There are numerous potential causes for stomach cramps, some of which can be serious and some that should simply go away within a day or a few days. Some of the most common causes of stomach cramps are menstrual cramps, in women, as well as food poisoning or allergies to certain foods, an illness such as the flu, constipation, or indigestion. Stomach cramps may also be indicative of a more serious condition such as Crohn's disease, a hernia, kidney stones, gallstones, or a urinary tract infection, among others.
Usually, the nature and location of the stomach cramps will give clues to the cause. Sharp, localized pains, for example, may indicate a more serious condition than a dull pain that is more spread out. Kidney stones often present as pain in the lower back, whereas a urinary tract infection will usually cause painful urination in addition to stomach cramps. Menstrual cramps usually occur within the first few days of menstruation, though some women experience cramps for the entire time. Over the counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used to treat menstrual cramps, but may worsen some other stomach conditions.
Stomach cramps caused by certain foods eaten are some of the most common. Some foods, such as greasy or spicy foods, are simply more difficult for the body to digest, and may lead to temporary stomach pains. People who are allergic to certain foods will generally find that they experience severe stomach pains after consuming them, whereas people who are just intolerant of foods may experience unpleasant stomach cramps. Lactose intolerance, which occurs in people who have difficulty digesting dairy products, is one of the leading causes of stomach pain.
It is important to determine the cause of any stomach pain so that it can be treated and prevented in the future. Antacid or anti-nausea products may be helpful in some instances, for example, but of course it depends on the cause of the stomach pain. Keep in mind that there are many additional causes for stomach pain, including ulcers, so it is important to take note of any stomach pain that does not resolve within a few days, or seems to worsen. Stomach cramps may cause intestinal upset such as nausea or diarrhea, but this should not last more than a day or two. If it does last longer than this, or is accompanied by fever, it may be a good idea to visit a doctor for treatment.