What are the most common causes of abdominal pain, and when should you go see a doctor?Article
10. 01. 2022 General practitioner
Answered by Dr. Lenka Rudolfová, general practitioner at the YMCA clinic.
1)Would you be able to generalise what the most common stomach issues are in the Czech
Republic? Does it vary according to gender – that for example men tend suffer from certain
illnesses more often than women and vice versa?
I don’t want to put these questions just down to gender, however there are certain issues that present
solely in women due to basic differences in physiology; the most common is to do with regular
menstrual pains, and women also tend to get infections of the urinary tract more often due to the
closer anatomy of the urinary tract and the colon- making contamination easier. In men this distance
is much larger.
Generally, I would dare say that most problems to do with the gastrointestinal tract are more
functional- meaning that they won’t show up on diagnostic imaging software. The most common
causes include stress, poor lifestyle habits often associated with the western lifestyle and, in recent
covid-times, a plethora of increasing mental health issues. That isn’t to say that more organic diseases
aren’t commonplace- any pain in the gastrointestinal tract should be clinically investigated.
2) When should one seek the attention of a medical professional when they experience discomfort
or pain in the stomach region? And can stomach pain be resolved with home remedies?
Early signs and symptoms should be self-treated with a bland and non-irritating diet that is fat free,
mild and with little seasoning, fluids without gas and a source of probiotics. Warning signs that you
should contact your doctor include a prolonged course of diarrhoea or constipation- or the switching
from one to the other, blood or mucous in the stools, nausea or vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite,
sharp pains in the stomach or a fever.
3) As Czech people, what are our biggest vices that then often lead to digestive issues and
problems with other organs in the stomach? How do we compare to our neighbouring countries?
As a country in the middle of Europe, our lifestyle is very similar to the western population- irregular
eating habits, fast foods, overconsumption of animal products, lack of fibre, smoking, alcohol,
over-working, personal stress- all of which highly affects our digestion.
The Mediterranean diet, or any diet that contains a large proportion of salt-water fish for that matter,
is considered to be the holy grail of healthy diets. Cuisines that are eaten in Spain, Italy, Iceland, or
Japan are just a few prime examples. However, even the Japanese now are avid smokers, have high
rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Looking at the rates of cancer in the large
intestines, we are doing much better proportionally than our close neighbours in Slovenia and
Hungary. Everything is much more about the individual approach and responsibility rather than the
national statistics. Truth is, you won’t find many vegetables and salt-water fish in the traditional Czech
4) Are there any diseases or issues of the gastrointestinal tract that are increasing in the Czech
Republic in the last couple years? And if so, why?
The first that come to mind are acid reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome and unspecified
inflammations of the large intestine such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis- we have seen a rapid
rise in the number of cases each year.
This could partly be attributed to the fact that there are more people seeking medical attention and
treatment with these diseases. On the other hand, the cases of colon cancer are dropping in the Czech
Republic- we’re 13th on world rankings, which is highly attributable to early diagnosis thanks to a good
screening programme- this is a yearly preventative examination done during your annual GP or
gynaecology check-up from the age of 50+.
5) What are the most common mistakes you see patients make when they have abdominal pain?
(e.g., taking the wrong kind of medications, sedatives, pain relief, etc.).
The biggest vice is the over-administration of ibuprofen- it alleviates abdominal pain slightly, but it
doesn’t resolve the root of the problem- rather, it just masks the symptoms, which can sometimes
mean that it takes longer for the patient to get the medical care they require.
Not to mention the classic home-remedies, for example having a strong broth or some sponge cake
when you have a sore stomach and diarrhoea- when in fact, the best you can do is have something
that’s not greasy and sugar-free. The best prevention is a regular and balanced diet, adequate
exercise, and stable mental health.
6) What type of abdominal pain is most often overlooked and why? Why are people not likely to
pay as much attention to it?
Most often people who experience chronic pain tend to brush it aside - they attribute it to old age and
don’t come in for regular yearly preventative check-ups, which are in place to detect the early stages of
potentially serious diseases.
Another reason for postponing a doctor's appointment is due to excessive work duties or fears of a
The old saying "Prevention is better than a cure" is entirely appropriate here – I would like this to be a
reminder to everyone that all of us are entitled for a preventive check-up with their general
practitioner once every 2 years.