We’ve probably all felt that familiar swell, discomfort, and fullness before, especially after a particularly heavy meal. Stomach bloating is very common and often not a cause for worry.
However, there are days when we feel bloated and we just can’t seem to figure out why. Or perhaps, your bloated stomach symptoms have become more frequent, and you’re not sure what’s causing it. Explore the causes of bloating below to find out what may be causing your bloat.
Why tummies bloat
Your stomach may feel bloated for a number of primary reasons. The bloating sensation may be a result of:
- Gas: Gas is produced as a part of the natural digestion process. Excess gas that is unreleased can lead to bloatedness. Occasionally, gas may also be introduced by swallowing air.
- Constipation: Having trouble emptying the bowels can lead to a feeling of fullness and incomplete evacuation.
- Fluid retention: When the body retains more fluid than usual, it can be experienced as bloating.
While most of us experience the occasional bloat and stomach discomfort, most of these usually go away quickly and do not pose a health threat.
Diets that cause bloating
It is common knowledge that eating certain foods like garlic, onions, and beans leads to a gassy tummy and increased flatulence. This is due to certain sugars in foods, which the body finds difficult to digest. Undigested sugars end up in the large intestine, where bacteria ferments them, producing gas.
These food triggers have a label called FODMAPs, which stands for ‘fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols’. Other examples of FODMAP foods include wheat, rye, legumes, apple, mango, honey, cherry, and lychee.
Aside from the food itself, an individual’s sensitivity to certain foods may also cause more severe bloating. For example, persons with lactose insensitivity or intolerance may bloat more seriously than other persons without, after consuming dairy products like milk or cheese.
High-fat foods are also bloat triggers as they are challenging to digest. In addition, foods high in salt content might lead to water retention, causing not just a bloated tummy, but also general puffiness.
Medical conditions that cause bloating
In some cases, gas, constipation, or fluid retention may also be symptoms of more serious underlying health conditions that warrant a doctor’s examination. The list of conditions that may cause bloating is long, and here are just some of them:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is a condition where one experiences intestinal symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, and bloating, often in combination, for a period of 3 or more months for at least 3 days per month. These symptoms are classified as IBS if they are unrelated to other bowel conditions.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Not to be confused with IBS, IBD is caused by inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining, and includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Bloating may be caused by poor digestion, or in some instances, blockage or narrowing of the intestinal tract due to swelling or scarring.
- Celiac disease: Persons with celiac disease experience an immune response in their small intestines when they consume gluten. Due to the weakened functions of the small intestine, undigested food ferments for longer in the digestive tract and causes more gas production.
- Gastroparesis: Usually occurring as a symptom of other conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism, gastroparesis is the reduced rate of motion of food from the stomach into the small intestine due to weak or damaged stomach muscles.
- Ascites: This is a serious condition in which fluids accumulate in the peritoneal cavity (the abdominal space which contains the stomach, intestines, and liver). This situation may occur due to liver cirrhosis, cancer, or tuberculosis.
The occasional stomach bloatedness is normal, but in some cases, it can also be caused by underlying medical conditions. In the event you notice any changes to your health, persistent bloating, or bloating accompanied by other symptoms, don’t wait to visit your health professional for a checkup.