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Senior Correspondent

Q: I get a lot of stomach aches. Do you have any tips to prevent them?

A: If you are having recurring abdominal pain, you should see a doctor immediately. This kind of discomfort can be a symptom of a serious ailment. However, if you’re talking about the kind of stomach aches we all get occasionally, there are some things you can do to prevent them.

  • Eat small meals more frequently.
  • Make sure that your meals are well-balanced and high in fiber.
  • Drink plenty of water each day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit foods that produce gas.

The following are gas-generating foods:

  • Legumes, especially dried beans and peas, baked beans, soy beans, lima beans;
  • Dairy products such as milk, ice cream, cheese;
  • Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, sauerkraut, kohlrabi, asparagus, potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, radishes, onions;
  • Fruits such as prunes, apricots, apples, raisins, bananas;
  • Foods containing wheat such as cereals, breads and pastries;
  • Fatty foods such as fried chicken and anything in cream sauces and gravies; any carbonated beverage. 

Abdominal pain is often caused by overeating. Sometimes an infection is responsible. But pain may be a symptom of something that requires emergency treatment; there are quite a few organs in your abdominal area. The location of the pain is informative to your doctor.

Pain near your navel can be a sign of appendicitis or something wrong in your small intestine. Stomach problems are found in the upper middle section of the abdomen. Persistent pain in this area may also signal a problem with your gallbladder, pancreas or the upper part of your small intestine. It's unusual to feel pain in the upper left abdomen. Pain in this area may be caused by a problem in the colon, stomach, spleen or pancreas. Intense pain in the upper right abdomen is often related to inflammation of the gallbladder.

Pain in the lower middle abdomen may be caused by the colon. Women with pelvic inflammatory disease or a urinary tract infection may experience pain in this area. The lower right abdomen is where inflammation of the colon may cause pain. Appendicitis pain may also spread to this region. If you feel pain in the lower left abdomen, you usually have a problem at the end of the colon. Don’t rely on self-diagnosis based upon these pain guidelines. Abdominal pain has a way of moving around. For example, gallbladder pain can move to your right shoulder. And, abdominal pain can be caused by the lungs and heart. Or, it may be caused by muscle strain. 

The following are some of the danger signs associated with abdominal pain. If you experience any of the following, get immediate medical attention:

  • Sudden and sharp pain
  • Pain that radiates to your chest, neck or shoulder
  • Severe, recurrent or persistent pain
  • Pain that worsens
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in your stool
  • A swollen and tender abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • High fever

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