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Written by Doctify Team
Infectious Diseases, Gastroenterology
Written by Doctify Team
What is a Bloated Stomach?A bloated stomach or abdominal bloating is the sensation of swelling, tightening or fullness in the belly. It occurs due to a build up of gases in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can feel like having a hard stomach and may lead to abdominal pain and bloating. Feeling bloated is common, particularly after eating large meals or binging on food and alcohol, but a persistent or regular bloated belly could also be caused by underlying health conditions. These range from food allergies and coeliac disease to irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. Stomach cramps and bloating can interfere with daily activities and restrict movement, as well as causing pain and discomfort; recurring bloating symptoms should not be ignored. The sensation usually goes away on it’s own after a short period of time, and treatment is available for other conditions which may cause bloating.
What are the typical symptoms of a Bloated Stomach?Symptoms are common and tend to be mild in most people; in more severe bloating, possibly caused by an underlying health concern, they can become much worse. The usual symptoms include:
- Feeling full. Often, feeling like you’ve eaten too much food or drunk a lot of fluids. Some people also experience fatigue as a result of this.
- A swollen belly. This is a common symptom and may be accompanied by experiencing a tightening sensation. Often, the stomach can feel hard to the touch and become painful.
- Farting. Excessive flatulence or farting can result from a bloated stomach; this is due to the gases leaving your GI tract.
- Burping. Much like flatulence, burping releases gases from inside the body, and can accompany abdominal bloating in some cases.
- Constipation. Difficulty passing stools can be related to a swollen abdomen; constipation can become very uncomfortable and painful.
- Abdominal rumbling. A gurgling or rumbling sound coming from your stomach or lower gut.
- Nausea and vomiting. Feeling sick or vomiting is a rarer symptom of a bloated stomach and could be a sign of eating or drinking too much.
- Unexplained weight loss. A noticeable weight loss or losing weight whilst not actively trying to.
- Blood in your stool. Darker stools, reddish/pinkish stools, or blood on toilet paper after wiping.
- Heartburn. Acid reflux or heartburn may be experienced during an episode of abdominal bloating.
What causes a Bloated Stomach?Typically, a build up of air and other gases in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are what causes bloating. Gases can become trapped (often referred to as ‘trapped wind’) and cause the stomach to feel swollen and uncomfortable. It can be caused by certain foods, eating too much, drinking too much, or food intolerances.The following foods have been known to cause a bloated tummy, as well as eating too much or eating too quickly:
- Salt. A diet high in salt is known to cause water retention and abdominal bloating.
- Carbohydrates. Too many carbohydrates can also lead to water retention, which then causes bloating. Complex carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables; broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower are the most likely to cause a bloated stomach.
- Chewing gum. This makes you swallow more air than you would usually, which leads to bloating.
- Dairy. Dairy products contain lactose, a type of sugar, and some people cannot digest it properly (known as lactose intolerance). A lot of foods contain dairy products which will have lactose in.
- Fizzy drinks. Any carbonated drinks, including beer and champagne, contain bubbles of gas that can fill up the GI tract.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Certain foods can lead to IBS, which itself leads to the stomach swelling.
- Coeliac disease. The body attacks it’s own tissues, including those in the stomach, when gluten is ingested. This can lead to a swollen stomach and constipation.
- Crohn’s disease. A type of irritable bowel disease (IBD), this causes parts of the GI tract to become inflamed.
- Periods. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can lead to water retention and the stomach swelling.
How to help prevent a Bloated Stomach?By knowing what causes a bloated stomach, there are a number of home remedies that can prevent it recurring. The following can reduce the risk of a bloated stomach:
- Eat more slowly. The faster you eat, the more air you swallow, which can lead to bloating.
- Reduce intake of carbonated drinks. Fizzy drinks can cause abdominal bloating; by avoiding or cutting down on these, the chances of bloating are reduced.
- Avoid chewing gum. Due to excessive chewing, you can swallow more air than you would usually.
- Limit intake of trigger foods. Salty foods, vegetables, beans and lentils are all thought to contribute to stomach bloating. Although vegetables are required as part of a healthy, balanced diet, be sure to eat a wide variety to avoid bloating.
- Eat more fibre. Foods that are high in fibre include wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and cereals, fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans. They can prevent constipation and reduce risk of abdominal bloating.
- Keep a food diary. This may help identify the foods that can trigger a bloated stomach which can then be avoided or eaten in moderation.
- Quit smoking. As well as other health benefits, quitting smoking will reduce the risk of stomach bloating.
How is a Bloated Stomach typically diagnosed?If experiencing stomach bloating, a doctor will be able to diagnose you by assessing your symptoms and carrying out a physical examination. They may ask you questions about your diet and lifestyle, and feel the affected area(s) to understand more about your condition and whether it’s a common occurrence or more occasional.To rule out other medical conditions, a doctor may order tests to help with their diagnosis. These could be:
- Blood tests. Testing for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, and other less common conditions.
- Stool tests. Analysing your stool, particularly if you have blood in your stools, can aid a diagnosis. You will be provided with a pot to take home and return with your sample.
- X-ray or CT scan. In more severe cases, a doctor may request scans to investigate the abdomen for further understanding. While exposed to a minimal amount of radiation, X-rays and CT scans are completely painless procedures.
How is a Bloated Stomach treated?Depending on the severity and the regularity of stomach bloating, most cases can be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medications. Some treatments you may be recommended are:
- Avoiding or limiting intake of certain food and drink. These could include complex carbohydrates, fatty and salty foods, and fizzy drinks. You may also be recommended to change your diet further and increase the amount of fibre you eat.
- Walking. Short, low-impact walks ca relieve the symptoms of a bloated stomach.
- Probiotics. These can be in pill form or found in some yoghurts and contain ‘good’ bacteria that aids digestion.
- Peppermint. Known to help with digestion, peppermint oil capsules and a variety of peppermint teas are widely available from pharmacies, health food shops and supermarkets.
How can Doctify help with a Bloated Stomach?At Doctify, we are proud to work with leading specialists in all fields of medicine. Our service could put you in touch with some of the country’s leading consultants based on real patient reviews. To find the right doctor for you, visit www.doctify.com/uk.
Bloating is defined by any swelling or increase in the size of the abdomen. It leads to the feeling of a full and tight abdomen, resulting in pain accompanied with increasing growling or even complete lack of it.
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