Colon Spasms: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

colon spasmsColon spasms are a health problem experienced by many Americans. People who have spasms in the colon often describe it as a sudden, severe contraction of the colon muscles. The spasms usually occur as a result of an underlying health condition.

The colon essentially refers to the large intestine. It is one of the parts of the digestive system that forms, stores, and excretes feces. A colon spasm can be physically and emotionally troubling. Those who suffer from spasms in the colon often cut themselves off from family and friends because they never know when an attack will strike or when they will suddenly need to run to the washroom.


Colon spasms and the accompanying abdominal pain are often associated with irritable bowel syndrome; however, there are various symptoms and different reasons for the spastic condition.

What are the symptoms of colon spasms?

Symptoms of colon spasms can include bowel movement changes. When longitudinal colon muscle spasms happen, diarrhea often occurs; however, when circular muscle spasms take place, constipation happens. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome can have diarrhea or constipation, and some alternate between the two problems. Below is a list of other potential colon spasms symptoms:

  • Pain: This tends to occur in the lower abdomen, particularly on the left side. The pain can happen anytime day or night.
  • Gas and or bloating: Some people have gas all day long, every day
  • Mucus: Those with IBS often notice mucus in their stools
  • Varied stool consistency: From semisolid to liquid, or even hard pellets with mucus.
  • Heartburn: Some people experience typical signs of heartburn
  • Headache: This can be due to the stress of the condition
  • Increased urination: There are cases where people with colon spasms also experience the need to urinate frequently.

Research suggests that many people who suffer from colon spasms also have a lot of stress in their lives. Often these people notice that their symptoms are less severe when the stress is eliminated.

What are the causes of spasms in the colon?

Colon spasms happen when the muscle contracts in an uncoordinated way. Just what causes colon spasms remains a mystery, but we do know that anxiety and stress impact the function of our intestinal system. We also know that physical activity, diet, and certain drugs can lead to changes in gut movement. Our intestinal system is a complex mechanism and the colon plays a very crucial part in it. When something goes wrong with the colon, it can greatly impact our health.

The following list outlines the different possible colon spasm causes:


Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that impacts millions of Americans and is characterized by either extreme diarrhea or constipation. Symptoms also include colon spasms.

Ulcerative colitis

This is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Bleeding, diarrhea, and spasms are common with this condition.

Crohn’s disease

Like IBS, Crohn’s involves diarrhea, and it can be so severe that it leads to loss of nutrients. It can be difficult to diagnose, but when it is found, it is often treated with anti-spasmodic medications.

Trapped gas

Some people simply have colon spasms because they have severe gas. Trapped gas causes spasms in the colon wall and the ligaments that hold the colon in place.

Distended colon

This means that part of the digestive tract has become enlarged, which can put pressure on the walls of the intestine and lead to constipation. Along with constipation, spasms can occur.

Bowel/intestinal obstruction

An intestinal obstruction can happen when the small or large intestine is blocked. A partial or total blockage can prevent the passage of fluids and digested food. If enough fluid builds up, the intestine can rupture, which is a life-threatening situation.

Bacterial gastroenteritis

When bacteria causes infection in the gut, it is called bacterial gastroenteritis. It can be caused by food poisoning.


This is a condition affecting the reproductive organs; however, it can spread to the bowels. If the bowels are involved, the woman will experience spasms, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation.

There is also a rare condition known as pseudo-obstruction that can cause the colon to spasm. The symptoms are similar to an intestinal blockage, but there is no real blockage. It is believed that the problem is due to nerve or muscle problems that impact the movement of food, fluid, and air through the intestines.

How to treat colon spasms?


Exercise doesn’t just make us stronger and more energetic. It can also benefit the health of the colon. According to researchers, regular moderate physical activity helps balance digestion and bowel movements by encouraging coordination between the gut and nervous system. Furthermore, exercise stimulates the production of endorphins that act as a natural pain reliever and calms colon spasms. Regular exercise is therefore essential for promoting a healthy colon environment.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for people who suffer from colon spasms. Simply skipping breakfast or having dinner earlier in the afternoon allows your digestive system to have a break and repair after an episode.

This type of fasting may even help alleviate the intensity of colon spasms in the future by giving your digestive system more time to rest. Additionally, colon spasms are sometimes linked to eating too much processed food or not consuming enough fibre which intermittent fasting can also address as it will reduce the overall amount of unhealthy foods consumed. Therefore, incorporating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle could be very helpful for anyone suffering from colon spasms.

Stress management

The body is closely connected, especially regarding its digestive and brain systems. Colon spasms may occur suddenly and unexpectedly when feeling under stress, leading to bloating, cramps, or diarrhea. This can be attributed to high-stress levels triggering hormones that directly affect the colon.

Those experiencing colon spasms should understand that managing one’s mental state is essential for long-term colon health; by controlling stress levels through methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness meditation, colon spasms can be drastically reduced or alleviated altogether.


Peppermint has been used for centuries as an anti-spasmodic, and colon spasms can be effectively relieved with either peppermint tea or peppermint oil capsules. Colon spasms occur due to the muscles of the colon contracting, but peppermint has natural properties that ease muscle contraction and help restore normal movement in the colon. This is thanks to its active ingredient, menthol, which has anti-inflammatory properties to relax muscles in the colon and other body parts. Both peppermint tea and peppermint oil capsules contain enough menthol to provide relief without being too overpowering or unpleasant in taste.

Eat more fiber

Adding fiber to your diet is a great way to maintain a healthy colon and digestive system. Fiber increases the bulk of your stool, making it easier to pass through the colon without experiencing colon spasms or chronic contractions. In addition, its gentle impact on the lining of the colon walls can reduce symptoms related to alternating bowel movements or loose stool.

Quit alcohol and tobacco

Excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco can be detrimental to the digestive system, especially when it comes to colon spasms. Both of these potentially harmful substances can negatively influence your colon’s ability to function properly, so cutting down usage or quitting entirely may help limit the frequency and intensity of colon spasms.

This is due to alcohol and tobacco having a negative impact on colonic motility, which affects the colon’s ability to generate normal contractions and squeeze food materials through its length. Reducing or eliminating your intake of alcohol and tobacco will lead to less irritation, cramping, bloating, and pain in the colon. Taking steps toward healthier habits in this area could make all the difference when it comes to colon health.

Making diet and lifestyle changes

In many cases, making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can be enough to provide relief from colon spasms. Many people with mild irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as those who have a food intolerance, find that these changes are able to help ease colon spasms. These changes may include:

  • Eliminating foods such as dairy and wheat
  • Following a low-fat diet
  • Adopting a low FODMAP diet
  • Adding fiber to a daily diet


Depending on the individual, these adjustments could make all the difference in managing colon spasms more successfully. It’s definitely worth exploring this option if colon spasms are causing you discomfort.

When to see a doctor for colon spasms

A lot of people have a colon spasm from time to time, but it is nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s usually related to something that has been consumed. As described here, those who suffer from chronic abdominal pain and other symptoms should seek medical attention. While there may be a simple explanation for the discomfort, getting checked out is best to ensure it isn’t anything serious.

When we have abdominal pain, we tend to fluff it off, but it is a good idea to observe any other symptoms that come along with the pain or spasm. While we aren’t suggesting running off to the doctors for every little ache or pain, we believe that being more observant can help us identify when something isn’t right.


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