Abdominal bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. Bloating is therefore described as feeling full, tight, or swollen in the abdomen. It is mainly caused by gas, especially after eating when undigested food gets broken down.
Simple reasons for abdominal bloating include:
- Swallowing air (this can happen when you chew gum, smoke, or eat too fast)
- Diet (fizzy drinks, too much salt or sugar, and not enough fibre)
- Digestive issues such as constipation, food allergies, and intolerances
- Stool that becomes backed up
- Hormonal changes during monthly periods
- Reflux (GERD)
- Weight gain
Medical conditions that may cause bloating are:
- Inflammation such as diverticulitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Liver disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Blockage in your bowel or bladder
- Cancer (ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, or stomach)
- Mental health factors, such as anxiety or depression
- Some medicines
Self-help treatments to prevent and relieve abdominal bloating include lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising, yoga poses, abdominal massages, and taking a relaxing warm bath.
Various medications for temporary bloating are available over the counter, including charcoal caps, probiotics, and certain herbal ingredients including peppermint, chamomile tea, anise, caraway, coriander, fennel, and turmeric.
You should consider seeing a doctor if bloating is ongoing or occurs with other symptoms, such as:
- severe or prolonged abdominal pain
- blood in the stools, or dark stools
- high fever
- worsening heartburn
- unexplained weight loss
Determining the underlying cause of abdominal boating is crucial as it could be life-threatening. However, most of the time, bloating is due to minor issues that lifestyle changes or over-the-counter treatments can resolve.