A bloated stomach is a symptom where the stomach feels tight, swollen, or full. Chronic bloating can cause an individual to have trouble carrying out their everyday responsibilities and tasks. Stomach bloating occurs in all ages, but certain causes are more common in specific age groups. Bloating is often accompanied by stomach rumbling and gurgling, frequent belching, excessive flatulence, cramping, and pain. To another person, the abdomen in an affected individual may appear distended and may feel hard to the touch.
Abdominal bloating can be managed by treating its underlying cause. Treatment may involve diet changes such as limiting the consumption of carbonated drinks, limiting foods that cause gas, using products that are lactose-free, eating at a slower pace, and drinking through a straw. Massages, medications, and probiotics may be needed to help relieve stomach bloating. A bloated stomach can be the result of benign conditions, or it may be a symptom of serious disease.
Excess Gas And Swallowing Air
A bloated stomach may be caused by an individual's excess gas and swallowing of air. When an individual is in a fasting state, their gastrointestinal tract only contains around one hundred milliliters of gas. This volume increases to a certain extent following the consumption of a meal. The gas in a healthy individual's digestive tract is distributed through the distal colon, descending colon, transverse colon, ascending colon, small intestine, and stomach. Excess gas production in the intestines may be the result of swallowing too much air, consumption of carbonated beverages, infection, and imbalances that occur in the gut microbiota.
An overgrowth of gut microbiota causes excess gas production as a byproduct of the bacteria digesting the food an individual has consumed. Regardless of the cause, the presence of excess gas can result in an impairment of the individual's digestive system to handle and transport it to the point of excretion from the body. It is thought the uneven gas distribution that centers in an affected individual's abdominal region is the main mechanism behind gas-induced bloating.
Heartburn is a sensation of pain or burning that occurs in an individual's esophagus when the acid contents of the stomach come back up into the esophagus. This malfunction occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter fails to keep the stomach's contents from regurgitating into the esophagus. Heartburn is related to bloating because the inappropriate relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter that results in heartburn can allow an affected individual to swallow more air than they would otherwise. The air passes through the digestive tract and causes the stomach to feel abnormally full.
In addition, a lack of stomach acid production in individuals affected by heartburn-like sensations are a sign the food in their stomach has begun to ferment. This process produces excessive amounts of gas that can cause some of the stomach contents to rise into the esophagus and result in heartburn. This gas may remain trapped when the food eventually does move into the next parts of the individual's gastrointestinal tract and cause further bloating.
Food intolerance is a term used to describe a condition that occurs in individuals who have difficulty with the digestion of certain types of food. This difficulty does not stem from any form of food allergy caused by an individual's immune system activity. Food intolerance is a form of hypersensitivity that does not involve the activation of histamine response. The most common types of food implicated in food intolerance are gas-inducing foods, dairy products, and foods that contain gluten.
Bloating is a common problem that happens in individuals who are sensitive to dairy products containing lactose. Dairy intolerance occurs because the affected individual's body lacks the enzyme required to break lactose down, and when this substance is not broken down, it is left to be eaten by the naturally occurring bacteria in the gut. This process of bacterial digestion of lactose causes the production of gaseous byproducts in the digestive tract that causes bloating.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of diseases that result in the inflammation of an individual's digestive system. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the most common forms of irritable bowel disease in the population. It is thought an excessive amount of gas in the digestive tract causes inflammatory bowel disease patients to become bloated. Inflammatory bowel diseases cause an affected individual to be more susceptible to developing gastrointestinal tract infections that cause the production of excess gas and subsequent bloating.
Inflammatory bowel diseases have been known to cause significant damage in a patient's intestines, which can cause them to lose their function of nutrient absorption and digestion. Food that has not been fully digested and absorbed is left for the gut microbiome to consume, which is a process that also causes the production of excess gas, resulting in a bloated stomach.
Fluctuations In Hormones
Some individuals may experience stomach bloating caused by fluctuations in their hormones. Bloating is a common symptom that occurs when a female is going through the process of menstruation every month. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone make a sharp increase following the two-week phase of ovulation. Estrogen is a hormone known to cause an increase in the retention of water in an individual's body, which can result in bloating.
Increased levels of progesterone have been proven to slow down the normal movement of food through the affected individual's digestive system. Progesterone does this by slowing down the natural contractions of the intestinal muscles responsible for healthy stool movement. Slower movement causes the affected individual to become constipated and bloated due to the accumulation of stool in their intestines. Bloating is also a common occurrence in women going through menopause due to the erratic fluctuation of hormones.
Water retention, also called edema or fluid retention, occurs when excess fluids built up in the body. When the fluid builds up around the stomach, it can cause individuals to feel bloated. The water doesn't tend to be retained inside the stomach itself. Instead, it builds up in tissues and cavities around the body, or it builds up within the circulatory system. In addition to bloating, water retention might cause limbs to swell up. There are many potential causes of water retention, with most of them not being serious.
Some women experience increased water retention and bloating immediately before menstruation or during pregnancy. Water retention might also occur in individuals who are sitting through long periods of physical inactivity, such as those on long flights or those bedridden by illness. Eating too much salt can increase water retention, so reducing sodium intake might help. Increasing magnesium intake also helps the body get rid of excess fluids.
Overeating can lead to feelings of a bloated stomach, which makes it important for individuals to integrate portion control into their lifestyle. Eating out of boredom or eating too much in one sitting will make individuals feel more physically lethargic and unwell than eating smaller portions throughout the day. One of the most important things individuals can do is learn to recognize when they've eaten too much. Overeating once in a while isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just means an individual has consumed more calories than their body burns in a day, so the excess is stored as fat.
However, individuals feeling like they can't stop overeating may be a sign of an underlying physical or psychological issue. Some individuals may use food as a form of self-medication when they're depressed, anxious, or stressed. Treating the underlying health condition is vital to treating the eating issue. In addition to feeling bloated and gassy after a meal, individuals who overeat might be distressed, embarrassed, or feel out of control when they eat.
Eating Too Fast
Eating too fast can easily cause an individual's stomach to feel bloated and uncomfortable. When an individual eats a large amount of food very quickly, their body doesn't have time to digest it. This causes their stomach to expand rapidly, which in turn leads to feelings of discomfort and fullness. Eating too fast can also lead to digestive issues, and it might cause an individual to feel hungry again much faster than they would if they slowed down. There are other reasons for individuals to pay attention to the speed of their eating too.
Studies have indicated individuals who eat slowly tend to be at a lower risk of developing certain metabolic factors that increase the chances of heart attack and stroke. Eating fast also makes it difficult for the body to feel full. Individuals might feel like they're hungry for the entire meal, and then they'll feel too full when the food hits their stomach all at once. It's easier for individuals to tell when they've eaten enough if they slow down eating their meal long enough for their stomach to send signals to the brain telling them it's sated.
Constipation is a common digestive issue that can cause an individual's stomach to feel bloated. In most cases, the underlying cause isn't serious, and it can typically be treated through diet changes, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter laxatives. If an individual is experiencing chronic constipation, though, they might want to talk to a doctor about whether there may be another underlying condition affecting them. Constipation causes hard and dry bowel movements. Individuals also meet the criteria for constipation if they have fewer than three bowel movements every week.
If stool stays inside the colon for more than a day or two, it tends to harden and become more difficult to pass. Increasing water intake can sometimes help with constipation, as can increasing dietary fiber. The majority of fiber-rich foods are created from plant matter. Other factors that might influence constipation include changes in routine, stress, and medical conditions that slow your colon's muscle contractions. A lack of exercise may contribute to constipation.
A variety of different medications can cause a bloated feeling in the stomach, burping, or excessive gas. Certain vitamins and supplements can also contribute to bloating. Even if an individual is not taking any prescription medications, several non-prescription medicines can lead to a bloated stomach. Medications for diarrhea can sometimes cause individuals to feel bloated by blocking the body's ability to get rid of stool and fluid. Opioids have also been shown to increase feelings of bloating when administered for pain.
Individuals might experience bloating and gas if they add fiber supplements to their diet. The same is true of multivitamins and iron supplements. If an individual is planning to add any new supplements to their diet or change their medication regimen, they should always consult a doctor first. This is particularly true of individuals who have underlying health conditions. Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and antacids can both cause patients to feel bloated. If patients think the bloated feeling is caused by a prescription medication, they should call their doctor.