What is a bloated stomach?
A bloated stomach is when the tummy is stretched and puffy, leaving a person feeling uncomfortable. The most common cause of a bloated stomach is gas and air, as gas builds up in the digestive tract when undigested food gets broken down, or from swallowing too much air when eating too fast. For some people, it can be from overindulging but for others, there could be an underlying medical reason such as a food intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome.
What are the symptoms of a bloated stomach?
As a bloated stomach is only temporary, it is different from gaining fat mass around the stomach. A bloated stomach is caused by built-up gas in the digestive system that makes the stomach uncomfortable and cause it to extend outward. Some people may even describe the belly as looking ‘pregnant’. There may be also pain in the abdomen, which should be checked if it is serious. If you experience any of the following additional symptoms, you should seek out medical attention promptly:
What causes a bloated stomach?
A bloated stomach is mostly caused by air becoming stuck around the abdomen and is normally a problem to do with digestion. Particularly, if the problem occurs after eating, excess intestinal gas is likely to be behind a bloated stomach or pain in the area. Eating too quickly or in excess can cause a bloated stomach but recurrent problems of this type should be investigated by a doctor as they may be caused by an underlying condition linked to digestion, such as a lactose intolerance, acid reflux or constipation. A stomach flu can also be behind a swollen abdomen and some women may experience it during the premenstrual phase of their menstrual cycle.
Can a bloated stomach be a sign of something serious?
A swollen abdomen is a common symptom of many conditions which do not require treatment. However, conditions including allergies, hormonal imbalances, thyroid dysfunction and in rare cases, cancer can also be the cause behind a bloated stomach. Persistent bloating in the area should be investigated as treatment may be required in the cases of:
What lifestyle changes can help to prevent or treat a bloated stomach?
In many cases of a bloated stomach, lifestyle changes can help diminish or prevent it from recurring. As the main cause of a bloated stomach is gas and air, in order to reduce swallowing too much air you can:
- Avoid chewing gum to stop swallowing extra air
- Avoid fizzy drinks
- Avoid foods known to cause gas such as lentils, beans and vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and sprouts
- Avoid eating quickly, be mindful of chewing more slowly
- Cut back on dairy products
When should I see a doctor about a bloated stomach?
If lifestyle changes, particularly with your diet, don’t help in relieving or improving a bloated stomach, then you may need to see a doctor in order to establish the cause behind the problem and perhaps receive treatment.
What type of doctor treats a bloated stomach?
Specialist gastroenterologists treat and establish the cause behind a bloated stomach.