Abdominal bloating occurs when
the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. Most people describe
bloating as feeling full, tight, or swollen in the abdomen. Your abdomen may
also be swollen (distended), hard, and painful. Bloating is often accompanied
burping or belching
rumbling or gurgles
Abdominal bloating can interfere
with your ability to work and participate in social or recreational activities.
According to the University of North Carolina, people who do experience abdominal bloating
use more sick days, visit the doctor oftener, and take more medications than
other people. Bloating is common among both adults and children.
do you feel bloated?
Gas is the most common cause of
bloating, especially after eating. Gas builds up in the digestive tract when
undigested food gets broken down or when you swallow air. Everyone swallows air
when they eat or drink. But some people can swallow more than others,
especially if they are:
- eating or
drinking too fast
- chewing gum
Burping and flatulence are two
ways swallowed air leaves the body. Delayed emptying of the stomach (slow gas
transport) in addition to gas accumulation can also cause bloating and
Other causes of bloating may be
due to medical conditions. These include:
These conditions cause factors
that contribute to gas and bloating, such as:
or deficiency of bacteria within the GI tract
- altered gut
- impaired gas
hypersensitivity (feeling of bloating in small or even normal body changes)
- food and
Abdominal bloating can also be a
symptom of several serious conditions, including:
fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity (ascites) as a result of cancer (e.g., ovarian cancer), liver disease, kidney failure, or
congestive heart failure
disease, or gluten intolerance
insufficiency, which is
impaired digestion because the pancreas cannot produce enough digestive enzymes
of the GI tract with escape of gas, normal GI tract bacteria, and other
contents into the abdominal cavity
to prevent or relieve bloating
In many cases, the symptoms of
abdominal bloating can be diminished or even prevented by adopting a few simple
lifestyle changes such as losing weight, if you’re overweight.
To reduce swallowing too much
air, you can:
chewing gum. Chewing gum can cause you to swallow extra air, which in turn can
lead to bloating.
- Limit your
intake of carbonated drinks.
- Avoid foods
that cause gas, such
vegetables in the cabbage family, dried beans, and lentils.
- Eat slowly
and avoid drinking through a straw.
lactose-free dairy products (if you are lactose intolerant).
Probiotics may also help with repopulating healthy gut bacteria. Research is
mixed on the effectiveness of probiotics. One review found that probiotics have a moderate
effect, with a 70-percent agreement on its effect on bloating relief. You can
find probiotics in kefir and Greek yogurt.
Abdominal massages may also help
reduce abdominal bloating. One study looked at 80 people with ascites and assigned them 15-minute
abdominal massages twice a day for three days. The results showed that massages
improved depression, anxiety, well-being, and perceived abdominal bloating
Talk to your doctor if lifestyle
changes and dietary interventions don’t relieve abdominal bloating. If your
doctor finds a medical cause for your bloating, they may recommend medical
treatments. Treatments may require antibiotics, antispasmodics, or
antidepressants, but it also depends on your condition.
signs: When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if bloating
is accompanied by any of the following:
- severe or
prolonged abdominal pain
- blood in the
stools, or dark, tarry looking stools
- high fevers