What is Abdominal Bloating? What is Causing Abdominal Bloating & How to Treat It?

Dr. Sneha Ganatra
November 17, 2020

Abdominal distention or bloating is a problem that can occur to almost anyone and, while gas is a major reason for bloating, it can be a symptom of an underlying disease or condition. As such, it isn’t an illness of its own and can be seen an early sign that indicates the need for a medical check-up. The feeling of abdominal bloating is quite uncomfortable and can also be accompanied by pain. In more severe cases, bloating of stomach can act as quite a restrictive condition as it can affect involvement in recreational or social activities. Besides the discomfort and pain, there is also the factor of flatulence, which is why it is well worth it to get it treated.

Another important factor to note is that bloating isn’t the same as retaining water. This is a common misconception as there are similar bodily reactions, but in the case of abdominal bloating, the cause isn’t just liquids. Studies have found that even as much as 30% of people experience bloating quite regularly, making it quite common. Thankfully, being informed about it can come in handy as gas is not the only cause of bloating and other medical conditions may be the root cause. Regardless, exercising caution is important to staying healthy and to help you do so, here’s all you need to know about stomach bloating.

What is bloating?

Abdominal bloating is when the gastrointestinal tract fills with substances like fluids or gas, which then causes it to expand or swell. This is a common feeling as is often described as being ‘stuffed’ or experiencing a pressure in the abdomen. In most cases, bloating is caused by excess gas in the digestive tract. This happens when food is digested and when you swallow air. However, in some instances, excess air may enter this tract, which can also play a role in bloating. Those who chew gum, eat or drink too quickly, or smoke are more likely to swallow greater amounts of air, which can lead to gas build-up.

What causes bloating in the stomach?

As mentioned, excess gas in the intestines and digestive tract is what causes bloating. Although this isn’t the only cause and there many underlying medical conditions, like giardiasis or heartburn that could also be responsible, it is important to be aware of all potential causes. Here are a few health problems that may lead to stomach bloating.

  • Stomach infection: Infections such as the rotavirus or norovirus can cause gas among other symptoms like diarrhoea or abdominal pain. These can eventually lead to bloating.
  • Fluid retention: This is particularly relevant to consuming foods high in salt, which can lead to excess fluid retention in the body. This causes bloating and can even point to some serious health issues if bloating persists.
  • Constipation: Occurs due to food intolerances, lack of fibre, pregnancy, medication, and several other reasons.
  • Gynaecological disorders: Conditions like endometriosis cause bloating and cramping and result in referred pain in the pelvis, which can also feel like that of bloating.
  • Indigestion: Caused by overeating, excess alcohol intake or even medication, this is another common condition that leads to bloating.
  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): This is the build-up of harmful bacterial in the small intestine that cause bloating and even diarrhoea.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: This condition causes gas build-up, which is known to cause bloating.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two such conditions that cause frequent bloating.
  • Eating disorders: Bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa can cause bloating.

What are common bloating symptoms?

While the first symptom is swelling of the abdomen, there may be a few other symptoms that accompany this. They are:

    • Abdominal gurgles or rumbling
    • Pain, severe in worse cases
    • Frequent belching
    • Flatulence
    • Increased pressure in the abdomen
    • Urge to have bowel movement

      Since bloating may be a symptom of another condition, you may experience other symptoms characteristic to the underlying condition.

      How do you treat a bloated stomach?

      Medically, treatment for bloating is based on the cause of abdominal distention. Based on that, doctors may either prescribe antispasmodics, antibiotics, or even antidepressants. Besides this, you may be advised to get stomach massages to relieve bloating. There is a study that backs the possibility that massages may relieve perceived symptoms of abdominal bloating. However, in most cases, lifestyle and dietary changes should suffice as bloating without a serious medical cause doesn’t last for very long and is easily treated at home.

      What can you do to prevent stomach bloating?

      Given that stomach bloating isn’t always serious, there are ways you can treat and even prevent it. This relies on a few home remedies and practices to keep your digestive health in check. Here are a few options you have available.

      • Swallow less air, meaning, chew less gum, eat slower, drink through straws, and reduce carbonated beverages
      • Avoid foods that cause gas. This includes dairy if you are lactose intolerant, and common foods like lentils, beans, or other such vegetables
      • Consume more soluble fibre as it helps reduce constipation
      • Lose weight if you are overweight
      • Eat smaller portions as overeating in one go can make you feel bloated
      • Take probiotics as they improve gut bacteria, which can then help reduce gas production

      With a condition as common as bloating, it can be easy to overlook the symptoms until they become a problem. This is why being informed about the disease helps as it gives you clues about what to look for and when to seek care. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to seek medical care when the abdominal distention is coupled with other problems like diarrhoea or nausea. This way, you don’t ignore any serious conditions and can get treatment in time. A good way to get the care you need without any hassles is to use the Bajaj Finserv Health app.

      This digital provision is loaded with telemedicine innovations that make accessing healthcare simpler than ever. With it, you can find the best doctors in your area and book appointments online. What’s more, for remote healthcare, you can consult with specialists virtually over video and skip a physical visit altogether. To add to that, you can also track your vitals digitally, store your patient records, and share these with doctors easily. This way, healthcare is always available to you, without any restriction. For all these benefits and more, download the app from the Apple App store or Google Play for free.