The digestive tract is made up of a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube that breaks down food into energy or waste. Food’s journey begins in the mouth and travels down the esophagus into the stomach. When in the stomach, food then breaks down and all excess materials are sent through the small intestine, into the large intestine (including the colon and rectum) and then out of the anus. Along the way, gasses and other irritants can cause painful bloating and cramps. This occurs when a spontaneous and sudden contraction of the muscles, called an intestinal spasm, causes the area to tighten and move irregularly. Normal contractions are rarely noticeable while intestinal spasms are often painful and obvious.
Intestinal spasms are often associated as a sign or symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional digestive disorder, which means that the digestive tract appears undamaged, but it still causes symptoms. It affects 10 to 15 percent of people worldwide, making it the most common functional digestive disorder. Along with intestinal spasms, IBS causes abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas. Spasms are so common with IBS that the intestinal disorder is also referred to as “spastic colon.”
Following IBS as the most common cause of intestinal spasms, inflammatory bowel disease is the term given to a group of chronic conditions involving inflammation of the digestive tract. The most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that can cause inflammation to any part of the digestive tract. This disease causes unpleasant symptoms such as intestinal ulcers, discomfort, and pain.
Ulcerative colitis occurs when the lining of your large intestine becomes inflamed. This inflammation produces tiny sores called ulcers on the lining of your colon. It usually begins in the rectum and spreads upward – sometimes involving your entire colon. The inflammation causes your bowel to move its contents rapidly and empty frequently. As cells on the surface of the lining of your bowel die, ulcers form. The ulcers may cause bleeding and a discharge of mucus and pus.
Both conditions can cause spasms and other associated symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, the urge to pass stool frequently, and even weight loss. Intestinal spasms share many of the same symptoms as IBS which is why it is important to make an appointment with your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your condition.
Too much gas in the intestines may lead to spasms as the muscles strain to let out the gas. Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of both the stomach and the intestines. The condition is usually caused by viruses, bacteria, or contaminated food (food poisoning). Although painful and irritating, common acid reducing medication and probiotics can reduce intensity and frequency.
Working the abdominal muscles too hard or too often can lead to increased stomach and intestinal spasms. People who regularly do core exercises such as crunches and sit-ups are at a higher risk of experiencing spasms as a result. A hernia is a condition in which an organ or other structure protrudes through a weak part of tissue or muscle. Inguinal hernias are the most common type of a hernia and occur when part of the intestines protrudes through the abdominal muscles into the groin area. This unnatural pressure can lead to more serious digestive related problems including intestinal spasms.
Muscles require proper nutrition and hydration to function correctly. When nutrient deprived, muscles are forced to do the small amount of working off less energy, causing strain and pressure. Dehydration can cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the body, particularly sodium. Monitoring proper daily intakes of water and other vitamins can help everything running on par. In addition to the causes previously listed, colon spasms can be the result of other underlying health conditions or issues. These causes may be unidentifiable to an untrained eye which is why you should contact your doctor if intestinal spasms persist for more than a few days.
The severity of colon spasm symptoms can vary from person to person. With proper treatment and care, managing these chronic illnesses is possible. For more information about intestinal spasms and other digestive health-related questions, contact the experts at Digestive Healthcare Center. Our fantastic team specializes in providing excellent gastrointestinal care. Schedule your appointment today to find the right treatment for you!
At Digestive Healthcare Center, we want each patient at our three offices in New Jersey to feel confident about their digestive health. We encourage you to contact us today to make an appointment with one of our expert gastroenterologists – don’t wait to start putting your digestive health first!
Learn more about all things digestive health and wellness by checking out our recent gastroenterology blogs.
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