Abdominal cramps can come in many forms, and with a variety of symptoms.
Some manifest as sharp pains accompanying a stomach bug such as the flu or food poisoning, and will pass when the illness does.
Others accompany more chronic conditions, such as irritable bowels syndrome, and can remain a chronic, intermittent source of discomfort.
Still, others may accompany a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, with discomfort ranging from a mild ache to debilitating pain.
Stomach cramps are typically an accompanying symptom of a larger illness in the body. While treating the illness will relieve the discomfort resulting from stomach cramps, in the meantime you may desire some relief from their aches and pains.
Abdominal Cramps As A Symptom
Many medical conditions and brief maladies list abdominal pain as a common symptom.
Recognizing the type of pain that you are experiencing is an important step to understanding which type of natural remedy can best alleviate your discomfort.
Viral Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)
Viral gastroenteritis – or, as it’s more commonly known, the stomach flu – is contracted by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by coming into contact with someone who is already infected.
There is not an effective treatment for the stomach flu once you’ve caught it, so you’ll be forced to wait it out while your body fights off the infection if you do contract the infection.
However, you can reduce the effects of your stomach flu symptoms to decrease your discomfort while waiting for the sickness to pass.
Gastroenteritis targets your digestive system. As such its symptoms are largely focused on digestive functions. The list of symptoms most notably includes diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, and abdominal cramps.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a commonly occurring gastrointestinal disorder that targets your large intestine.
Though the specific cause of IBS is still unknown, we do know that some gastrointestinal (GI) issues may lead to or quicken the onset of IBS, or at least worsen the effects of the disease.
Sensitive GI muscles prone to spasms or difficulty processing food in the GI tract, as well as reactions to foods that are difficult to digest, can worsen IBS symptoms.
Fluctuations in your body’s hormone levels may have some effect as well.
While we do not know what causes IBS, we are quite familiar with its wide range of symptoms, which most commonly include:
- Bloating and excessive gas
- Abdominal cramps
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Constant or sudden feelings of needing to have a bowel movement
Some individuals with IBS may experience only mild onsets of these symptoms. Others may have more severe symptoms that affect their lives on a daily basis.
Without knowing the specific cause of IBS, medical professionals are unable to cure it. However, you can treat the symptoms with medication, lifestyle changes, or natural remedies.
Indigestion manifests as a persistent or recurring pain in the upper abdomen. This condition is in many cases an indication of a greater issue, but in some can be a standalone problem rather than a symptom.
Indigestion can be caused by a number of conditions, including ulcers, stomach infections, IBS, or thyroid disease. Pregnancy can even lead to indigestion in some women.
It can also be brought on as a side effect of some medications or as a result of overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or stress.
Symptoms of indigestion include:
- Excessive belching and flatulence
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- A burning sensation in your stomach or abdomen
Since indigestion is not usually a disease in and of itself, treatment of indigestiontypically varies depending on the nature of the underlying cause.
If you are experiencing persistent indigestion issues then you should visit your doctor to verify whether you have a more specific medical condition that needs to be addressed.
However, in the meantime, you can seek relief from symptoms of indigestion to ease your discomfort.
Will Medication Help?
Many prescribed and over-the-counter medications are available to ease stomach and abdominal cramping.
However, you should exercise caution before turning to medication to relieve your discomfort.
Medications can be an effective way to quickly decrease your symptoms, but they also run the risk of creating new sources of discomfort.
In fact, abdominal pain and stomach cramps can actually be caused by medicationsfor other conditions! Even over-the-counter generic drugs such as Aspirin and Aleve can induce stomach cramps.
Natural Remedies for Abdominal Cramps
Before turning to medications to relieve your abdominal pain, consider trying a more natural remedy.
Medications may treat the symptom without addressing the underlying condition that enables those abdominal cramps to plague you in the first place.
Adopting one of these home remedies into your daily routine can be just as effective and could even lead to long-term alleviation of some chronic symptoms.
Drink a cup of chamomile tea
In some cultures a cup of tea is hailed as the cure for all woes, ranging from lifting your spirits on a bad day to settling an upset stomach.
Tea – especially green tea – does indeed carry a host of documented medicinal benefits.
However drinking a particular blend of tea, or adding a few drops of an essential oil to your preferred blend, can also help to ease symptoms such as abdominal cramps.
Chamomile has a number of properties that help it to treat a variety of conditions. Its noted ability to invoke a calming effect allows it to soothe the nervous system and fight depression, and its cicatrizant properties can diminish the appearance of scars and blemishes on the skin.
It can even decrease pain resulting from toothaches, sinuses, or headaches.
Chamomile contains several properties that can be leveraged to address stomach pain.
It has general stomachic properties that promote efficient digestive function, anti-inflammatory properties that are particularly effective in the urinary and digestive systems, and carminative properties that work to dispel buildup of excess gas in the intestines and stomach. Chamomile can even calm muscle spasms.
No matter what the source of your abdominal cramps, chamomile or its essential oil are sure to relieve some of your discomfort.
Directions: Brew a batch of chamomile tea and drink to discourage the onset of abdominal cramps. For more intense pain or cramps, add 2-3 drops of chamomile essential oil to a glass of any blend of tea.
Apply a hot rice bag to the abdomen
Using a hot rice bag may sound like an old wives’ tale – and many grandmothers do swear by this remedy – but applying heat to your abdominal area can provide some comfort when you experience stomach cramps.
So how does it work?
The malleable shape of the rice bag conforms to the shape of your abdomen ensuring close contact between the hot rice and the source of your cramps.
Then the heat radiating from the rice bag can go to work to loosen and relax the muscles in your abdomen that are prone to tensing up when you experience stomach cramps.
This remedy will not heal the root cause of your stomach cramps, but it will provide some much-needed comfort in instances where the cramps are painful enough to interfere with your daily life.
A hot rice bag is recommended, but really any hot pack or hot pad will do. The key is to use something that won’t get too hot but will retain its heat over a period of time so that you don’t have to continually get up to re-heat the bag.Directions: Fill a microwave-safe plastic or cloth bag with uncooked rice and warm in the microwave. Apply the heated bag to your abdomen in the area where you are experiencing pain or stomach cramps. Lie down, leaving the bag on your abdomen, for 20 minutes or until the discomfort subsides. Re-heat bag as necessary.
Fennel essential oil
The health benefits and medicinal properties of fennel have been acknowledged for centuries.
It is most frequently recognized as a powerful addition to a weight-loss diet because of its ability to boost the metabolism, regulate the appetite, and curb food cravings.
Fennel is also packed with nutrients and antioxidants, making it a beneficial food even for individuals who are not concerned with losing weight. These benefits are all concentrated and intensified in fennel essential oil.
Fennel essential oil also has the ability to prime your digestive system by:
- Helping the body to break down foods and absorb nutrients more effectively
- Relieving instances of constipation and promoting regular bowel movements
- Reducing inflammation and subsequent pain or discomfort
Each of these benefits will help to reduce the onset of abdominal pain. Additionally, when faced with severe cramps, you can massage fennel oil directly into the skin to produce a calming effect in the nearby muscles and tissue.
A word of caution: Pregnant women should avoid ingesting fennel.
Directions: Add 2-3 drops of fennel essential oil to a bowl of soup or glass of juice and consume as normal.
Alternatively, if fennel’s strong licorice taste is unappealing to you, you can take 2-3 drops directly using a veggie capsule.
In cases of extreme cramping, massage 1-2 drops of fennel essential oil directly into the skin. Users with sensitive skin may wish to dilute the oil in a carrier oil or lotion to decrease the risk of irritation.
Drink a glass of rice water
Rice water is exactly what it sounds like: the water left over after cooking a pot of rice.
The taste will be quite bland – adding a hint of honey or agave can help with that – but rice water has the unique ability to form a protective coating over your stomach lining that will protect it from inflammation or irritation.
This membrane can also create a period of relief from stomach pains. This is particularly true for stomach pains resulting from a reaction to a food you’ve consumed or as a symptom of indigestion or acid reflux.
The liquid will also be gentle on your stomach and digestive system, preventing the addition of any further discomfort.Directions: Make a pot of rice, using twice the amount of water that is required. Allow the rice to soak (off of heat) for several minutes after it has finished cooking. Strain out the rice – which can be used for a meal! – and drink the rice water once cool.
Before turning to medications and pills to relieve your abdominal cramps, try one of these effective home remedies.
Natural solutions are more gentle to your system and do not carry the same risk of inducing a completely new set of symptoms to deal with. And they are less expensive!