We all experience abdominal cramps every once in a while, and we ordinarily think nothing of them until they become especially painful. If you continuously experience painful bowel movements, however, there are certain things you need to think about. Is it because of something you’re eating? Maybe a food intolerance? Or, could it be something far more serious?
A Hidden Disease That’s Actually Quite Common
Diverticular disease is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in the gastrointestinal tract. It becomes more and more common as we age, and it is only detected when there are complications. You could say it’s a hidden disease most people wouldn’t realize they had until it’s too late.
Diverticular disease is a problem in the internal lining of your large intestine. Instead of being a smooth surface, small pouches start to develop, protruding from the inside of your colon. They could stay there forever not causing any symptoms, or they can become inflamed and infected, and even turn into colon cancer.
The Diet Connection
People with diverticular disease tend to develop this condition due to poor food choices and low fiber intake. Individuals who follow a diet high in sugar and fat often experience flare-ups more frequently, and recent studies have indicated that the fermentable carbohydrates in yogurt, fermented foods, beans, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage should be limited to avoid painful bowel movements.
It is important to note that in many cases of gastrointestinal disease, fermented foods are actually recommended to improve gut health.
However, in the case of diverticular disease, an excessive intake of these foods can trigger colon spasms, diarrhea, inflammation, and hemorrhoids.
This is why it’s advisable to work with a dietitian to figure out which foods are right for you.
Foods That Worsen and Reduce Symptoms
While some with hidden diverticular disease will never experience flare-ups, others will notice a worsening of symptoms after consuming foods such as nuts, seeds, and berries. Still others will notice different food triggers, which can make this disease especially difficult to self-diagnose.
Water and Fiber – A Combination to Reduce Painful Bowel Movements
The most widely accepted recommendation if you suffer from diverticular disease is to consume high-fiber foods such as whole grains and vegetables. This is because constipation is the number one reason diverticular disease appears and ultimately becomes a problem.
Another way to reduce flares is to limit your alcohol intake and keep yourself well hydrated.
Is There Any Other Disease to Think About?
There are several gastrointestinal conditions that could cause painful bowel movements, and you need to be extra careful with some of them.
These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Constipation: It’s the clinical name for hard stools, and it is quite common. When constipation is sustained over a long period of time, it can produce several problems, such as diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, and severe problems like rectal prolapse and fecal impaction.
- Food intolerance: You may be intolerant to gluten, lactose, soy, or other foods (or group of foods) in your diet. So, take notice when you do experience painful bowel movements. Are they related to specific ingredients or foods you’re continually eating? Keep track of everything you eat in a food journal and note when you have these attacks. This should help you pinpoint your problem food(s).
- Gastroenteritis: This is the clinical name for an infection of the gastrointestinal tract. It is a common cause of painful bowel movements, and it can be caused by improper handling of uncooked meat. So, if you often experience this issue, you may want to look to your food preparation and cooking habits (and those of others in your household) to see where the recurrent infection is coming from.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: IBS is a hypersensitivity problem in your large intestine that causes alternating diarrhea and constipation along with abdominal cramps and bloating. While not a serious condition in and of itself, it can be very painful, inconvenient, and embarrassing.
- Colon cancer: While not the first idea that should come to your mind when you experience painful bowel movements, do not disregard the possibility of colon cancer. There are other alarming signs to warn you about colon cancer, such as noticing blood in your stools, rapid and unplanned weight loss, and chronic fatigue.*
*If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
As you can see, most causes of painful bowel movements are closely related to your diet. Again, as general advice, you might want to increase your fiber intake, drink more water, and avoid foods that disagree with you.
If your problems with painful bowel movements persist, or you notice blood in your stool, see your doctor right away!