Abdominal Bloating: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Jul 5, 2019 | General Medical

Everyone can feel a little bloated now and again. There are myriad causes that can contribute to bloating, with reasons being everything from hormonal changes (e.g., right before menstruation), to carbonated sodas, to actual medical problems that require a physician’s attention. It’s wise to know some of the causes behind bloating, which could lead you to make some dietary and lifestyle changes, seek a doctor’s advice, or “wait it out” in milder cases. Read on to learn more about the cause of bloating, foods that may cause gas, over-the-counter remedies that may help, and most importantly, when to consult your doctor.

Why Am I Bloated?

Bloating is described as a feeling in the stomach of being “full,” when that is not necessarily true. Think of when you’ve just eaten a large, satisfying meal and simply can’t eat another bite—although, you haven’t eaten that big meal. Your stomach feels full and tight. Bloating can be painful, can be accompanied by a feeling that you need to pass gas or use the bathroom, or may even be accompanied by more serious symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. 

Causes of bloating are varied and can be different for different patients. Women who are menstruating may experience bloating on a monthly basis, especially right before their period. You may find that you have lactose intolerance, and ingesting dairy products may cause you bloating. (This requires a doctor’s visit.) Other medical causes could be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), problems in the small intestine or digestive system, or even more serious medical concerns such as cancer or liver disease. Generally speaking, most isolated cases of bloating have a benign cause and are easily treated by making some dietary or lifestyle changes. 

Quick Tips to Get Rid of Bloating

If you have occasional bloating that is not accompanied with more severe symptoms, such as blood in the stool, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or pain, you can minimize your bloating systems by eliminating certain foods or minimizing your intake of them. Lactose intolerance can certainly be a factor when it comes to bloating for some; while you should see your physician, you can try eliminating dairy for a week or so to see if it makes a difference. Fizzy and carbonated drinks can also make you feel “gassy” and bloated. Simple tricks to get rid of isolated cases of bloating include:

  • Over-the-counter gas remedies. These can calm the lining of the digestive tract and are usually taken before a meal. 
  • Walking. Going for a low-impact, short walk can help relieve bloating. 
  • Peppermint oil or capsules. Many patients swear by this natural remedy to help “cure” bloating.
  • Probiotics. This is another over-the-counter solution that works well for many people. 
  • Avoiding gum. Chewing gum allows air to get into your stomach, offering a bloating feeling.
  • Adding more fiber to your diet. This is optimal for many reasons but can help minimize bloating. 

There are a few other ways to prevent bloating as well. Other than avoiding chewing gum, habits such as smoking, drinking beverages using straws, and eating too quickly can all contribute to bloating. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods known to cause gas if you are already susceptible to bloating, such as brussels sprouts, beans, and lentils.

When to See a Doctor

If your cases of stomach bloating are more than isolated and are occurring with other unexplained symptoms, such as weight loss, fatigue, blood in the stool, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, it’s a good time to schedule a visit with your doctor. Also, the length of time you experience bloating matters. If you find that you’re bloating several times a week, or feel uncomfortable for weeks at a time, it’s smart to contact your doctor even if you don’t have accompanying uncomfortable or painful symptoms. 

If you need more information about stomach bloating or the symptoms associated with it, or would like to be evaluated by a physician, schedule an appointment at Gastroenterology Consultants of Savannah, PC today. We have five Georgia locations and one South Carolina location for your convenience.