Abdominal Bloating

What is Abdominal Bloating?

A fairly common complaint that’s usually only a temporary discomfort, abdominal bloating is a full and tight feeling that may also include a visibly swollen abdomen. Often caused by indigestion, abdominal bloating is typically accompanied by related digestive issues such as excessive gas or discomfort in the stomach area.

What are the Symptoms of Abdominal Bloating?

Overeating and eating something that’s difficult to digest are the most common causes of abdominal bloating. Symptoms tend to be vague and hard to describe other than a “painfully full” feeling or abdominal tightness. Flatulence, belching, and burping are some of the body’s involuntary responses to digestion-related bloating.

Related causes may include:

Abdominal Bloating Causes

The list of causes of abdominal bloating is long. Common causes include eating or drinking too fast, smoking, and chewing gum, because of the extra air taken in to the GI tract when these actions occur.

There is also a wide variety of medical conditions that could cause abdominal bloating.

The long list includes:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Heartburn
  • Food intolerances (i.e. dairy, wheat)
  • Giardiasis (an intestinal parasite infection)
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders (i.e. anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa)
  • Celiac disease
  • GI tract perforations

Additionally, medications prescribed for some conditions can cause abdominal bloating. It may or may not be noted as a possible side effect when the prescription is filled.

How is Abdominal Bloating Treated?

Antacids and calcium supplements (those with bicarbonate) should be avoided. Bloating medicines (Gas-X, Beano, Mylanta) work by increasing the production of digestive enzymes to facilitate the processing of sugars in carbs. Charcoal caps sometimes ease symptoms.

Dietary Adjustments

For minor abdominal bloating, avoid “trigger foods” that tend to produce gas (beans, sprouts, lentils, pan-fried or “greasy” foods), eat at a slower pace, and minimize consumption of carbonated beverages. For some people, this extends to dairy produces and certain carbohydrates. If bloating is related to IBS, treatment is similar and often includes dietary changes.

Bloating may also be reduced by:

  • Increasing fiber intake
  • Eating more protein-rich foods
  • Drinking chamomile or green tea
  • Getting regular exercise, particularly slower-paced activities like yoga

Abdominal bloating is sometimes caused by certain food ingredients (lactulose or sorbitol) or narcotic pain medications. Difficulty digesting gluten (Celiac disease), tumors, food poisoning, or a lack of digestive enzymes may also cause bloating. If symptoms are coupled with lingering abdominal pain, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, blood in stools, high fever, or severe diarrhea, seek medical attention.

Abdominal Bloating Prevention

Abdominal bloating is a common condition, and there are many different ways to prevent abdominal bloating. What will work for an individual depends on the cause of the bloating in the first place.

For many of the causes, diet and lifestyle changes are prevention enough. For instance, eliminating carbonated drinks, chewing gum and smoking will reduce the amount of extra air going into the stomach, as will slowing down while eating and drinking. Probiotics, which can be found in supplement form as well as in yogurt, help return healthy bacteria to the gut (which aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients).

Finding ways to lower stress and anxiety levels will prevent bloating brought on by high stress or anxiety levels. An individual who has symptoms of depression should seek treatment of that condition. Avoiding foods an individual has a known intolerance of will also keep it from being an issue.

If the issue is with a medication an individual has been prescribed, they should speak with their doctor about changing medications or being taken off it completely.

Last Reviewed:
September 30, 2016
Last Updated:
June 14, 2018
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