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Bloated stomach

Bloated stomach: Causes and treatment options

Bloated stomach, a phenomenon more commonly known as bloating, occurs when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. While this is a very common phenomenon, a bloated stomach may cause you pain and discomfort and interfere with your ability to go about your daily activities with ease.

A bloated stomach is often accompanied by a feeling of fullness and swelling in your lower abdomen, cramps, burping, gurgling in the stomach, a burning feeling or acidity in the stomach or even diarrhoea or constipation. While bloating can be caused by changes in your digestive system or by something you eat, it can also be caused by other serious medical conditions that affect your GI tract.

Causes

There are various reasons why you may suffer from a bloated stomach. While some of these reasons can be fairly harmless, pain and bloating that persist may require medical attention. If your bloating doesn’t occur in a predictable pattern and becomes worse, one of the following could be the cause for it.

  • Gas 

A buildup of gas in the stomach and intestines could cause either mild discomfort or intense pain and make you feel like there’s something trapped inside your stomach. This could be triggered especially after eating, when gas builds up in the digestive tract due to undigested food or when you swallow air. 

Everyone swallows air when they eat or drink but those who eat or drink fast, chew gum, smoke, wear loose dentures or eat certain gas-inducing food like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage have an increased risk of developing gas in their stomach.

  • Various medical conditions

A bloated stomach is a common symptom of certain medical conditions including:

    • Irritable bowel syndrome 
    • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

    • Other gastrointestinal disorders 
    • Heartburn

    • Food intolerance

    • Weight gain

    • Giardia and other parasites

    • Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa

    • Mental health conditions including extreme stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions

These conditions could either cause a bacteria deficiency within the GI tract, abnormal abdominal reflexes or a food or carbohydrate malabsorption that triggers the bloating.

  • Serious health conditions

A bloated stomach can also be a symptom of several health conditions including:

    • Pathologic fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity as a result of cancer (e.g. ovarian cancer), liver disease, kidney failure or congestive heart failure

    • Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance

    • Pancreatic insufficiency or impaired digestion because the pancreas cannot produce enough digestive enzymes

Treatment

While a bloated stomach usually subsides after you adjust or change your diet, there are certain types of treatment you can use to relieve your discomfort or pain.

  • Lifestyle changes

By adopting a few simple lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent further bloating. These include:

    • Reduce your weight if you’re overweight

    • Avoid chewing gum

    • Avoid smoking

    • Limit your intake of carbonated drinks

    • Avoid food that triggers gas

    • Eat slowly

    • Avoid drinking from a straw

    • Use lactose-free products if you’re lactose intolerant

    • Drink plenty of water

It might also be helpful to begin or increase taking probiotics to repopulate healthy gut bacteria, which may help your digestive system moderate the effects of a bloated stomach.

  • Medication

If lifestyle changes and dietary interventions don’t help you reduce your bloated stomach and you’re still experiencing plenty of discomfort and pain, you may need to consult a doctor. After diagnosing the medical cause for your bloated stomach, you may be prescribed certain types of medication.

These may include antibiotics, antispasmodics or antidepressants but this will really depend on the underlying cause of your bloated stomach.

Request more information on the causes and treatment for a bloated stomach

If your bloating is severe and prolonged with bloody stools, high fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, and unexplained weight loss, you must consult a specialist to identify the root cause. You may find it useful to consult a team of expert gastroenterologists for more information on how you can treat bloating.

Please note that due to COVID-19, our clinic has revised its safety protocols to protect the health and wellbeing of our patients and staff.

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