What Are Abdominal Bloating and Abdominal Pain?
Abdominal bloating occurs when the abdomen fills with air or gas. This may cause the area to appear visually larger. The abdomen may feel hard or tight to the touch. The condition can cause discomfort and pain.
Abdominal pain is pain that originates between the chest and the pelvis. Abdominal pain can be cramp-like, achy, dull, or sharp. It is often called stomachache.
What Causes Abdominal Bloating and Abdominal Pain?
A number of conditions can lead to the combination of abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain. Examples include:
- consuming foods known to cause gas in some people, such as milk products that contain lactose, broccoli, carbonated beverages, onions, and beans. When the gas moves through the digestive tract, pain can result
- Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes intestinal inflammation
- gastroenteritis or a viral and/or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel. This is typically accompanied by diarrhea.
- intestinal obstruction where the intestine is blocked and digested material cannot move through the digestive tract. This is an emergency medical condition.
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- an ovarian cyst, where a woman has a fluid-filled sac on her ovary or ovaries
- a urinary tract infection (UTI)
Conditions such as acid reflux and indigestion can cause abdominal bloating and abdominal pain. In these cases, the pain is typically on the stomach’s upper portion, not the lower part.
When to Seek Medical Help
If abdominal pain and bloating is accompanied by uncontrolled vomiting, vomiting blood, blood in the stool, or loss of consciousness, seek medical help for the patient. You should also seek immediate medical attention if you have not had a bowel movement in three days. This could indicate an intestinal obstruction.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms in addition to abdominal pain and bloating:
- bloating and/or abdominal pain after eating nearly every meal
- painful bowel movements
- pain with intercourse
This information is a summary. Seek medical attention if you suspect you need urgent care.
How Are Abdominal Bloating and Abdominal Pain Treated?
Treatments for abdominal bloating and abdominal pain will address the underlying condition. Examples may include antibiotics for infections. If an intestinal obstruction is the cause, a physician may prescribe medications to encourage intestinal movement. Surgery can be required in severe and rare instances.
Drinking plenty of water or other clear fluids can reduce abdominal pain and bloating. You should avoid pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and anti-inflammatory medications until you know your pain is not due to abdominal conditions such as an intestinal obstruction. Avoiding solid foods for a few hours in favor of softer, bland foods such as rice or applesauce also can help.
Taking over-the-counter gas-reducing medications, such as simethicone drops, digestive enzymes, and activated charcoal may help some abdominal bloating sufferers.
How Can I Prevent Abdominal Bloating and Abdominal Pain?
Avoiding foods known to cause abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain can help reduce most symptoms. This also includes high-fat or greasy foods. Other lifestyle changes that can prevent the symptoms include:
- avoiding artificial sweeteners, which may cause bloating
- drinking plenty of water, which helps to reduce constipation
- eating a diet that contains high-fiber foods that promote digestion, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- eating several small meals each day instead of fewer larger ones
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as eating small meals, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly can also help prevent these symptoms.