We’ve all had that bloated, uncomfortable “full belly” feeling at some point. Most of the time, it’s perfectly normal and no cause for concern. On rare occasions, it could be an indication of a more serious problem. Unless your bloating is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and weight loss, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Most of the time, diet and other simple reasons such as eating a big meal or too much salt can explain the bloating you’re experiencing. Let’s discuss some common causes of bloating, and when bloating can be a cause for concern.
Common Causes of Bloating
The following are some common reasons why you might feel bloated. In most instances, these causes of bloating can be reduced or eliminated by practical diet and lifestyle changes.
– Healthy eating. Believe it or not, healthy foods are the reason for a bloated stomach. Whole veggies such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, and carrots; and legumes such as beans, can cause extra air to get trapped in your belly, giving you that uncomfortable and bloated feeling. Foods high in fiber and lactose can also cause bloating since they release hydrogen and methane, which are bloating gases. Certain fruits like apples, pears, and watermelon can also cause bloating because of the high ratio of fructose to glucose.
– Consuming diet products. Sugar substitutes (otherwise known as sugar alcohols) found in many diet foods, such as sorbitol and xylitol) can cause you to feel bloated and uncomfortable. Ingesting too much of these or any artificial substances can cause bloating.
– Fizzy drinks. Bubbly drinks like soda, champagne, or seltzer can do a number on your stomach because of the carbonation. When you ingest these drinks, the bubbles expand in your gut, which leads to that bloated feeling. This is also true of popular probiotic, naturally fermented drinks like kombucha, which can cause gas, bloating and loose stools.
– Constipation. We’ve all experienced that terrible feeling of not being able to go to the bathroom. When you get backed up, it is usually accompanied by gas. The gas in your belly can leave your feeling bloated and heavy.
– Stress. When you’re stressed out, your body experiences physical symptoms that can have an effect on your GI tract and lead to bloating. For example, heavy breathing makes you swallow more air than normal, which leave you feeling bloated. When your heart races, your body diverts blood away from the GI tract, which then slows down your digestion.
– Lack of exercise. It may be difficult to think about exercising when you’re feeling bloated. However, exercise is a great way to prevent or overcome bloating. If you find yourself bloated, it may mean you’re not getting enough exercise. When you do physical activity, it stimulates the muscles of the digestive tract which, in turn, helps the food and air bubbles pass through your GI tract more easily.
– Recovery from a stomach bug. Many people experience bloating after having a stomach virus or bug. This’s because of the bacterial overgrowth that occurred in the small intestine as a result of the infection.
When Bloating Is a Sign of Something More Serious
Each of the previous reasons for bloating can be overcome through diet, exercise, and mindful living. Although not as common, bloating may be an indication of a more serious condition that requires medical attention. The following are three conditions and what to look for.
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder that causes a change in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhea, or both. These changes can cause stomach pain. If you are diagnosed with IBS, you’re not alone – according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, 10-15 percent of Americans have IBS. If you notice these symptoms or think you have IBS, see your doctor.
– Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can cause bloating. It is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and/or fever. If you experience a combination of these symptoms, visit your doctor to get tested for Crohn’s disease.
– Cancer. Don’t panic! Most of the time bloating is a result of something very treatable. However, in rare cases, it can be a sign of a more serious illness such as cancer. If your bloating is combined with symptoms such as blood in the stool and weight loss, you may want to see your doctor who can check you for pancreatic or stomach cancer (or ovarian cancer in women).
Don’t let bloating ruin your life. Let the gastro experts at Austin Gastroenterology help you get to the bottom of your bloating issues. We serve patients at 18 offices throughout the greater Austin area. You can make an appointment using our online form or call the number associated with the office you’d like to visit.