Bloating can make you feel like someone has filled you with air like a balloon. Sometimes, this symptom is a side effect of constipation.
Constipation results when you have difficulty passing a bowel movement or have infrequent bowel movements.
Both symptoms are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Fortunately, there are treatments that can address both.
Keep reading to find out more about treating constipation-related bloating and when to see a doctor.
Constipation is a syndrome that can cause a number of symptoms related to having (or not having) a bowel movement. These include:
- feeling as if you can’t pass a complete bowel movement
- not having a bowel movement very often (this varies depending on the person, but usually fewer than three complete bowel movements a week)
- passing hard stools
- significant straining when having a bowel movement
The inability to pass stools can also keep you from passing air and gas. In addition, your stool remains in the intestine longer, which allows bacteria to release more gas.
Some people report additional symptoms, including nausea and back pain related to their bloating and constipation.
If you have bloating, you aren’t alone. An estimated 30 percent of the adult general population experiences bloating.
Bloating does more than just make it harder to zip up your jeans. It causes abdominal discomfort, pain, and anxiety that can affect your quality of life.
When you experience constipation-related bloating, treating the underlying causes of your constipation can usually help you “banish the bloat.”
Examples of common constipation treatments include the following:
- Take a stool softener or fiber supplement. Examples are docusate sodium (Colace), psyllium (Metamucil), or methylcellulose (Citrucel).
- Take a gentle laxative. One example is polyethylene glycol 3350 (Miralax).
- Engage in physical activity. Take a walk or twist side-to-side to help reduce built-up gas in the digestive tract.
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) simethicone. This is sold as Gas-X or Mylanta Gas. This medication can help reduce bloating.
- Take lactase tablets if you’re lactose intolerant. These can help your intestines better digest lactose, a sugar naturally found in dairy products.
You can also make dietary changes that can help you reduce the incidence of bloating.
Doctors can also prescribe medications that help treat constipation. These include lubiprostone (Amitiza) and linaclotide (Linzess).
If you have other medical conditions that may affect your ability to have regular bowel movements, doctors can prescribe medications and therapies, such as pelvic floor retraining.
There are several lifestyle changes you can make that can help you prevent constipation-related bloating:
- Slowly increase your fiber intake. Fiber adds bulk to your stool, making it easier to pass. However, if you add too much too quickly, you can experience worsening bloating.
- Increase your water intake. Drinking more water can also add bulk to your stool, reducing constipation.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can increase many gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation.
- Take part in regular physical activity. This will help keep your bowels moving.
You can also make dietary changes to help reduce bloating.
Constipation isn’t the only bloating cause. There are many contributing factors that can lead to a buildup of excess gas in your digestive tract. These include:
- Intestinal bacteria. Sometimes bacteria can’t break down all the excess carbohydrates in the stomach and small intestine. When the undigested carbohydrates reach the large intestine, the bacteria located there release excess air.
- Medical conditions. Several medical conditions can increase the occurrence of bloating. These include irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease.
- Swallowing excess air. Swallowing too much air by chewing gum, drinking carbonated drinks, eating or drinking very quickly, or even wearing loose-fitting dentures can increase the amount of air building up in your gastrointestinal tract.
In addition to these bloating causes, there are many foods known to contribute to bloating:
- Certain beverages. These include apple juice, carbonated drinks, fruit punch, drinks with high-fructose corn syrup, and pear juice.
- Dairy. This includes cheese, ice cream, milk, and yogurt.
- Foods prepared with lactose. Examples are breads, cereals, and some salad dressings.
- Certain fruits. These include apples, peaches, cherries and pears.
- Sugar-free products. These include candies and gums made with mannitol, sorbitol, or xylitol.
- Certain vegetables. Examples are artichokes, asparagus, black beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kidney beans, mushrooms, navy beans, onions, or pinto beans.
While you don’t need to avoid all of these foods (particularly the healthy ones), avoiding consuming an excess of them can help.
You can also try reducing your intake of certain groupings to see if your symptoms improve.
You should talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider about your constipation and constipation-related bloating if you have the following symptoms:
- frequent bouts of constipation
- persistently bothersome gas symptoms
- sudden changes in constipation symptoms
- unexplained weight loss
If bloating and constipation are bothersome to you, it’s worth a visit to your doctor. You may have an underlying medical condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome. While this is a chronic condition, it can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication.
Your healthcare provider will be able to recommend different treatments that can help you address your specific symptoms.
The more time your stool sits in your digestive tract, the more gas that’s created. Your foods and habits can also compound the effects of constipation-related bloating.
By treating the constipation causes as well as seeking treatment for potential underlying medical conditions, you can ideally experience less bloating and constipation.