Your stomach can feel hard due to bloating or constipation. But sometimes another health condition, like food intolerance or an infection, can cause it to feel swollen.
If your stomach is feeling hard and swollen, it’s usually a side effect from certain foods or drinks. Sometimes, when accompanied by other symptoms, a hard stomach is an indication of an underlying condition.
A hard, swollen stomach will usually go away after you stop consuming whatever food or drink triggered it. However, sometimes the symptoms stick around and are a sign you need medical attention.
Here’s what you need to know about the causes and treatments of a hard stomach.
When your stomach swells and feels hard, the explanation might be as simple as overeating or drinking carbonated drinks, which is easy to remedy. Other causes may be more serious, such as an inflammatory bowel disease.
Causes of a hard stomach include:
Sometimes the accumulated gas from drinking a soda too quickly can result in a hard stomach. This uncomfortable feeling dissipates as the gas is expelled.
Eating too much at one sitting or eating too quickly can give you an uncomfortable sense of fullness along with a hard stomach. The discomfort usually goes away over time as the food moves through the digestive system.
If you’re having trouble with bowel movements, you may be constipated. This can lead to an uncomfortable feeling of being overly full or bloated along with a hard stomach.
If you have trouble digesting certain foods — for example, dairy for lactose intolerance — consuming that food can result in bloating and swelling that can make your stomach feel hard.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS can cause several symptoms that may result in a hard stomach:
- abdominal pain
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
IBD includes conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease which can cause abdominal bloating and cramping that can make your stomach feel hard.
Diverticulitis, an inflammation and infection of the digestive tract, can also result in bloating and swelling that may make your stomach feel hard.
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach usually caused by a stomach ulcer or an H. pylori bacterial infection. Symptoms include:
- a hard stomach
Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, commonly involves either the stomach lining or stomach muscle walls. Although this is a relatively rare cancer, it may result in a hard stomach.
Generally, you expect a hard stomach when you’re pregnant. Your hard-feeling stomach is caused by the pressure of your uterus growing and putting pressure on your abdomen.
The hardness of your stomach while pregnant can be more pronounced if you eat a low-fiber diet or drink a lot of carbonated beverages.
If your experience severe pain along with your hard stomach, you should see your OB-GYN or seek immediate medical attention. Sometimes severe pain in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is an indicator of miscarriage.
Although more common in the third trimester, in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, discomfort can come from labor contractions or Braxton-Hicks contractions. Typically Braxton-Hicks contractions pass. If the contractions don’t pass and become more persistent, it might be a sign that you’re going into labor.
If your stomach feels hard and swollen for more than a few days, you should visit your doctor or seek medical attention. You should also consult with your doctor if you have other symptoms such as:
- bloody stools
- difficulty breathing
- severe abdominal pain
- severe nausea and vomiting
- unexplained weight loss
- yellowing skin
There are a number of reasons that your stomach could feel hard or tight. Since most of them are digestive issues, they often go away on their own or can be simply treated.
If symptoms worsen or continue for more than a few days, you should see your doctor about a full diagnosis to identify the cause and recommend an appropriate treatment.