Who wants more BBQ? Can you think of anybody who doesn’t look forward to cooking out in the summer? How horrible when the enjoyment is interrupted with discomfort or gut pain?
Before missing out on some of the upcoming summer fun, there are some things you should know about ahead of time. Here’s what you need to know about bloating.
What Is Abdominal Bloating?
Not knowing what’s happening with your body can be disconcerting; humans are generally emotionally distressed with the “unknown” or when having to deal with something they can’t explain. So, if you’re feeling something uncomfortable or painful, you don’t have to wait.
One relatively common and often non-threatening situation we can experience is that of abdominal bloating.
Abdominal bloating can be both annoying and disruptive. People often feel down or lethargic when they’re bloated. The pressure in your abdomen and pain that comes with it can be enough to make you wonder if something is really wrong.
The causes of bloating can differ, but the effect is usually the same—excess gas in the digestive tract. 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.
As uncomfortable as it may be, a single bout of pain and bloating is not typically a cause for alarm. However, it can be extremely painful, and some patients even find themselves in the emergency room. If the symptoms persist or recur frequently, it may be time to meet with a doctor. There are some serious conditions that can cause abdominal pain and bloating and the symptoms should not be ignored.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- FODMAP foods: This funny-sounded acronym stands for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols,” a fancy way of referring to some foods that aren’t absorbed well by the small intestine. Foods like beans, broccoli, cauliflower, wheat, lentils, brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, apples, and pears, while generally healthy and recommended, can cause bloating for some people - particularly those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
- 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.
- 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.
- Sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are found in sugar-free chewing gum and foods that utilize artificial sweeteners like sorbitol. Having too much in your diet can lead to bacteria in your large intestine producing excess gas.
- 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.
- Too much sodium: Water retention can be caused by too much salt. When you’re retaining water, you can feel a bloating sensation in your abdomen and potentially in your extremities.
- Lactose intolerance: A common food allergy, lactose intolerance, has symptoms that often include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other digestive health issues.
- 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.
- Fructose intolerance: The sugar found in fruits is occasionally difficult to digest for some people. Similar to other types of food intolerance, bloating is often accompanied by other gastrointestinal discomforts.
- Intestinal disorders: Some intestinal disorders, like IBS, 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.
- 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.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol can also cause bloating because of the negative impact it has on healthy gut bacteria.
- Malignancy--serious disorders
When Should I Talk to My Doctor About Stomach Bloating?
If your symptoms persist or are accompanied by 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, take advantage of the convenience of a TeleMedicine appointment to start a discussion with your doctor instead of waiting. Your doctor will be able to suggest an alternate course of action or advise you to make a physical appointment for further discussion and examination.
GI Associates has introduced TeleHealth and can meet with you virtually in the comfort of your own home. If you would like to have the advice of a doctor to discover the best course of action moving forward, simply call our office at 877-442-7762.