HEALTH ENCYCLOPEDIA

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Abdominal Bloating

What Is Abdominal Bloating?

Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels uncomfortably full and gaseous, and may also be visibly swollen (distended). Bloating is a common complaint among both adults and children.

Abdominal bloating can interfere with a person’s ability to work and participate in social or recreational activities. According to the University of North Carolina, when compared with people who don’t have abdominal bloating, sufferers use more sick days, visit the doctor more often, and take more medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Abdominal Bloating?

The symptoms of bloating can be vague and difficult to pinpoint, but most people describe an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, tightness, or swelling in the abdomen. This can be accompanied by pain, excessive gas (flatulence), frequent burping or belching, and abdominal rumbling or gurgles.

What Causes Abdominal Bloating?

The most common causes of abdominal bloating are:

  • swallowing air
  • constipation
  • heartburn
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • intolerance to dairy products or other food items
  • eating too fast
  • weight gain
  • overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel
  • hormonal flux (especially PMS for women)
  • giardiasis (intestinal parasites)
  • inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s)
  • some medications

Abdominal bloating can also be a symptom of several serious conditions, including:

  • fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites) as a result of cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, or congestive heart failure
  • celiac disease (wheat gluten intolerance)
  • ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic insufficiency (impaired digestion because the pancreas cannot produce enough digestive enzymes)

Treatment Options for Abdominal Bloating

In many cases, the symptoms of abdominal bloating can be diminished or even prevented by adopting a few simple lifestyle changes. For example:

  • Don’t chew gum. Chewing gum can cause you to swallow extra air, which in turn can lead to bloating.
  • Limit your intake of carbonated drinks.
  • Avoid “gassy” foods, such vegetables in the cabbage family, dried beans, and lentils.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid drinking through a straw.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Use lactose-free dairy products (if you are lactose intolerant).

Consult your doctor if bloating is accompanied by any of the following:

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in the stools or dark, tarry looking stools
  • high fevers
  • diarrhea
  • worsening heartburn
  • vomiting
  • unexplained weight loss

Content licensed from:

Written by: Maureen Donohue
Published on: Aug 24, 2015on: Mar 06, 2017

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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