Abdominal bloating is a condition where the abdomen feels uncomfortably full and gaseous, and may also be visibly swollen (distended). Bloating is a common complaint among both adults and children.
Nausea is a symptom that occurs when your stomach feels queasy. You may feel as if you could vomit. Many factors contribute to feelings of nausea, including a medical condition or something you ate.
What causes abdominal bloating and nausea?
Abdominal bloating and nausea commonly occur together. One symptom often triggers the other. Fortunately, they both usually resolve with time.
Examples of conditions that can cause abdominal bloating and nausea include:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- gastrointestinal blockage
- giardiasis (an infection from an intestinal parasite)
- irritable bowel syndrome
- lactose intolerance
- pregnancy (especially in the first trimester)
- taking certain medications (such as antibiotics)
- ileus, impairment of normal bowel motility
- celiac disease
- inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- bacterial overgrowth syndrome
- viral or bacterial gastroenteritis
- bacterial or ischemic colitis
- symptomatic gallstones or infection of the gallbladder
- eating excessive starches
- food poisoning
- gastric outlet obstruction
- gastrointestinal bleeding
Less common causes include:
- congestive heart failure
- dumping syndrome (a condition that can occur after you’ve had abdominal surgery)
- intestinal tumors
- liver cirrhosis
- pancreatic insufficiency
When to seek medical attention
Seek emergency medical attention if you have chest pain, blood in your feces, a severe headache, neck stiffness, or you’re vomiting blood. These are all symptoms of conditions that require emergency care, including a heart attack, stroke, meningitis, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Symptoms that may warrant a trip to your physician’s office include:
- dehydration (because nausea has prevented you from eating or drinking)
- dizziness or lightheadedness when standing
- symptoms that do not subside in one to two days
- unexplained weight loss
- worsening symptoms
Contact your doctor if you experience any other symptoms that are out of the ordinary for you or that make it hard to perform daily tasks.
How are abdominal bloating and nausea treated?
Abdominal bloating and nausea related to foods you eat will typically resolve after your body has had time to digest whatever has upset your stomach. Common food intolerances include lactose and gluten. Avoid eating any foods that you determine are causing abdominal bloating and nausea.
Your doctor may prescribe medication if you have underlying conditions such as acid reflux or constipation. More serious disorders, such as congestive heart failure or dumping syndrome, may require prolonged treatments.
How do I care for abdominal bloating and nausea at home?
Resting in an upright position can reduce abdominal bloating and nausea related to acid reflux. This position reduces the acid’s flow up your esophagus. Physical activity can worsen symptoms when you feel nauseated.
Drinking clear fluids that contain natural sugar, such as sports drinks or Pedialyte, may help settle your stomach. However, drinking artificially flavored beverages and those made with sugar alcohols may contribute to abdominal bloating.
Anti-gas medications to reduce abdominal bloating, such as simethicone drops, are available at pharmacies. They’re not always effective, so take in moderation.
How can I prevent abdominal bloating and nausea?
If you’re able to target the foods causing your abdominal bloating and nausea, avoiding them can prevent your symptoms. There are other steps you can take to maintain a stomach-friendly lifestyle as well. They include:
- eating a bland diet of toast, broth-based soups, baked chicken, rice, pudding, gelatin, and cooked fruits and vegetables
- exercising regularly, which helps reduce gas in the intestinal tract while also preventing constipation
- refraining from smoking
- avoiding carbonated beverages and chewing gum
- continuing to drink plenty of clear liquids, which can prevent constipation that leads to nausea and abdominal bloating