What causes abdominal bloating? 48 possible conditions

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What Is Abdominal Bloating?

Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels uncomfortably full and tight and may be visibly swollen (distended). Bloating is a common complaint, affecting between 10 and 30 percent of adults (Thiwan).

According to Dr. Syed Thiwan of the University of North Carolina, abdominal bloating can interfere with a person’s ability to work and participate in social or recreational activities. When compared with people who do not have abdominal bloating, sufferers use more sick days, visit the doctor more often, and take more medications (Thiwan).

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.

What Causes Abdominal Bloating?

The most common causes of abdominal bloating are:

  • swallowing air
  • constipation
  • heartburn
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • intolerance to dairy products
  • eating too fast
  • weight gain
  • overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel
  • menstruation
  • giardiasis (intestinal parasites)
  • anatomical or structural abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract
  • some medications
  • sugar substitutes (fructose and sorbitol)

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, congestive heart failure, and other disorders
  • 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.

  • 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 are overweight.
  • Use lactose-free dairy products.

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

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in the stools or dark, tarry looking stools
  • 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.

1

Indigestion

The feeling of being too full, bloating, heartburn, gas, and nausea are signs of indigestion.

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2

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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3

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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4

Gallstones

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

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5

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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6

Giardiasis

Giardiasis is a parasitic infection of the small intestine. It may cause fatigue, stomach pain, bloating, and excessive gas.

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7

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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8

Amebiasis

Amebiasis is a parasitic infection, common in tropical countries and caused by contaminated water. Symptoms can be severe and usually start one to four weeks after exposure.

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9

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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10

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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11

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a condition that affects a woman

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12

Pregnancy

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

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13

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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14

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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15

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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16

Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a disorder that occurs when the stomach takes too long to empty the food inside. This disorder, also known as delayed gastric emptying, is a result of weak or abnormal muscles in the stomach. There i...

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17

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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18

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. If too much fat has accumulated in the liver then the it may not effectively proces...

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19

Hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. Hernias are most common in the abdomen. However, they can also appear in the upper thigh, belly button, and groin regions.

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20

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.
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