Do you ever feel a cold or tingly sensation in your stomach — even if you didn’t just eat or drink something cold? If so, you’re not alone.
A cold sensation in your stomach can develop for a number of reasons. Some of these just show that you have a heightened awareness or sensitivity of what is going on inside of your body. Others can indicate a problem or medical issue. Keep reading to learn about the difference.
While you might not think of your stomach as something that can get cold, it can. There are thermoreceptors throughout your body. These are nerve cells that can detect changes in temperature. Temperature signals are transmitted to the nervous system to help your body maintain a safe core temperature.
The thermoreceptors just under the surface of your skin are sensitive and can help your body control shivering or sweating as a means of heating or cooling itself. The reactions of thermoreceptors that are located deeper in the body tend to be more subtle, sending signals to your autonomic nervous system. These types of thermoreceptors are located in the brain, spinal cord, and deep in the abdomen.
There are also a number of medical conditions that can cause the stomach, other abdominal organs, or the abdominal wall to feel rigid or produce a chilled sensation. Abdominal pain and chills have been known to occur with some of the following conditions.
Gastroenteritis is inflammation that occurs in the lining of your small intestine or stomach. This inflammation can be caused by a number of things, but bacteria and viruses are common. Viral gastroenteritis is commonly referred to as the stomach flu.
There is no cure for viral gastroenteritis, but bacterial forms of the condition may be treated with antibiotics. Supportive care like drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest is important regardless of whether the cause of your gastroenteritis is bacterial or viral.
Seek immediate medical care if you experience abdominal or stomach chills and the following symptoms of severe infection or sepsis.
- high fever
- racing heartbeat
- difficulty breathing
Kidney stones aren’t associated with chills as much as they are sharp pain over the flank(s). You may also experience chills with kidney stones, especially if they are associated with an infection in your kidneys.
Kidney stones are masses of crystals that form from various substances that can build up in your body, like calcium. These stones can be painful to pass, and can even cause injury or block the flow of urine from your kidneys.
This is a condition that develops when your stomach starts to function slower than usual. This can happen for a variety of reasons like:
- diabetes mellitus
- other chronic illnesses
With gastroparesis, there is a disruption of the nerve signals in your gastrointestinal tract. This affects your ability to move and digest foods, but it could also impact the work of the nerves that sense temperature. This can be a medical emergency, especially after surgery.
Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have recently had surgery and experience these symptoms.
Pancreatitis is inflammation that occurs in your pancreas, specifically. The pancreas is a small organ located just behind your stomach that produces insulin, digestive enzymes, and other hormones.
There are many causes of pancreatitis, and it can be chronic or acute, as well as infectious or non-infectious. In acute pancreatitis, you can have a cold sensation along with severe pain over your mid-left upper abdomen.
Pancreatitis may become severe and require medical treatment with intravenous fluid to prevent dehydration.
Some people report a cold feeling in their stomach, or elsewhere in the body, when there is no other sign of infection. Instead, this sensation may occur with exercise. Studies have investigated why this occurs, and there are several theories.
Other theories have investigated whether increased blood flow to certain muscle groups during exercise reduced blood flow and sensation to other parts of the body, therefore creating a cold or numb sensation. Another study from 2016 found that while things like gender and body weight impacted temperature shifts and cold sensation in extremities during exercise, the same link did not exist with cold sensations in the abdomen. In fact, according to the study, temperatures barely changed when it came to the core or abdominal region.
In many cases, pain and chills can be symptoms of an infection or another serious condition. They can include:
While exercise-induced cold sensations in the abdomen are harmless in theory, if this sensation continues or occurs with other symptoms, you may want to schedule a visit with a healthcare professional. These symptoms may include:
- shortness of breath
- decreased urination
- decreased bowel movements
- blood in your urine or stool
- black or tarry bowel movements
- sharp abdominal pain
- hard or rigid abdomen
There is a wide range of causes for the conditions listed above. For exercise-induced cold sensations in the stomach, there is really no treatment. In many cases, this appears to be a matter of blood flow and cold sensitivity.
For conditions with a bacterial cause, like bacterial gastroenteritis or other infections, antibiotics may help clear up your discomfort. More serious conditions like gastroparesis, appendicitis, and pancreatitis can require hospitalization and possibly surgery.
Even if surgery isn’t required, conditions that affect your metabolism could disrupt your body chemistry, leading to other problems. Dehydration can be a serious related effect, too, and intravenous fluid or other supportive care might be needed.
If you experience a cold sensation in your stomach or abdomen while you are exercising, chances are you have increased cold sensitivity and are noticing the change in blood flow caused by your activity.
If this feeling happens when you’re not exercising, or it’s accompanied by symptoms of infection, pain, or bowel problems, you should see a doctor. There are a number of conditions that include abdominal chills in their list of symptoms that require medical attention.