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Stomach aches that occur in the middle of the night or upon awakening are characteristic of acid peptic disorders. These are conditions that affect the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. The most common peptic disorders include peptic ulcer disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The most common causes of peptic disorders are H. pylori bacterial infection and chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). H. pylori bacteria grow in the stomach lining and produces inflammation, causing damage to the stomach and intestines. Although most people who have H. pylori in their stomachs do not develop ulcers, some factors, such as stress, can cause an ulcer to develop.

NSAIDs are drugs used to relieve fever, pain, swelling and inflammation related to injury or disease, such as arthritis. Their most common side effects include stomach ache, nausea, and heartburn.

Peptic ulcer disease is usually characterized by upper abdominal pain or discomfort that is often referred to as dyspepsia. It is described as a feeling of fullness and bloating, associated with nausea, frequent burping, loss of appetite and heartburn.

Another cause of upper abdominal pain that disturbs you at night or in the morning is GERD, a chronic digestive disorder that is characterized by stomach acid flowing back (refluxes) into the esophagus or food pipe. The acid irritates esophageal lining and causes a burning sensation (heartburn) in the chest and throat. Obese, pregnant, asthmatic and diabetic people have a higher risk of suffering from GERD, as well as smokers and people who have delayed stomach emptying.

Aside from these conditions, other possible causes of dyspepsia include:

  • gastritis

  • non-gastrointestinal diseases such as diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, severe kidney disease and thyroid disease

  • functional disorders that affect the nerves of the gastrointestinal tract

  • bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine

  • anxiety and depression

How to Relieve Your Symptoms

Some foods are believed to trigger abdominal discomfort. These include fatty foods, sugary foods, spicy foods as well as milk products, alcohol, chocolate, tomato sauce, mint, onion, garlic, and caffeine. Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms and try to eat smaller meals, especially at night.

Avoid lying down immediately after a meal. It is best to wait for about three hours before lying down after a meal.

Quit smoking or chewing tobacco.

Lose weight if you are obese or overweight. Dyspepsia is often associated with obesity.

If you experience stomach aches at night, raise the head part of your bed six to eight inches using blocks under the bed frame. You can also place a foam wedge under your mattress instead of adding extra pillows, which does not work.

When to Call a Doctor

Dyspepsia may be a symptom of a chronic disease which needs immediate treatment. Call your doctor if you experience chest pain, which may mimic dyspepsia, but may be a symptom of a heart attack. Other symptoms that must prompt you to seek medical consultation include:

  • severe abdominal pain

  • frequent episodes of dizziness or lightheadedness

  • blood in your vomit

  • dark stools

  • unexplained weight loss

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