What is abdominal bloating
Abdominal bloating happens when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes filled with gas or air.
Bloating most times comes with a feeling of fullness, abdominal tightness, or a swelling of the abdomen, flatulence (excessive gas), frequent belching, rumbling of the abdomen, and pains.
Abdominal bloating can affect your work, activities of daily living, as well as social interaction.
Anyone can be affected. According to a study by North Carolina University, affected people do visit the hospital more often and take medications and sick days off than non-affected people.
Why do you feel bloated?
The most common cause of bloating is gas in the digestive tract, particularly after eating. It accumulates during digestion of undigested food or when air is swallowed. Some amount of air is normally swallowed when we drink or eat but sometimes, you can swallow more than is normal.
Delayed emptying of the stomach, which is otherwise called “slow transportation of gas,” can also cause gas build-up in the body.
Chewing gum, smoking, eating or drinking too fast, wearing loose dentures, etc. predisposes one to abdominal bloating. There are two ways gas can leave the digestive tract: flatulence and belching.
Medical causes of bloating include:
- intestinal parasite infection (giardiasis)
- hormonal fluctuations in women
- mental health factors such as stress, anxiety or depression
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- weight gain
- inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs)
- eating disorders (anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa).
- certain kinds of medications
- overgrowth or deficiency of bacteria
Other causes include:
- accumulation of gas
- impaired gas transit
- mal-absorption of food
- altered gut motility
- abnormal abdominal reflexes
- visceral hypersensitivity (a bloated sensation in small or even normal body changes)
Serious conditions can also cause abdominal bloating. Examples include:
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Ascites (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen) as a result of kidney failure, ovarian cancer, congestive heart failure, and liver disease.
- Celiac disease
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Perforation of the digestive tract which can cause the escape of gas, normal gastrointestinal tract bacteria and other contents into the abdominal cavity.
Treatment for abdominal bloating
To treat abdominal bloating, you just have to know what caused it. A doctor will help with this.
Treatment could be preventive or curative.
- Lifestyle changes: For one who is overweight, shedding off some pounds of flesh will help diminish or even prevent some of the symptoms associated with bloating.
- Avoid chewing gum. It will help to reduce the amount of air swallowed.
- Limiting a penchant for carbonated drinks can help prevent bloating.
- Abdominal bloating can also be checked by avoiding foods that cause gas e.g. vegetables from the cabbage family, lentils and dried beans.
- Eat slowly and avoid drinking with a straw. This can help reduce the risk of abdominal bloating.
- Using lactose-free dairy products can be helpful if you are intolerant to lactose.
Probiotics have also been found to help with replenishing the gut with healthy bacteria. Research on its effectiveness has yielded mixed results. However, a review found that it has a moderate effect (almost 70 percent). Probiotics are present in Greek yogurt and kefir.
Shop for Greek yogurt & Kefir online.
- Massages: Abdominal massages have been quite helpful in reducing this condition. A certain study on 80 persons with ascites revealed that a 15-minute massage on the carried out two times a day for up to three days caused great improvements in anxiety, depression, well-being and perceived symptoms of abdominal bloating.
- Medications: Medical cause needs medical treatment. Talking to a doctor will be needed if a change in lifestyle and dietary interventions do not bring relief. Antibiotics, antispasmodics, and antidepressants can be administered. The condition of the person is also taken into consideration.
You might be wondering when you should see a doctor. It is advisable to see one when you have been affected by bloating that is accompanied by unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, worsening heartburn, high fever, severe and prolonged abdominal pain, or blood-stained and dark stools.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.