Abdominal bloating occurs when the abdomen feels tight or full. 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. 

Shortness of breath is difficulty breathing. It’s the feeling that you can’t catch your breath and that you are not taking in enough air. It can cause feelings of faintness and panic if it continues for long periods.

Find an internist near you »

What Causes Abdominal Bloating and Shortness of Breath?

Abdominal bloating has many causes. It is more common in patients who experience functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID) such as irritable bowel syndrome, upset stomach, and functional constipation (Thiwan, S.). Bloating can be due to the buildup of gas, fluids, or food in the stomach.

Overeating or eating foods known to contribute to bloating and gas, such as cabbage, dried beans, and lentils, may cause bloating.

Abdominal bloating can affect the diaphragm, a muscular partition between the chest and abdomen. The diaphragm assists in breathing, so some causes of bloating can lead to shortness of breath.

Conversely, being short of breath can cause you to take small short breaths and can lead to swallowing air. This can cause bloating.

Conditions that can result in both abdominal bloating and shortness of breath include:

  • allergic reaction
  • anxiety or panic disorder
  • celiac disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • gallstones
  • ovarian cancer
  • constipation
  • heartburn
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • lactose intolerance
  • menstruation
  • obesity
  • ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic insufficiency

Abdominal bloating and shortness of breath can also be symptoms of pregnancy.

If shortness of breath is severe, seek immediate medical treatment.

When to Seek Medical Help

Most abdominal bloating should resolve itself with time when the excess gases, liquids, or food can move through the stomach and intestines. However, if your abdominal bloating and shortness of breath last longer than a day, seek medical attention.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following symptoms along with shortness of breath and abdominal bloating:

  • blood in your stool
  • chest pain
  • choking
  • confusion
  • dark, bloody, or tarry-looking stools
  • uncontrollable vomiting
  • loss of control over bladder or bowel movements
  • severe abdominal pain
  • vomiting that does not cease after one day
  • worsening symptoms

(This information is a summary. Seek medical attention if you suspect you need urgent care.)

How Are Abdominal Bloating and Shortness of Breath Treated?

Medical treatments for abdominal bloating and shortness of breath will address the underlying condition. For example, over-the-counter medications may help resolve abdominal bloating. Bronchodilators can help to open the airways and improve breathing.

Home Care

When you experience abdominal bloating, drinking more water may help to reduce symptoms. Walking also helps to relieve built-up gas, but it may not be possible if you are experiencing shortness of breath. If anxiety is causing your symptoms, taking slow, deep breaths and thinking calm, peaceful thoughts can help to treat your symptoms.

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 Shortness of Breath?

Avoiding foods known to cause abdominal bloating can help reduce your risk for experiencing the symptom. Avoiding carbonated beverages can also help.

Refraining from smoking can also help to reduce shortness of breath and lessen risk of potentially fatal lung disorders.