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DR FLO: Why does my stomach burn when I am tense?

DR FLO: Why does my stomach burn when I am tense?

You need to learn how to manage stress and relieve tension through relaxation exercises.

Dr Flo, what causes the burning sensation on the left side of my abdomen when I am tense or stressed? Francis

Dear Francis,

When you are stressed, the body releases hormones and other messengers to help you go into emergency action: the fight or flight mode.

The digestive system is shut down or slowed down, because we do not need to digest food at that time. This can cause a feeling of butterflies in the stomach, nausea, gassiness, burning, a “knot” in the stomach, acidity, reflux, rumbling, pain, diarrhoea or constipation.

If this happens for a short time, the body recovers quickly. If the stress goes on for long, there can be a persistent problem with the digestive system which is difficult to recover from.

Sometimes when stressed, people take comfort food (e.g. fries) or drinks (e.g. soda, alcohol, caffeinated drinks) which worsen the stomach problems.

The burning sensation may also be due to other stomach problems like gastritis or infection. It is advisable to visit a doctor so that any other problems can be identified and managed.

To manage it, you need to learn how to manage stress and relieve tension. This includes relaxation exercises (like deep breathing, visualisation, and meditation), exercise, resting, social support, healthy diet and making a plan to tackle the difficult situations. If the stress is persistent, it may be helpful to see a psychotherapist.


Dr Flo, my roommate has been having pain in her pubic area. First she was bleeding every now and then (excluding during her periods), then she developed small wounds/rashes around her vagina. Now she has pain and secretions that are smelly and have small white lumps.

She has been having recurring UTIs for the past couple of years. Could this be the same thing? I feel like this could be something else as this time it's worse and those other times, there was no bleeding. If it is indeed a UTI, is there a permanent solution? Abby

Dear Abby,

It is normal for all women after puberty to have a vaginal discharge. It is a mixture of fluid and cells that help to keep the vagina clean and moist and to prevent infection.

The appearance changes depending on the menstrual cycle, and can also be affected by exercise, stress, use of hormonal medication and sexual arousal.

The discharge may vary from white to clear, and from watery to thick, at different times of the cycle. It is also normal to have a brown or bloody discharge just before, during or after your periods, or sometimes in between your periods (spotting).

If there is abnormal colour (yellow, green, sometimes white), itching, a foul smell, or thick, chunky discharge, most likely there is a vaginal infection. The infection may be caused by fungi, bacteria or other organisms.

Abnormal bleeding is most likely due to hormonal imbalance due to a hormone problem or due to use of hormonal contraceptives.

To know the actual cause of the abnormal discharge and bleeding, it would be advisable to visit a gynaecologist, so that a sample of the discharge may be taken and examined.

The doctor may also ask for a urine test, a pap smear, and other tests. Once the diagnosis is established, she will be put on medication, and advised on what to do.

To avoid infections, keep the pubic area clean, wipe from front to back when using the toilet, wear cotton underwear, avoid excessively tight underclothes like tights and bikers, and avoid use of scented soaps, feminine products and douches.


Dr Flo, sometimes when I am just cool and quiet, a bad smell comes out as if I am passing stool. It comes out without my knowledge, I just smell it. This has made me stay away from gatherings because of embarrassment. I don't understand it. Please tell me what is happening to me. Thanks. Owino

Dear Owino

The gastrointestinal tract usually has gas building up from air that is swallowed while eating and drinking, and from gas produced by the bacteria in the intestines as they process food. This gas comes out through the mouth or through the anus.

On average, a person passes gas 12 to 25 times in a day. You should be able to feel the gas coming out, and most times you are able to control it.

If you cannot feel the gas coming out, you may have weakness of the anal sphincters (the muscles that help control the passing of gas and stool). It would be advisable to see a doctor to check on the anal sphincters.

You may also benefit from pelvic floor exercises, that is, exercises to strengthen the muscles in your perineum. These are the muscles that you would tighten to prevent yourself from passing stool. Squeeze these muscles as hard as you can for about 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this 10 times, about three to six times a day.

Send your medical questions to[email protected] for absolutely free expert advice.