Abdominal bloating occurs when the abdomen fills with air or gas. This may cause the area to appear 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... Read more
Abdominal bloating occurs when the abdomen fills with air or gas. This may cause the area to appear 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. People often call it a stomachache. Abdominal pain can be:
In some cases, abdominal bloating and pain occur due to a serious problem. Pain in different areas of the abdomen can mean different things. This guide lists the organs associated with different locations of abdominal bloating or pain:
Left side of the abdomen
The spleen is on the upper left side of your abdomen. This organ filters blood and supports the immune system. This part of the abdomen also contains the body of your stomach. This is the part of the stomach where you digest food.
Center left and center middle
The transverse colon and the small intestine make up the center left and center middle of the abdomen. The transverse colon is the upper part of the large intestine, where food is carried after going through the ascending colon. The small intestine is the organ that takes up most of the abdomen. This is where most food digestion occurs.
The descending colon is the part of the digestive system that stores remains of digested food before it empties into the rectum
Middle of the abdomen
The upper middle part of the abdomen contains the liver, the pyloric region of the stomach, and the pancreas. The liver filters blood and creates bile, which is a substance that helps break down fat in the foods you eat. The pyloric region of the stomach is where food enters the stomach from the esophagus. The pancreas is a large gland that releases digestive enzymes and hormones.
The lower middle part of the abdomen contains the urinary bladder and the rectum. The urinary bladder is the organ where you collect urine for excretion out of the body through the urethra. The rectum is the final section of the large intestine that carries stool to the anus for excretion.
Right side of the abdomen
The upper right side of your abdomen contains the gallbladder, liver, and opening of the small intestine. The gallbladder is a small sac that stores bile made by the liver. The duodenum, or opening of the small intestine, is where food empties from the stomach into the small intestine.
The center right side of the abdomen contains the ascending colon and the transverse colon. The ascending colon is the first part of the large intestine, where food enters after it goes through the small intestine. Food then passes from the ascending colon to the transverse colon.
The appendix and the small intestine are in the lower right side of the abdomen. Some experts believe the appendix plays a role in the immune system. Others think it has no purpose.
What causes bloating and pain in the abdomen?
Most of the time, abdominal bloating and pain occur due to:
This kind of bloating or pain is usually normal and will go away within two hours. In cases of the stomach flu, you may feel intense pain or bloating that comes and goes before each episode of vomiting or diarrhea. Stomach viruses usually go away with rest and home care.
Abdominal bloating and lower abdominal pain can also occur due to:
- Crohn’s disease, which causes intestinal inflammation
- viral or bacterial gastroenteritis, which causes inflammation of the stomach and bowel
- intestinal obstruction, in which the intestine is blocked and digested material cannot move through the digestive tract
- irritable bowel syndrome
- an ovarian cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac on a woman’s ovary
- a urinary tract infection (UTI)
Conditions such as acid reflux and indigestion can cause abdominal bloating and pain. In these cases, the pain is typically in the stomach’s upper portion, not the lower part.
When to seek medical help
Seek medical help if you have abdominal pain and bloating along with:
- uncontrolled vomiting
- blood in your vomit
- blood in your stool
- a loss of consciousness
- no bowel movements for three days
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience abdominal pain and bloating:
- that occur after nearly every meal you eat
- that occur with nausea
- that occur with painful bowel movements
- that occur with painful intercourse
This information is a summary. Seek medical attention if you suspect you need urgent care.
If your doctor performs a physical exam and then suspects a medical condition is causing your abdominal bloating or pain, they’ll run various medical tests. The types of tests they order will depend on the physical exam findings and your medical history.
Some common tests for abdominal problems include the following:
- Your doctor will likely run a complete blood count test to check for levels of different cells in your blood as a way to rule out an infection or detect blood loss.
- Your doctor will probably also run a urine test to check for UTIs and bladder disorders. They’ll also probably check for pregnancy if you’re a woman.
- Your doctor may run a stool analysis to check for abnormalities in your stool that could indicate an infection or problem with your digestive system.
- Your doctor may use one or more imaging technologies to check for structural abnormalities in your abdominal organs. These may include X-rays, CT and MRI scans, and an ultrasound, which involves applying a handheld device that emits sound waves to the skin’s surface to see inside the body.
How are bloating and pain treated?
Treatments for abdominal bloating and pain will address the underlying condition. Examples may include antibiotics for infections. If an intestinal obstruction is the cause, your doctor may prescribe medications to encourage intestinal movement. Surgery may be necessary in severe and rare instances.
Here are some suggestions for home care:
- Drink plenty of water or other clear fluids to help reduce abdominal pain and bloating.
- You should avoid pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and anti-inflammatory medications until you know your pain isn’t due to abdominal conditions such as a gastric ulcer or an intestinal obstruction.
- Avoid solid foods for a few hours in favor of softer, bland foods such as rice or applesauce.
- You can try taking over-the-counter gas-reducing medications, such as simethicone drops or digestive enzymes, to help relieve bloating.
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 per day instead of fewer larger ones
- exercising regularly