Endo belly is a term used to describe the uncomfortable, often painful, swelling and bloating associated with endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus, called the endometrium, is found outside the uterus where it doesn’t belong.
Research estimates endometriosis affects more than
Endo belly is rarely discussed, but it’s often a distressing symptom. This article will take a closer look at the symptoms of this condition as well as remedies and treatment options that may help.
With endometriosis, the endometrial-like tissue that’s located in places outside the uterus acts in the same way the endometrium does: It builds up then breaks down and bleeds each month, just like the lining of your uterus.
But because this tissue doesn’t have a way to leave your body, it gets trapped. The surrounding tissue can become inflamed and irritated, which can cause scar tissue to form. It can also cause the tissues inside the pelvis to stick together.
Bloating and fluid retention are common endometriosis symptoms. One older study, for example, found that 96 percent of women with endometriosis experienced belly bloating compared with 64 percent of women who didn’t have the condition.
There are several reasons why endometriosis may cause abdominal bloating:
- A buildup of endometrial-like tissue can cause inflammation in the abdomen, resulting in swelling, water retention, and bloating.
- The endometrial-like tissue can cover or grow into the ovaries. Trapped blood can form cysts when this happens, which may cause bloating.
- Those with endometriosis are more prone to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and fibroids, which may also lead to bloating.
- Endometriosis often causes issues with digestion, such as constipation and gas.
The main symptom of endo belly is severe bloating, especially during or right before your period.
Bloating is when the abdomen fills with air or gas, making it look larger. It may also feel tight or hard to the touch.
Endo belly can cause discomfort, pain, and pressure in your abdomen and back. The lower abdomen can swell for days, weeks, or just a few hours.
Many people who experience endo belly say they “look pregnant,” even though they’re not.
Endo belly is just one symptom of endometriosis. Those who experience endo belly often have other gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:
Most self-care measures for endo belly involve making changes to your diet. Some options include:
- avoiding inflammatory foods, such as processed foods, red meat, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and caffeine
- following a low FODMAP diet and avoiding high FODMAP foods, such as wheat, dairy, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables, to ease bloating and gas
- drinking peppermint tea or ginger tea to relieve digestive issues and pain
- increasing fiber intake to prevent constipation
Getting the right diagnosis when you have a bloated abdomen is important, especially if the bloating:
- happens frequently
- lasts longer than a couple of days
- is accompanied by pain
To diagnose the cause of the bloating, your doctor will conduct a pelvic exam to feel your abdomen for cysts or scars behind the uterus.
A transvaginal ultrasound or an abdominal ultrasound can help your doctor see images of the inside of your pelvic area. This can help your doctor determine whether scar tissue, cysts, or other issues are causing your bloated belly.
You can relieve endo belly by managing endometriosis, the underlying condition that can cause your abdomen to swell.
Treatment options for endometriosis include the following:
- Supplemental hormones or birth control pills may help regulate monthly hormonal changes that promote tissue growth outside the uterus.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH) may help block the production of estrogen, which stimulates the ovaries.
- Danazol (Danocrine) is a synthetic androgen that may help inhibit certain types of hormones.
- Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery to remove the tissue growing outside the uterus.
- Hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removing the uterus or the ovaries, respectively) are typically only done for those with severe, untreatable pain who don’t want to get pregnant in the future.
Even if you’ve received a diagnosis of endometriosis, many conditions can cause a bloated belly. These include:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- food intolerance
- ovarian cysts
- celiac disease
- premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Gas in your digestive tract often leads to bloating. This happens when your body breaks down undigested food. Foods that may cause a lot of gas include:
- whole grains, like wheat or oats
- dairy products
- vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
If you have any of the following symptoms along with persistent bloating, make an appointment to see your doctor:
- severe stomach pain, especially after eating
- blood in stool
- high fever
- unexplained weight loss
Many nonprofit organizations offer support, patient advocacy, educational resources, and research about new advancements in endometriosis.
In the United States, check out:
Outside the United States, check out:
If you have endometriosis, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Online support groups or local in-person meetups can help empower you. They can also offer insight into symptoms and treatment.
If you want to reach out for support, you may want to try these groups:
Endo belly refers to the painful abdominal bloating associated with endometriosis.
You can manage the symptoms of endo belly with medications and dietary measures. Managing endometriosis, the underlying condition, can also help treat endo belly.
If you have abdominal bloating that’s painful, frequent, or lasts longer than a few days, be sure to speak with your doctor.
It’s also important to keep in mind that other conditions can cause a bloated or swollen belly. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the cause and prescribe the right type of treatment plan.