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What’s Causing My Abdominal Bloating and Shortness of Breath?

Overview

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, and 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.

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Causes

Possible causes of abdominal bloating and shortness of breath

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Other causes

Other causes of abdominal bloating and shortness of breath

Abdominal bloating has many causes. It is more common in people who experience functional gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome or gastroparesis. 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, 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, which means bloating can lead to shortness of breath. This happens if the pressure in the abdomen is enough to restrict the movement of the diaphragm.

Being short of breath can cause you to take small, short breaths. This can lead to swallowing air, which is known as aerophagia. Difficulty breathing can be brought on by anxiety or panic attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and asthma attacks.

There are conditions that can result in both abdominal bloating and shortness of breath.

Any condition that leads to the buildup of air or foodstuffs could cause both bloating and shortness of breath. Also, stool inside the intestines, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, constipation, ileus, bowel obstruction, and gastroparesis could cause bloating and shortness of breath.

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

Remember that the above list is not exhaustive but contains some of the more common conditions that may cause shortness of breath and abdominal pain.

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See your doctor

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.

Also 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
  • any worsening symptoms
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Treatment

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 gas, but this 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 might help relieve your symptoms.

Taking over-the-counter medications to reduce gas, such as simethicone drops, digestive enzymes, and activated charcoal may help abdominal bloating.

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Prevention

How can I prevent abdominal bloating and shortness of breath?

Avoiding foods known to cause abdominal bloating can help reduce your risk for experiencing symptoms. Also avoiding carbonated beverages can help.

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

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