You're sitting in math class when out of nowhere you're hit with a wicked stomach ache. Was lasagna for breakfast not the best choice? Are you allergic to trigonometry? Or is it something else entirely? The truth is we get stomach aches for a variety of reasons—and not all of them are physical. Sometimes stomach aches have nothing to with what’s in your body, but instead are caused by what’s in your mind. “Feelings of anxiety might come out as stomach pain or nausea, even though the problem didn’t initiate in the digestive system,” explains Dr. Hillary Bashaw, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Emory University. At the same time, there are a lot of physical reasons your stomach might not be happy, from hunger to indigestion to the flu. Tuning in to your digestive system can not only help you feel better in the moment, but can also motivate you to make diet or lifestyle changes so you feel better all the time—and not just in your belly.
So how do you figure out what exactly is going on the next time you feel pain in your abdomen? Read below for a handy guide to decoding what your stomach ache might mean.