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What You Need to Know About Bloating

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What You Need to Know About Bloating

Apr 08, 2021

Spring is here, and in no time we’ll be firing up the grills. With so many Americans getting their COVID vaccines, it looks like this summer we will again be surrounded by friends, family, and delicious food. But how frustrating is it when that fun is disrupted by discomfort or belly pain?

Before missing out on some of the upcoming summer fun, there are some things you should know about gas and bloating ahead of time.

What Is Abdominal Bloating?

Most people who experience bloating describe it as a "too full" feeling. It may feel as though the individual ate too much or is full of gas. When bloating occurs, it can make it difficult to have a bowel movement or pass gas but doing these things can sometimes alleviate the feelings of pressure bloating causes. While mild symptoms are possible as reactions to eating certain foods and resolve on their own relatively quickly, other times from serious medical issues that require professional care.

Depending on how much air is trapped in your stomach and large or small intestine, you can experience a wide range of potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable symptoms. In addition to pain in the abdomen, symptoms can include increased belching and flatulence or even the visible swelling of the abdomen. 

What Causes Bloating?

Knowing the potential causes of bloating, you may be able to narrow down exactly what’s happening and take steps to bring relief or even prevent it in the first place. 

Here are some of the possible reasons you might be feeling bloated and gassy:

  1. Fatty foods: Foods heavy in fat can take longer to digest. A longer digestion time, especially in conjunction with other foods and beverages that promote bloating, can leave you feeling overly full and bloated for hours. 
  2. Inactivity: In general, physical activity is beneficial for digestive health because it strengthens the abdominal wall and helps digested food move through your digestive tract. Too much inactivity can add to the body’s propensity to be bloated and gassy.
  3. Eating too quickly: It’s important to be aware of how quickly you’re eating. When you scarf your food down, you are inevitably swallowing air along with the food; this air can get trapped in the stomach and build up, leading to bloating. 
  4. Carbonated beverages: Drinking a lot of carbonated, fizzy drinks like soda can lead to bloating. The carbon dioxide in the beverage gets released in your digestive tract, and the excess gas can lead to bloating.
  5. Fatty foods: Foods heavy in fat can take longer to digest. A longer digestion time, especially in conjunction with other foods and beverages that promote bloating, can leave you feeling overly full and bloated for hours. 
  6. Lactose intolerance: A common food allergy, lactose intolerance, has symptoms that often include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other digestive health issues. 
  7. Over-eating: As simple as it sounds, eating too much is one of the most common causes of abdominal bloating. Our stomachs are still relatively small; so when we eat huge volumes of food, space gets filled up. Digesting some foods can create intestinal gas and makes for a combo that can make you feel bloated. 
  8. Constipation: This can further complicate things because some of the methods often used to treat constipation - eating high-fiber foods, for example - can inadvertently add to the feeling of being bloated. Often, the best solution is to increase your water intake and physical activity.
  9. Smoking: In addition to the excess air you inevitably swallow while smoking, the toxins in cigarette smoke can irritate the lining of your stomach and actually add to the feeling of being bloated. 
  10. Alcohol: Excessive alcohol can also cause bloating because of the negative impact it has on healthy gut bacteria. 
  11. Celiac disease: Celiac disease has been on the rise in prevalence in recent years. This condition is defined by the inability to digest gluten, a type of protein found in many cereal grains.
  12. Intestinal disorders: Some intestinal disorders, like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), SIBO Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, occur in the small and large intestine and often include bloating. In most cases, however, bloating will be just one of the numerous symptoms that point to an intestinal disorder. 

How Can I Alleviate Bloating?

When you’re experiencing stomach bloating, exercise might be the last thing on your mind and it might be tempting to relax until you feel better. However, some basic exercises can help relieve your discomfort. Even going on a walk or doing some simple yoga poses can move the muscles in your digestive tract and encourage the gas to release. Along those same lines, by keeping your large and small intestine muscles moving, you’ll encourage regular bowel movements, which will also lessen the pain and buildup of gas.

When Should I Talk to My Doctor?

If your symptoms persist or are accompanied with other changes in your body, it may be time to talk to your doctor. For example, when chronic bloating is associated with sudden, unintentional weight loss, it can be a sign of a more serious digestive disorder.

Serious conditions related to stomach bloating can range from irritable bowel syndrome to more life-threatening conditions such as cancer. In cases like these, diagnosing the root cause of your bloating may require talking to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist. 

If you have been suffering from ongoing bloating that does not respond to dietary or lifestyle changes, one of our physicians at Carolina Digestive Health can help. They can suggest an alternate course of action or discuss further discussion and examination. Schedule an appointment right away.