Gastric Pain: Antacids not working? Here’s why!

How many times have you complained about gastric pain?

With stressful and erratic lifestyles, gastric problems are not uncommon.

Gastric Pain : Rajesh Sharma’s Experience

Mr Rajesh Sharma’s personal struggle with “gastric pain” is a case in point.

Rajesh had been suffering from pain in abdomen, nausea and vomiting for close to 5 days now. He had experienced this pain on and off for a while but had ignored it assuming it to be simple gastric pain.

Now that his go-to antacids and medicines weren’t providing him any relief, he decided to consult Dr. Mayank Uppal, Consultant, Internal Medicine at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital in South Delhi.

Based on his presenting symptoms like sharp pain in upper abdomen on the right side near the ribs and nausea and vomiting, he was advised an ultrasound.

The ultrasound revealed gallbladder stones of significant size which were causing repeated inflammation of the gallbladder wall also called cholecystitis.

He was recommended a laparoscopic cholecystectomy or minimally invasive surgery for gallbladder removal.

He was hesitant about the surgery but he understood that it was the only way to prevent further complications.

He scheduled the surgery for Thursday and after three days, he was able to resume work on Monday.

“I’m so thankful that I didn’t ignore the pain anymore or attempt to treat myself with home remedies for gastric pain. I feel much better after surgery and am relieved that I avoided any chances of complications!” said Rajesh in a follow-up visit

What is Gastric Pain?

Gastric pain is a general term used to describe symptoms like upper abdomen pain, indigestion, bloating, burping and feeling of fullness even after small meals” explains Dr. Mayank.

What should you do for gastric pain relief?

“For gastric pain relief, make certain changes in your lifestyle and diet. Modifications, like eating regular and small meals, maintaining a proper sleep cycle and avoiding spicy food, aerated drinks and alcohol, can greatly help” says Dr. Mayank.

“If you are experiencing gastric pain despite these changes and after consuming over-the-counter antacids, you should consult your doctor.”

Since other problems may display symptoms similar to gastric pain, your doctor might recommend an ultrasound or upper GI endoscopy to identify the real cause.

What could gastric pain mean?

In most cases, gastric pain is caused by an irritated gastrointestinal system as a result of irregular meals and chaotic lifestyle.

But in some cases, like Rajesh’s, other serious conditions may display signs akin to gastric pain, such as

1. Gastric ulcers:

Gastric or stomach ulcers are open sores that are present in the lining of the stomach.

Gastric ulcers manifest as burning pain in the abdomen with indigestion and heartburn.

These symptoms are often used to describe simple gastric pain, which can make it difficult to distinguish between gastric pain and stomach ulcers.

In addition, people with stomach ulcers may also experience abdominal pain which may be aggravated pre or post-meal often with black, tar-like stools and in severe cases, coffee coloured or blood-tinged vomit.

2. Gallbladder stones:

Most people tend to write off recurrent abdominal pain and indigestion as simple gastric pain but it could be a sign of gallbladder stones.

Inflammation of gallbladder or blockage of the bile duct by the gallstones can cause severe abdominal pain similar to gastric pain.

Prompt medical attention and an ultrasound help pinpoint the real cause in such cases.

3. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, usually presents as sharp pain in the upper abdomen that radiates towards the back and may be associated with vomiting and loose stool.

Since gastric pain originates in the upper abdomen as well, people can find it difficult to differentiate between gastric pain and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a serious condition that warrants immediate medical attention.

Common causes behind pancreatitis are alcohol and gallbladder stones.

How to cure gastric?

The right diagnosis is key when looking for cure of gastric problems.

“50-70% complaints of gastric pain may not have any severe underlying problem and can be resolved with prescribed antacids along with diet and lifestyle modifications” reassures Dr. Mayank.

“All cases of gastric pain need careful medical examination to rule out other causes like gallbladder stones, gastric ulcers or something else.”

If you have questions about persistent gastric troubles, come in for a consultation with our internal medicine physicians and get all your doubts cleared.

Update: This blog post was originally written in June 2018 and has been updated with inputs in May 2020.