This new study, which was conducted by experts from McMaster University and Queen’s University, identifies a strain of bacteria that produces histamine throughout the gut.
Chronic gut pain is something that impacts over 70,000 adults in the United States. However, the causes behind this pain aren’t always known. This can leave people who have chronic gut pain without answers and without a proper treatment plan.
But new medical research on a bacteria suggests that there might be a hidden underlying cause to this recurring abdominal pain. So, what does this mean for you? Here’s what we know so far about the causes behind chronic gut pain and the next steps you can take toward finding relief.
What To Know First about Chronic Gut Pain
Before jumping in to the new discoveries on recurring gut pain, we must look at the prevalence of this issue. As stated above, tens of thousands of adults throughout the country (and beyond) struggle with recurring abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is pain that is specifically located in the mid-range of the body. This would include anything that falls in the area of the stomach between the chest and groin regions.
There is a difference between acute abdominal pain and pain that is chronic or recurring. In acute situations, the pain is usually located to a specific area and can come with very intense symptoms depending on the underlying cause of that pain. This pain is often sharp, intense, and does not last very long. Some causes of acute gut pain include:
With any severe abdominal pain, it’s essential to get assessed by a medical professional right away. Acute pain, in many cases, can be treated with the right medications, procedures, or other interventions. Unfortunately, for people with chronic gut pain, the visits to the doctor’s office usually carry on.
Chronic gut pain is pain that lasts for more than six months without resolving. Symptoms of chronic abdominal pain include:
- Stomach aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Urgency to use the restroom
In some instances, people with chronic gut pain have an explanation to what they are experiencing. This could be conditions like:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Crohn’s disease
- And more.
Sadly, there is often no cure for chronic gut pain, even if patients have a diagnosis. These conditions listed above are usually long-lasting and require a careful balance of diet, medication, and other treatment options to manage the ups and downs of symptoms. Yet, with the new research on chronic gut pain, experts might be all the closer to figuring out—and therefore treating—exactly what leads to unexplained abdominal pain.
Chronic Gut Pain Related to Histamine-Producing Bacteria
Histamine is a chemical that the body produces to protect itself from harmful things that enter the immune system. Histamine is supposed to eliminate these threats in order to keep you feeling well.
But if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to something, you might have had to take an anti-histamine to calm the body’s overactive response to certain triggers. As you can imagine, when histamine is hyperactive throughout the body, it can cause discomfort, shortness of breath, swelling, headaches, and more. Just as much as histamine can help protect the body, it can also make it attack itself.
Researchers state that they discovered this histamine-producing bacteria in a quarter of the study’s participants who experienced chronic gut pain. Specifically, the study’s participants had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What this indicates is that there is a connected between IBS, this strain of bacteria, and flares in abdominal pain.
The takeaway from this discovery is that we are now one step closer to having answers for some people with IBS. Now that medical experts can identify the bacteria strain, they will be able to come up with more effective solutions to recurring gut pain in IBS patients (and those who have chronic gut pain but aren’t sure of their diagnosis).
There are a few different ideas on how to best approach this bacteria, though treatments are in the very early stages of development at the moment. These ideas include advising patients to maintain a specialized diet that is low in fermentable carbohydrates (which means avoiding foods such as bananas, raisins, potatoes, sugar, etc.) and taking antihistamine medications.
Though experts still have a lot left to learn about the overall causes of chronic gut pain, this research shows the start of a new treatment path for many patients. For those with IBS or any chronic gut pain, hope is on the horizon.
Coping with Chronic Gut Pain
All this said, the study notes that the majority of participants who had IBS or chronic gut pain did not have this specific strain of histamine-producing bacteria in their digestive tract. This shows that there’s still so much left to learn about the underlying causes of chronic gut pain. Many people are left with more questions than answers. This can have a serious impact on those who deal with chronic gut pain every day.
Chronic gut pain is not just a physical toll. Rather, it can be extremely stressful and taxing on one’s mental health to deal with untreated abdominal pain. This recurring discomfort can make it difficult to eat, socialize, and enjoy life. Special accommodations at work might even be necessary for people with chronic gut pain at work, like having access to a bathroom at all times.
In addition to all of this, trying to find the reasons behind your chronic gut pain can feel overwhelming to say the least. A lot of patients who have had tests after tests conducted feel as though they aren’t being heard by doctors or are left thinking that they will never find relief from this pain.
It’s important to care for yourself, especially in times of chronic gut pain flares. Even if there isn’t a cure to this pain, finding small moments of relief can make it a little easier to get through the day. Some ways to practice maintaining good gut health and managing your pain levels would be:
- Seeing a pain specialist
- Taking probiotics or medications
- Finding exercise that feels good
- Eliminating trigger foods
- Warm compresses or baths
- Staying hydrated
- Attending counseling
- Joining chronic pain advocacy groups
- Speaking with others who live with chronic gut pain
Ultimately, what this study on recurring abdominal pain shows is that new research is always emerging. This means that experts are learning more and more about chronic gut pain at a rapid pace. Even if you don’t have all of the answers to your concerns right now, hope for a life free of tummy-troubles is out there.
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