Abdominal bloating simply refers to a swelling or distension of the stomach. People who experience it usually feel full or tight in their belly.
This phenomenon often occurs when air or gas builds up in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of a person. It may be accompanied by abdominal pain, burping, rumbling of the stomach, and flatulence. It can affect people of all ages and isn’t always something you have to lose sleep over.
While gas or air is the most common cause of a bloated stomach, there may be more serious underlying conditions. Continue reading to learn more about a number of these.
The feeling of being bloated in many cases can suggest a food intolerance issue. Dairy products are a major culprit here, in which case we talk about lactose intolerance. Bloating may result if your body isn’t able to digest such foods as milk and cheese easily.
Lactose in dairy products isn’t the only potential problem, though. Another type of sugar known as fructose can also be more difficult for the body to digest compared to other types. Bloating is one of the symptoms that can arise from foods containing fructose, such as corn syrup, onions, and some dried fruits.
If you are experiencing bloating more frequently than before, you may want to pay close attention to your body weight. Medical researchers have observed that an increasing number of people are becoming overweight or obese. You’re likely to feel bloated more if you’ve added 10+ pounds in the preceding year, according to WebMD. The extra weight leaves less space for the stomach to stretch.
Several intestinal disorders can cause you to feel bloated and one of such is Crohn’s disease. This autoimmune disorder of the GI tract causes the thinning of the intestines, especially the small intestine and colon. Bloating is one of the first symptoms of this condition, which may take years before being diagnosed. The possible bowel obstruction that may result can lead to frequent vomiting and unexplained weight loss as well.
This condition exhibits another form of food intolerance. It involves a harmful response by the body to foods containing gluten. This is a type of protein present in foods such as those prepackaged as well as wheat and barley.
When a person with this disorder is exposed to gluten in their diet, their body responds by damaging the intestinal lining. This can lead to a rise in stomach gas, among other issues, thereby causing a feeling of being bloated.
Diverticulitis is an inflammation of the GI tract. More specifically, it is an infection of small pouches in the colon known as diverticula. Apart from the feeling of being bloated, this condition can also produce symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, lack of appetite, and constipation (another common cause of bloating). It affects people older than 50 years more.
You need to give more attention to this symptom if you experience it more often because it may suggest the existence of a serious condition, such as cancer. Bloating has been linked to different forms of this disorder, including stomach cancer, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer.
For example, in the case of colon cancer, there can occur a blockage in the inner part of the colon. This results in persistent bloating as well as worsening constipation and bleeding especially if the cancer is around the rectum.
Cancer can lead to an abnormal fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity – a condition known as ascites. As a result, you may feel bloated and observe a rapid increase in your waistline.
This disorder is a common cause of fluid accumulation in the abdomen or pelvis. The fluid buildup, which leads to bloating, has the potential to make you feel as though pregnant.
If bloating is present alongside jaundice and ascites, it could be a sign of liver cancer. This is more likely among heavy alcohol users and those who have had hepatitis in the past.
Cancer from another organ in the body may also spread to the liver via the blood to produce these symptoms.
In addition to the foregoing, a variety of other diseases or conditions can have bloating as a symptom. Among these are:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Perforation of the GI tract
- Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs)
- Eating disorders
- Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression
- Kidney disease
- Congenital heart failure
The medicines that a person takes may also have bloating as a symptom. Of course, the content of your diet can cause it as well – salt, fat, and carbs are examples.
It is advisable to speak with a medical expert if you feel bloated frequently. This is in particular important if you also notice symptoms such as elevated body temperature, diarrhea, severe stomach discomfort, weight loss, and bleeding.