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What causes abdominal bloating? 48 possible conditions

What Is Abdominal Bloating?

Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels uncomfortably full and gaseous, and may also be visibly swollen (distended). Bloating is a common complaint among both adults and children.

Abdominal bloating can interfere with a person’s ability to work and participate in social or recreational activities. According to the University of North Carolina, when compared with people who don’t have abdominal bloating, sufferers use more sick days, visit the doctor more often, and take more medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Abdominal Bloating?

The symptoms of bloating can be vague and difficult to pinpoint, but most people describe an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, tightness, or swelling in the abdomen. This can be accompanied by pain, excessive gas (flatulence), frequent burping or belching, and abdominal rumbling or gurgles.

What Causes Abdominal Bloating?

The most common causes of abdominal bloating are:

  • swallowing air
  • constipation
  • heartburn
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • intolerance to dairy products or other food items
  • eating too fast
  • weight gain
  • overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel
  • hormonal flux (especially PMS for women)
  • giardiasis (intestinal parasites)
  • inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s)
  • some medications

Abdominal bloating can also be a symptom of several serious conditions, including:

  • fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites) as a result of cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, or congestive heart failure
  • celiac disease (wheat gluten intolerance)
  • ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic insufficiency (impaired digestion because the pancreas cannot produce enough digestive enzymes)

Treatment Options for Abdominal Bloating

In many cases, the symptoms of abdominal bloating can be diminished or even prevented by adopting a few simple lifestyle changes. For example:

  • Don’t chew gum. Chewing gum can cause you to swallow extra air, which in turn can lead to bloating.
  • Limit your intake of carbonated drinks.
  • Avoid “gassy” foods, such vegetables in the cabbage family, dried beans, and lentils.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid drinking through a straw.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Use lactose-free dairy products (if you are lactose intolerant).

Consult your doctor if bloating is accompanied by any of the following:

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in the stools or dark, tarry looking stools
  • high fevers
  • diarrhea
  • worsening heartburn
  • vomiting
  • unexplained weight loss

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.



Indigestion (also known as dyspepsia) happens to almost everyone from time to time. Eating habits or a chronic digestive problem can trigger indigestion.

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Gas & Flatulence

Flatulence is a medical term for releasing gas. It occurs when gas collects inside the digestive system. Food choices, swallowing too much air, and digestive problems can all lead to excess gas.

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Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerence occurs when a person's small intestine can't break down lactose, an enzyme found in dairy foods. The condition can cause many gastrointestinal symptoms.

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Gallstones are hard deposits in the gallbladder that can eventually block the exiting bile ducts. Abdominal pain, fever, itchy skin, and jaundice are symptoms.

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H. Pylori Infection

H. pylori are a type of bacteria that may not cause problems. However, sometimes it can cause pain, bloating, and burping, and may lead to ulcers or stomach cancer.

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Giardiasis is an infection in your small intestine. It's caused by a microscopic parasite. Giardiasis spreads through contact with infected people.

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Food Allergy Basics

Food allergies are overblown responses by the immune system to foods that aren't typically harmful - like eggs and peanuts. Continue reading and learn more about food allergies, and how to prevent or treat sever...

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Amebiasis is a parasitic infection, common in the tropics and caused by contaminated water. Symptoms can be severe and usually start 1-4 weeks after exposure.

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Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm and into your chest cavity. Common symptoms include heartburn, belching, and abdominal discomfort.

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Hookworm Infections

Hookworms are parasites that affect the small intestine and lungs. The first sign of infection is usually a rash where the parasite entered the skin, followed by diarrhea.

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PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

PMS symptoms start five to 11 days before menstruation and typically go away once menstruation begins. The cause of PMS is unknown.

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Bleeding or spotting, increased need to urinate, tender breasts, fatigue, nausea, and missed period are signs of pregnancy.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine and causes many uncomfortable symptoms, such as bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and pain.

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Malabsorption Syndrome

Malabsorption syndrome occurs when the intestine's ability to absorb important nutrients is compromised. Certain conditions, such as Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and dairy allergies may lead to malabsorption.

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Intestinal Obstruction

If your small or large intestine becomes blocked, fluid and digested food cannot move through. This can cause bloating, stomach cramps, and burping.

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Gastroparesis is a disorder that occurs when your stomach takes too long to empty food. Find out about the treatments that can help you manage your symptoms.

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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder in which obsessive worry about body weight and the food you eat can result in severe weight loss. Symptoms include constipation, missed period, and thinning hair.

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Fatty Liver

Fatty liver, or steatosis, is a broad term that describes the buildup of fats in the liver, often caused by excessive alcohol use.

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A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. Hernias are most common in the abdomen but can appear elsewhere.

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Colic and Crying

Your baby has colic if they cry for more than three hours a day, three or more times a week, for at least three weeks. This could be due to hunger, acid reflux, gas, or overfeeding.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.