Many people think that the stomach takes up, or occupies, the whole belly area. This is not true, as one can see from the diagram. The stomach is mostly in one corner of the belly, high up on the left side underneath the ribs. In addition to the stomach, the belly, or abdomen, contains the small and the large intestines, the liver, the spleen, the pancreas, the kidneys, and several other organs. And so, when somebody says he has a “stomachache,” it might not come from the stomach at all, but from one of the other organs.
Actually, more stomachaches come from the intestines than from the stomach itself. However, in this part of the book we will talk mainly about the various causes of pain in the b whether that pain comes from some disorder in the stomach or some other organ. Here are some common causes of pain in the belly and what should be done about them:
One of the most frequent causes of a pain in the belly comes from eating too fast and not chewing thoroughly. When we do this, we swallow a lot of air with our food and drink, and this for a big gas bubble that stretches our stomachs and gives us pain. Also, if we don’t chew slowly and thoroughly, th stomach must contract and wonk harder to churn up the food into small pieces. Hard contractions of the stomach can be painful, too.
Overeating is another -cause for stomachache. If we stuff our stomach, it will have to stretch to hold all the food and will have to contract harder to chop it up into small pieces. Sometimes, these hard contractions and the stretching of the muscles of the stomach can give us an awful pain.
If we eat foods that are spoiled or infected with germs, we can get a terrific stomachache, along with nausea and vomiting. Our stomachs are pretty smart organs, and they seem to know when spoiled or poisoned foods are swallowed. It doesn’t take long for the stomach to refuse to handle this kind of food, and bingo—the stomach goes into reverse, like an automobile. Then, instead of contracting to push the food further along into the small intestines, the stomach contracts in the opposite direction so that we throw up the rotten food we have accidentally eaten.
We can easily get a stomachache if we eat when we are very upset or nervous about something. In order to do its work properly, the stomach must work slowly and steadily. And when we are very unhappy, or very angry, or very sad, the stomach may not work smoothly in churning our food. It may just let the undigested food lie where it is in the stomach, and after a time, this will give us a stomachache. Or, the stomach may contract violently, or in the wrong direction, causing us to throw up.
The abdominal cavity contains all of the intestinal tract except the esophagus. Also within its confines are the liver, spleen, pancreas, and, in the female, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Behind the abdominal cavity lie the kidneys and adrenal glands. The abdominal cavity is lined with a thin, smooth sheet of cells known as the peritoneum.
About one out of ten children has some sort of food allergy. This means that a particular food disagrees with him and may cause the lining of the stomach to be irritated and swollen. When this happens, the stomach will try to get rid of the food by vomiting or by hurrying up its churning so that the food is passed on to the intestines before it is ready to go there. Allergies sometimes cause stomachache because of the violent stomach contractions.
Stomachs can handle proteins and sugars more easily than they can handle fats. But some children, especially overweight ones, like to eat greasy, fried, fatty foods. Then, when they eat too much fat or fried foods, their stomachs rebel and try to get rid of the stuff. Of course, this gives a stomachache.
Once in a while, a child will get an inflammation of the lining of his stomach from a virus. When the lining of the stomach is inflamed, pain can result. In addition, the child will probably lose his appetite for a few days.
When the stomach is upset by spoiled or infected food, even though it may have gotten rid of most of it by vomiting, a certain amount of it will pass down into the small intestines. The small intestines act the same way toward this food as the stomach did. They contract very hard and quickly in order to get rid of it. These hard and rapid contractions can cause a very severe pain in the belly. And when the small intestines pass the food on quickly toward the large intestines, the child soon develops loose stools, or diarrhea.
In most cases in which the stomach lining is inflamed by a virus infection, the lining of the small intestines is affected, too. There is a big, long name for this condition. It is called gastroenteritis. Really, all it means is that both the stomach and the intestines are affected. But there is no reason to worry; the stomachache and the diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis will last only a few days and will clear up completely.
Constipation means that we are unable to move our bowels as often and as completely as we should. It also means that when we do move them, the stool is harder than it ought to be. Most children have a bowel movement once or twice a day, but others only have one every second or third day. And in some cases, constipation can lead to pain in the belly.
The quadrants of the abdomen are the four regions into which the abdomen may be divided for purposes of physical examination and diagnosis.
Most children who are constipated get that way because they are careless about their bowel habits. Instead of trying to move their bowels at the same time each morning after breakfast, they rush out of the house without going to the bathroom. And, it is often impossible to take the time out of the classroom to have one in school As a result, they let their movement go until the next day. However, they then discover that it is much more difficult to have a movement the next day as the stool has become very hard.Also, it may be somewhat painful to have a movement when the stool is exceptionally hard. A child who is always constipated soon finds out that he gets frequent pain in his belly, especially when the large intestines try to get rid of the stool.
Inflammation of the appendix
Appendicitis is an inflammation of a little structure attached to the beginning of the large intestine called the appendix. Appendicitis is discussed in the next chapter. We can’t help getting a stomachache once in a while, but there are certain things we can do to.avoid getting them too often:
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly before swallowing.
- Do not overeat.
- Don’t eat too many greasy, spicy, fried, or fatty foods.
- Don’t drink too many sodas. The gas in them may give you a stomachache.
- Don’t eat any food that has been lying out in a hot sun for hours, especially salads that have salad dressings.
- Don’t eat too much when you are nervous or upset.
- Don’t eat strange new foods unless your parents tell you it is O.K. to do so.
- Don’t eat anything you think you might be allergic to.
- Eat very little when you have diarrhea.
- Go to the bathroom regularly each morning after breakfast to move your bowels.