Could lower abdominal pain and fatigue be linked?

Picture of woman with lower abdominal pain shown in red.

Many people suffer from lower abdominal pain and also fatigue as part of their IBS symptoms.
© Can Stock Photo

One of the most common places for IBS sufferers to get pain is in the lower abdomen (i.e. your lower belly). What a lot of people don’t realize is that the fatigue and weakness they feel could be connected to that pain.

We’re going to discuss that, but first a warning:

If you haven’t seen a doctor about your abdominal pain you should be doing that, not reading this! It can be serious!

There. Now that’s out of the way.  If you’re still here, then…

You need to know about the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve has nothing to do with Las Vegas :), it’s a nerve that runs from your lower abdomen up to your brain.

And it’s connected to your bowels.

Pain in the lower abdomen can cause you to feel week and woozy (okay dizzy then ;). This is called a vasovagal episode,

Transparent man showing the brain gut connection.

Your brain and your gut are linked, and if you’re in enough abdominal pain, then they can decide to shut you down!
© Can Stock Photo

a vasovagal response, or a vasovagal attack.

The symptoms of such an attack are:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness
  • Other less common symptoms

Why you feel so tired when you have bowel pain:

What happens is that the pain in your lower belly convinces your brain that you’re injured or ill in your belly. The brain then sends more blood to that area (bloating anyone?), which can leave less blood for other important tasks.

Like not fainting.

That’s right, the pain in your abdomen can make you feel weak, nauseous and tired. I remember attacks where I could barely function! It was all I could do to keep my head off the table.

Did he say fainting???

Man who fainted from lower abdominal pain and fatigue

Lower abdominal pain can lead to fainting! Has this ever happened to you?
© Can Stock Photo

Yes.

You know that abdominal pain that is so severe? It can actually cause you to pass out!

Lower abdominal pain can cause a vasovegal attack, but a severe attack can lead to fainting. That’s called vasovegal syncope.

The pain gets bad enough that your brain and your vagus nerve decide to spend all your physical resources on whatever is causing it. The next thing you know, you wake up feeling disoriented, embarrassed, and hopefully uninjured!

Why isn’t fatigue commonly listed as an IBS symptom?

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that puzzle.

I know two people personally, that faint completely away and wake up on the floor from pain associated with diarrhea or constipation. I know several others that have lower abdominal pain and fatigue.

The doctor’s never seem to mention it when discussing IBS though. Sorry, I just don’t know why.

What you can do about lower abdominal pain and fatigue:

Well, the first thing you can do is avoid foods or drinks that upset your bowels. But once you have the pain, what can you do?

I can’t prescribe treatment, but I can tell you what helps me. I use a heating pad and and some anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen  and it works wonders.

They don’t always completely remove the pain and fatigue of an IBS attack, but they help with the pain!

Some people swear by peppermint oil which clinical studies show can soothe the bowels.

There are also some anti-spasmodic drugs that help ease cramps. You will have to talk to your doctor about those though, because they are prescription only.

IBS pain can cause fatigue, or at least it does in my world.

I hope this helps you solve your fatigue puzzle.

Read more about IBS symptoms.

Find out about foods that can trigger IBS.