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Stomach Bloating Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions & More All you need to know

Stomach bloating is a condition where your belly becomes toned or hardened due to accumulated gas in your digestive system.

We all can feel it often that our belly is kind of full. You may think of overeating, but it is not always the cause. Gas production is a normal process of your digestive system. These gases are usually passed off through your anus.

If the gas is trapped somewhere in your digestive tract, it causes bloating of your belly. You may feel uncomfortable with the dome-shaped look of your belly.

You may develop bloating if you eat foods that are more likely to produce gas. Simple good eating habits can reduce abdominal bloating to develop.

Certain health-related diseases, such as acid reflux (which annoys the esophagus), irritable bowel disease (in which your enteric nerves become more sensitive to food bolus), and celiac disease (in which celiac epithelium of your digestive system becomes damaged) can cause gas production.

See your health care provider if you often have gas. Mainly salty foods make you vulnerable to bloating. Salt can hold water in your digestive tract causing its distension.

You should avoid fast foods which have sodium in large quantities. Read food labels for sodium levels before eating. Carbohydrates play the same role in retaining water in your digestive tract.

Carbs, such as pastries and soft drinks can cause gas production. Complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and fruits do not cause bloating because they take longer to digest.

Stomach Bloating Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions

What are the symptoms of stomach bloating?

Common signs and symptoms of abdominal bloating are

  • Frequent gas discharges
  • Burping
  • A significant increase in belly size due to its distension
  • Cramps and pain in diffused pain in the belly
  • The feeling of reef knots in your stomach
  • The feeling of stomach fullness
  • Increase in pressure in the abdomen
  • Flatulence (Excessive air or gas)
  • Recurrent blenching
  • Stomach gurgles or rumbling

Passing gas or burping is normal during eating or after eating. Most people pass gases almost 20 times a day, which is embarrassing for them. This is a significant medical problem.

When to see a doctor?

See your doctor if you have persistent and severe gas pains and abdominal cramps. This gas pain often interferes with your daily chores and limits your public activities.

Gas pains may cause additional health-related diseases and may be accompanied by other symptoms. See your physician if you feel additional abdominal problems along with stomach bloating, which are,

  • Dysentery ( bloody diarrhea )
  • Changes in stool frequency and consistency
  • Changes in stool color
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea
  • Persistent vomiting and headache
  • Weight loss

Seek emergency help

  • If you feel severe abdominal pain along with cramps
  • If you feel chest pain

People who suffer from severe pain with vomiting and difficulty passing gas should seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor will find out the cause of your chronic stomach bloating and prescribe you certain medications to help control this condition.

You should stick to your treatment plan and shouldn’t show compliance, otherwise simple gas pain can cause severe additional digestive and chest problems.

What are the causes of stomach bloating?

One of the most common causes of stomach bloating is constipation. People are usually unaware of if they have constipation or not. You have limited bowel movements in constipation.

Some other common symptoms of constipation are

  • Tightening in starting or finishing a bowel movement
  • Stools are often hard and look like stones or rocks
  • You often feel intestinal fullness even after a bowel movement

Most gas is formed in your intestine when the bacteria consume carbohydrates that are unable to digest. These carbohydrates are complex. Burping mainly excretes your abdominal gas. Bacteria consume some gas in your large intestine.

In constipation, stools reside longer in the large intestine and bacteria ferment them more.

Other food sources of gas:

Many foods that are rich in fibers, cause gas production. Some of these common foods are

  • Most vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes (beans)
  • Whole grains

These high fiber diets cause gas production and they also maintain your cholesterol levels in a controlled range.

Other factors

Other common dietary factors that play role in gas production are

  • Alcohols and other carbonated beverages: alcohol and soda also increase the gas production
  • Poor eating habits: talking during chewing, drinking by a straw, eating quickly, and chewing bubble gum increase the air swallowing. This can leads to an increase in stomach tone.
  • Sweeteners: sugars or artificial sweeteners, such as mannitol and sorbitol can cause gas production.
  • Certain fibrous foods: these foods, such as psyllium may cause gas production in your colon

Other medical conditions:

  • Chronic gut diseases: people with certain intestinal diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and diverticulitis are more sensitive to gas production. They often develop gas pain and cramps.
  • Constipation: it causes difficulty passing gas through the anus. It also favors bacteria to ferment stools in the large intestine.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): normally there are fewer bacteria in the large intestine, but most people with irritable bowel syndrome have a large number of these bacteria. The more the number of bacteria, the more they cause bloating. These people also suffer from additional problems, such as weight loss and diarrhea.
  • Female related conditions: sometimes uterus and ovaries may cause gas production. Always see your doctor for your pelvic examination annually.
  • Food intolerance: sometimes your gut is unable to digest certain foods, such as gluten in wheat and lactose. So, these foods are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. These people should consume a gluten-free diet to prevent abdominal bloating.
  • Gastroparesis: in this condition, your bowel movements are slowed down. It causes bloating and nausea. Delayed emptying favors bacteria to synthesize gas. Some research studies say that women are 4 times more vulnerable to it than men. Diabetic patients are also more prone to develop bloat.

How to prevent abdominal bloating?

The first-line prevention is to change your diet from complex foods to low fermentable foods. Oligosaccharides, monosaccharides, and disaccharides are absorbed rapidly than polysaccharides.

These easily digestible foods can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and bloat. These foods are

  • Monosaccharides: These types of ingredients are found in honey and apples. An example of monosaccharides is fructose.
  • Disaccharides: These include lactose, which is found in yogurt and milk.
  • Oligosaccharides: These are present in onions, garlic, soybeans, and wheat. They are easily digested and absorbed by the small intestine.
  • Polyols: These are present in candies, apricots, chewing gums, and plums. They can lessen your gas production.

The small intestine absorbs most of the digested food. The undigested food goes to the large intestine and is fermented by bacteria. These bacteria produce gas as a result.

If the cause of stomach bloating is constipation, proper exercise, water, and certain fiber supplemented foods may help reducing gas production.

In the cases of chronic constipation, proper medical help improves symptoms. You should see your doctor for further treatment plans.

What are the risk factors?

  • Intestinal gas: abdominal gas produced by bacterial action can exacerbate the symptoms and can cause cramps. Undigested food fragments, such as lactose and gluten may become the substrate for microbes in the large intestine.
  • Excess water: high water foods, such as mannitol can cause the retention of salts and other solutes. This can cause abdominal hardness.
  • Increase contents of the colon: increased colon contents can cause the abdomen to distend. It can also increase the fermentation rate of bacteria and gas production.
  • Change in sensitivity of viscera: it is the main factor for belly hardness and distention.
  • Change in the function of the pelvis: Abdomen becomes distended due to change in pelvic floor reflex control.
  • Abnormal aerophagia
  • Poor intestinal motility

Simple home remedies to prevent stomach bloating

Certain lifestyle measures and simple home remedies may improve your symptoms and prevent further stomach bloating.

  • Eat slowly and grind thoroughly: make sure to chew your food completely to prevent gulping. If you eat rapidly, your unabsorbed and undigested food moves to the large intestine, and bacteria will ferment it and produce gas as a result. Take some time before you eat the next fragment.
  • Do not drink through a straw: Avoid chewing gum and drinking through a straw. These actions may cause gas production and abdominal discomfort.
  • Take smaller fragments while eating: Try eating smaller food fragments than the larger ones. This step can make better digestion and absorption by your small intestine. It will effectively reduce gas production by bacteria.
  • Make sure you have properly fitted teeth: If your teeth are not properly fitted, they can cause the swallowing of excess air while eating and drinking. See your dentist if you have denture problems.
  • Avoid smoking: Try to avoid smoking because it causes swallowing of air excessively. See your doctor if you feel difficulty quitting smoking.
  • Regular exercise: Proper exercise help reducing constipation, which makes an easier way to excrete intestinal gas.

If you are uncomfortable with the odor of passing gas, use pads and underwear which contain charcoal to absorb the unpleasant odor.

Diagnosis

Your physician will make a better diagnosis by reviewing your,

  • Past bloating history
  • Medical history
  • A physical examination
  • Eating habits
  • Associated gut diseases

Your doctor may examine your abdomen to feel any hardness or tenderness. He will use a stethoscope to hear your abdomen sounds to make a better diagnosis.

He will order additional tests depending on your other signs and symptoms. If you have bloody stools with diarrhea, your doctor will ask you for further blood tests to rule out other conditions.

Treatment

Mainly treatment is done by changing dietary habits and preferences. If your stomach gas is due to some other underlying cause, its treatment may provide relief.

This treatment plan is not the same for all conditions. Treatments are based on the underlying cause of stomach bloating.

Diet

Proper dietary habits may improve your symptoms. These dietary modifications cause less gas production and increase gas movement by burping. You should give your dietary history to your doctor to help control symptoms.

Avoiding the following dietary factor effectively improve your symptoms,

  • Fiber enriched foods: fibrous foods include, soybeans, onions, garlic, plums, apricots, apples, cabbage, cauliflowers, and pears. You can determine which food causes more gas production. You should avoid this high fiber diet for at least 2 weeks continuously. You can also consult your doctor for better foods.
  • Drink water: drinking water will help you prevent constipation. Drink water the whole day and also during eating.
  • Sugar ingredients: try to avoid sugar substitutes or use other substitutes.
  • Dairy products: try avoiding dairy products, such as milk and yogurt that contain lactose. You should consume a lactose-free diet to lessen symptoms.
  • Cholesterol-rich foods: Fatty foods prevent or slow down the excretion of gas from the gut. Avoiding these foods helps controlling abdominal bloating.
  • Alcoholic and carbonated drinks: Try to avoid alcohols and soda to prevent gas production.

Which are over-the-counter drugs for abdominal bloating?

The following medications may help to reduce your gas signs and symptoms,

  • Lactase-containing supplements (Lactaid): The lactase-containing drugs (Lactaid) improve the digestion of lactose in milk products. Lactose intolerant patients get great relief from these medications. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor for proper drug regimens. These drugs reduce gas production and help in controlling symptoms.
  • Alpha galactosidase-containing supplements (Bean Assist): This enzyme helps in the digestion of complex carbohydrates, such as oligosaccharides and polysaccharides to monosaccharides. You should take these drugs before eating.
  • Charcoal (CharcoCaps): Activated charcoal may improve your symptoms and reduces gas production. Although it is not that effective, it may interfere with your drug absorbing ability. It can also dye the inner of your mouth and throat. Underwears and cushions containing activated charcoal absorb an unpleasant smell of the gas when you burp.
  • Simethicone (Mylanta Gas Minis): This drug causes the breakdown of small bubbles in the gas that are formed in the gut. This also helps in moving gas out of your gut. Some studies indicate that this has minor importance in the treatment of stomach bloating.
Abdur Rashid
Medically Reviewed By Abdur Rashid
MSC Public Health, MCSP, MHCPC
BSC (Hon) Physiotherapy
Consultant Neuro-spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

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