Abdominal Pain and Bloating
Bloating is a gaseous sensation in the digestive tract that is associated with eating large meals or rich foods. In some extreme cases, bloating can become severe enough that the abdomen is noticeably swollen. Eating meals too quickly can increase the likelihood that a person will experience bloating.
Occasional bloating is common for most people, and poses no significant health risk besides temporary discomfort. However, bloating can be associated with other medical conditions, and you should talk to your doctor if any of the following symptoms are also present:
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- Bloody stool
- Unexpected weight loss
- Intense heartburn
If you find that you are experiencing bloating for a significant portion of each month, addressing certain dietary and lifestyle habits may help you better understand exactly what is causing your discomfort. The more conscious you are of what causes bloating, the better equipped you will be to understand your body’s response to foods and supplements that you ingest in conjunction with other habits you may have.
Though knowing your body is an important factor in monitoring your overall health, if you are experiencing chronic bloating, seeking help from an experienced gastroenterologist is the first step in truly solving the issue.
Why Does Bloating Happen?
Bloating is caused by large amounts of gas in the digestive tract, and can have several different causes. As bacteria break down certain foods in the intestines, they produce gas as a byproduct. Some habits as innocent as chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages, and drinking through a straw can increase the amount of air that is swallowed, and can contribute to a patient’s bloating.
With consequences such as clothing not fitting correctly to feeling uncomfortable throughout your daily routine, many people struggle to find effective solutions to bloating. Since bloating is a rather common event, most people understand the specific and uncomfortable feelings which accompany the sensation. The main trick to treating your body’s specific condition is understanding the cause. Some common causes of bloating can be unaddressed medical conditions, certain foods, and constipation.
Undiagnosed Medical Conditions
While your diet certainly has a direct effect on how you feel, other sources of bloating can be linked to serious medical conditions, such as physical obstructions in the digestive tract. If you have a medical condition that is not being addressed, chronic bloating can be a strong indication of an underlying medical factor.
Once you understand a bit more about the stress that your gut is under, you and your doctor can find strategies to improve your overall health. The following are a handful of conditions which may bring about or exacerbate the effects of chronic bloating:
Sensitivity – A common form of gut sensitivity is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People who are diagnosed with IBS have a heightened sensitivity to gas. Gas can cause IBS patients to experience additional cramping and diarrhea, where other patients wouldn’t.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) – Bacterial imbalances in the small intestine can cause intense discomfort. The majority of healthy people have a relatively small amount of bacteria in the small intestine. Patients who suffer from IBS or chronic diarrhea may have an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.
Gastroparesis – Gastroparesis occurs when the stomach doesn’t process its contents at a normal pace. When the emptying of the stomach is delayed, patients can experience nausea and bloating along with bowel obstruction. Women and diabetic patients are more likely to suffer from gastroparesis.
Muscle conditions are sometimes responsible for failing to properly move digested food through the intestines, and can cause gas to develop into uncomfortable bloating. Consistent bloating, even after dietary changes, can be a sign that something else is wrong.
Certain Foods and Sugars
Some food groups and meals are more likely to cause bloating. While some people may be able to digest these foods without much trouble, others may be sensitive to them. Understanding what disrupts your digestive system will give you an indication of which foods to avoid. Researchers have singled out diets high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAP) as the likely culprit of excess bloating.
- Oligosaccharides – These are carbohydrates found in many foods including beans, legumes, and wheat.
- Disaccharides – Sugars often found in lactose. Many patients, even if they don’t consider themselves lactose intolerant, will produce more gas as a result of ingesting disaccharides.
- Monosaccharides – Often referred to as simple sugars, monosaccharides can be found in abundance in fruits like pears, mangoes, grapes, and watermelon.
- Polyols – These are referred to as sugar alcohols. They are often used as a low-calorie sweetener in processed items like chewing gum.
Many researchers point to a low FODMAP diet as a way to reduce the production of gas and avoid bloating.
Decreased ability to have a bowel movement can contribute to the pain and discomfort of bloating. Staying hydrated, properly nourished, and active, and using stool softeners are strategies that patients can use to keep constipation at bay. Specifically, drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can give your body the hydration that it needs to keep your bowel movements healthy and comfortable.
Reducing the types of food that cause bloating in your diet can help relieve pressure and prevent reoccurrence. For immediate relief, over-the-counter medications might help. Additionally, gentle stool softeners are often an effective way to keep the body’s bowel movement schedule on track. Avoid taking laxatives, as these are incredibly disruptive and should not be relied upon as a common resource.
Reach Out to GastroCare LI for Help
The doctors at GastroCare LI know how disruptive the physical discomfort of bloating is. While you may feel discouraged after experiencing chronic bouts of bloating, understand that there is help available. Our team has helped many patients over the years find lasting solutions to a variety of issues and we can help you too.
Call GastroCare LI at (516) 219-8876 to talk with a doctor about what may be causing your symptoms, and discuss ways you can reduce bloating to live a more comfortable life.