article, we will discuss common causes of hard stomachs, symptoms, treatment options, and when to see a doctor.
Constipation is a condition where people find it difficult or painful to pass stools.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), constipation is a common condition that affects
Many people with constipation experience bloating. This might be because hard and lumpy stools affect gut motility, and
- fewer than three bowel movements a week
- passing stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy
- pain or difficulty when passing stools
- a feeling that not all stools have passed
People can usually treat constipation at home. The
A doctor may recommend someone train their bowels by going to the toilet at the same time every day. Doctors can also advise taking laxatives if the constipation is severe and other treatments do not work.
If people find home remedies ineffective, doctors may prescribe medications that soften stools, or refer them for surgery in severe cases.
According to a 2020 article, IBS is one of the
Scientists are not sure how people develop IBS, but believe that several factors, such as motility, how the body interacts with the brain and gut, and distress, play a part.
- IBS-D, where diarrhea accompanies IBC
- IBS-C, where constipation accompanies IBC
- IBS-M, where mixed bowel patterns accompany IBC
People with IBS in the U.S. are
Common symptoms of IBS
- pain or discomfort in the stomach
- constipation, diarrhea, or both
- bloating and enlargement of the stomach
- pain that may change location
- a change in stool pattern and frequency
Treatment for IBS
Medical professionals may recommend fiber supplements and laxatives for people who have IBS with constipation.
For people with diarrhea, a doctor may recommend loperamide or probiotics.
A person who increases their amount of physical activity could
Doctors could also prescribe a
A person can also
Inflammatory bowel disease is where the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed due to the body’s immune system reacting to microflora in the gut.
People with ulcerative colitis experience an inflammation of the inner lining of the colon and rectum.
People with Crohn’s disease experience ulcers in the gastrointestinal gut. However,
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- nausea and fever
- bloody stools
- cramps and pains in the abdomen
Crohn’s disease has very similar symptoms to ulcerative colitis. People with Crohn’s disease may experience all or a few of the above, along with:
- a fistula, which is an abnormal connection of the intestine and other organs
Doctors will aim to help people with IBD go into
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can have flare-ups, where symptoms can get worse.
Doctors will prescribe aminosalicylates, such as mesalamine. People can take this medication as a suppository, which they insert into the rectum. Alternatively, doctors may prescribe oral medication.
Doctors may also prescribe corticosteroids if a person does not respond well to mesalamine. Corticosteroids help
Once the initial symptoms are under control, doctors usually prescribe corticosteroids to deal with any flare-ups.
According to the
Gastric cancer begins in the mucosa layer of the stomach, the innermost layer, before it spreads through the different layers as it grows.
Early signs of gastric cancer are
- bloating and discomfort in the stomach
- nausea and loss of appetite
People who have a more advanced stage of gastric cancer may
- blood in the stool
- vomiting and unintended weight loss
- stomach pain
- jaundice, which is a yellowing of the eyes and skin
- a build-up of fluid in the stomach
- trouble swallowing
Doctors can diagnose gastric cancer through a variety of tests, which include physical exams, blood tests, X-rays, and scans. Once a doctor diagnoses gastric cancer, they also know at what stage the disease is.
A doctor may refer a person with gastric cancer for surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon will try to remove the cancerous parts of the stomach. In some cases, they can remove much of the tissues and organs near the cancer cells to prevent it from spreading.
Alternatively, a doctor may refer a person for an endoscopic mucosal resection. This procedure removes
Other treatments involve different kinds of therapy. These include:
- chemotherapy, wherein a person takes drugs to stop cancer growth
- radiation therapy, wherein medical professionals attack cancer with X-rays or other types of radiation
- chemoradiation, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- target therapy, wherein a person takes drugs that attack specific cancer cells
- immunotherapy, wherein medical professionals boost a person’s immune system to fight cancer
A hard stomach during pregnancy may be the result of Braxton-Hicks contractions.
According to a
They can start as early as
The table below highlights the
|Braxton-Hicks contractions||Labor contractions|
|Contractions that are irregular and unpredictable in length||Contractions that increase in frequency and strength|
|Uncomfortable contractions||Painful contractions|
|Contractions do not become more intense||Contractions become more intense|
|Does not cause cervix dilation||Causes cervix dilation|
Learn more about how to tell if contractions are real here.
People with Braxton-Hicks contractions can change their position or their activity level to help ease discomfort.
For example, if a person is usually sedentary, a walk may be helpful, whereas a more physically active person may benefit from sitting down. It could also help to relax and drink water.
Other causes of a hard stomach in pregnancy may
It is important to see a doctor if someone with a hard stomach experiences more severe symptoms. These include:
- blood in the stool
- unintended weight loss
- excessive pain in the stomach
A person should also see a doctor if home treatments for conditions do not ease symptoms.
A hard stomach can have many different causes.
People may have issues that are simple to treat, such as constipation, or they could have a more serious condition, such as IBS or IBD.
While a person can treat some conditions at home, it is important to seek medical advice if symptoms become more serious, or do not respond to home treatments.