Most people know the feeling of being bloated. Your stomach feels full, and your clothes feel tight around the midsection. It could simply be the result of eating too much during the holiday season or munching on lots of junk food. For most people, bloating is harmless as most cases can be treated at home. However, unusual cases of bloating could be alarming when it starts being painful or disruptive to your daily routine.
It is important to know the signs of abnormal bloating that could be a serious medical condition, as some may be life-threatening if not treated.
What is abdominal bloating?
Abdominal bloating happens when the gastrointestinal tract is filled with air or gas. Most individuals characterise bloating as feeling full, tight, or swollen in the abdomen. The tummy can also feel hard and painful. Bloating can sometimes be accompanied by frequent burping or abdominal rumbling.
Majority of the causes for bloating are not serious. Some of the common causes include diet, swallowing air, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and menstruation in ladies. But bloating can become serious when it starts to interfere with your ability to work and participate in social or recreational activities.
What are some home remedies for bloating?
The best treatments for bloating depend on the underlying cause of the symptom. In many cases, bloating can be minimised or even prevented by making a few basic lifestyle changes. Some things that may help include:
- Taking over-the-counter medications for gas and bloating
- Avoiding chewing gum
- Limiting the intake of carbonated drinks
- Eating slowly
- Taking a laxative to relieve constipation
If the bloating does not subside or gets worse, it could be a sign that it’s time to consult a professional.
When should I see a doctor?
While bloating is common, abnormal cases of bloating that persists or is accompanied by other symptoms might be an indication of more serious conditions. You should consider seeing a doctor if you are:
- Experiencing other chronic symptoms: If you’re experiencing bloating by itself, it probably isn’t a big deal. However, if it is persistent and comes along with other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, and bloody stools, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
- Having unexplained weight changes: It is important not to disregard bloating that is accompanied by significant weight loss or weight gain. Rapid weight changes could be a sign of something wrong hormonally.
- Always feeling fatigued: Feeling fatigue constantly could be a sign of liver disease, which could be related to cancer, alcohol use, or hepatitis. If your bloating is due to liver disease, you might feel tired, bruise easily, or develop jaundice – a yellowish tinge to the skin and eyes.
- Experiencing pain in the abdominal area: Pain and bloating could be a sign of fluid retention (ascites) or other blockages in the gastrointestinal system. Bowel obstruction is a dangerous condition that can occur, involving a blockage in the small or large intestine. This may come with other symptoms such as constipation.
If you notice that your abnormal bloating is accompanied by any of these signs, visit your doctor immediately. Be sure to mention all your symptoms and let your doctor know how long you have been experiencing them as these can provide important clues that guide diagnostic testing. Never ignore a bloated stomach as it could be a symptom of something more severe.