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Abdominal bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. Most people describe bloating as feeling full, tight, or swollen in the abdomen. Your abdomen may also be swollen (distended), hard, and painful. Bloating is often accompanied by:
Abdominal bloating can interfere with your ability to work and participate in social or recreational activities. According to the University of North Carolina, people who do experience abdominal bloating use more sick days, visit the doctor more often, and take more medications than other people. Bloating is common among both adults and children.
Gas is the most common cause of bloating, especially after eating. Gas builds up in the digestive tract when undigested food gets broken down and when you swallow air. Everyone swallows air when they eat or drink, but some people can swallow more than others, especially if they are:
Burping and flatulence are two ways swallowed air leaves the body. Delayed emptying of the stomach (slow gas transport) in addition to gas accumulation can also cause bloating and abdominal distension.
Other causes of bloating may be due to medical conditions. These include:
These conditions cause factors that contribute to gas and bloating, such as:
Abdominal bloating can also be a symptom of several serious conditions, including:
In many cases, the symptoms of abdominal bloating can be diminished or even prevented by adopting a few simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight, if you’re overweight.
To reduce swallowing too much air, you can:
Probiotics may also help with repopulating healthy gut bacteria. Research is mixed on the effectiveness of probiotics. One review found that probiotics have a moderate effect, with a 70-percent agreement on its effect on bloating relief. You can find probiotics in kefir and Greek yogurt.
Abdominal massages may also help reduce abdominal bloating. One study looked at 80 people with ascites and assigned them 15-minute abdominal massages twice a day for three days. The results showed that massages improved depression, anxiety, well-being, and perceived abdominal bloating symptoms.
Talk to your doctor if lifestyle changes and dietary interventions don’t relieve abdominal bloating. If your doctor finds a medical cause for your bloating, they may recommend medical treatments. Treatments may require antibiotics, antispasmodics, or antidepressants, but it also depends on your condition.
Consult your doctor if bloating is accompanied by any of the following:
Scroll down to learn more about specific causes of abdominal bloating.
Written by: Maureen Donohue
Medically reviewed on: Mar 06, 2017: Stacy R. Sampson, DO
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