Chances are, you’ve probably experienced a ‘bloated stomach’ or abdominal bloating before. Whether it occurs after eating your meals too quickly, feasting on too much junk food or having too many bottles of beer, abdominal bloating can be common and temporary.
However, abdominal bloating could mean more than just excessive gas build-up in some instances. In fact, bloating can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of abdominal bloating and the situations in which you should seek medical help.
Minor causes of abdominal bloating
- Build-up of gas
A build-up of gas is one of the more common causes of abdominal bloating. Perhaps you ate too quickly or drank too many carbonated drinks – resulting in a feeling like there is something trapped in your tummy. Additionally, drinking with straws or sucking on sweets causes more gas to enter your intestines and lead to the discomfort.
- Food intolerance
For instance, if you are lactose intolerant, consuming too much milk or dairy products would cause you to feel bloated. Although the bloating is temporary and will soon be over, it is often linked to other food intolerance symptoms, such as abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
When stools are kept in the colon for a prolonged period, they become more susceptible to bacteria – a bacterial infection can occur to create more gas that is experienced as bloating.
Symptoms that may be coupled with abdominal bloating
Typically, abdominal bloating is due to minor causes such as the above, and go away after a couple of days. But if bloating is persistent and coupled with other symptoms, you might be dealing with a more severe health concern.
Here are some signs of serious abdominal bloating:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Appetite changes
- Diarrhoea and/or constipation
- Sudden weight loss
- Constant fatigue
- Blood-stained stool
Causes of serious abdominal bloating
- Crohn’s Disease
The digestive tract of a patient with Crohn’s Disease is usually inflamed, resulting in various complications such as a lower food absorption rate by the small intestine. This means that a greater amount of undigested food enters the colon, allowing bacteria within to break down the undigested food. In the process, more gas is released to cause the bloating effect. As Crohn’s Disease is lifelong with possible relapses, patients can expect accumulative treatment costs for Crohn’s Disease.
- Colon cancer
As one of the most common cancer types across both men and women, an abnormal growth in the colon can block its passageway, altering bowel habits. With the difficulty to clear bowels, it’s common for colon cancer patients to feel bloated and constipated. Apart from these signs, colon cancer patients often present with blood-stained stools. Should colon cancer be suspected, diagnostic tests such as occult blood tests are recommended.
- Stomach cancer
Also known as gastric cancer, this is a type of cancer that develops inside the stomach lining. Possible signs of stomach cancer include bloating, indigestion, and the feeling that you are ‘full’ in the upper abdomen. If the cancer develops, it’s vital to look out for the manifestation of symptoms such as weight loss, nausea and vomiting.
Bloating is usually a temporal discomfort. But, should you experience prolonged bloating that starts to interfere with your daily activities, it’s best to find out if there is an underlying medical diagnosis. Doing so can prevent any potential health problems because early diagnosis is key to effectively managing illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and various cancer types.