What is a bloated stomach?
A bloated stomach is when the belly is stretched and swollen, making the person feel uncomfortable. The most common cause of stomach bloating is gas and air, as gas builds up in the digestive tract when undigested food is broken down, or from swallowing too much air when eating too fast. For some people it may be from excess, but for others there may be an underlying medical reason, such as food intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome.
A bloated stomach may be mainly due to air being retained in the abdomen.
What are the symptoms of a bloated stomach?
Since a bloated stomach is only temporary, it is different from gaining fat mass around the stomach. It is gas accumulated in the digestive system that causes the stomach to cause discomfort and spread outward. Some people have described it as looking “pregnant”. There may be pain in the abdomen, which should be checked if other symptoms are present in the body. The other symptoms to check for are:
- Watery eyes and itchy throat (allergic reaction)
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss
- Irregular periods
What causes stomach bloating?
A bloated stomach can be mainly due to air getting stuck around the abdomen and is usually a problem that has to do with digestion. There are many different underlying reasons that could cause a bloated abdomen, including allergies, hormonal imbalances, thyroid dysfunction and in rare cases, cancer. Possible causes include:
- Lactose intolerance
- Acid reflux
- Stomach flu
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Hiatal hernia
- Ovarian cyst
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Stomach cancer
- Crohn’s disease
How is stomach bloating treated?
In many cases of bloated stomach, lifestyle changes can help decrease or prevent recurrence. Some major causes of stomach bloating are gas and air. In order to reduce the ingestion of too much air you can:
- Avoid chewing gum to stop swallowing extra air.
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Avoid foods known to cause gas such as lentils, beans and vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and sprouts.
- Avoid eating quickly, be careful to chew more slowly
- Reduce dairy products
If lifestyle changes, particularly with diet, do not help relieve or improve the bloating, then the doctor may find a medical cause. The GI specialist may recommend medical treatment, which depends on the condition and the reason behind the abdominal pain.