The average American experiences bloating at one time or another in their lifetime. Perhaps for some people, too much carbonated soda can cause a “full feeling,” while others have an intolerance to dairy and lactose. The causes of bloating are quite different in different people, and in many cases, reasons are benign and don’t require attention. However, more frequent bloating, especially types that are comorbid with symptoms that affect quality of life, should be checked out by a doctor. Read on to learn more about bloating, what may be causing your bloating, and when it’s wise to see a doctor.
What Is Bloating?
Bloating may feel like it’s coming from your stomach when in reality, it occurs in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bloating feels like an overfull sensation in your stomach, almost as if you’ve just eaten a full meal and couldn’t possibly eat another bite. However, for some patients, this “full” feeling occurs when they haven’t even eaten a thing. Bloating is actually gas trapped in the GI tract.
Why Am I Bloated?
Most patients don’t have to think twice over whether they’re bloated or not—it’s easy to tell. Other than a “full” feeling in the stomach, the stomach may even look distended, depending on the amount of air that’s trapped in the GI tract. Wondering why you’re bloated is another matter altogether.
Some people get bloated because of the foods they eat, or in some cases, the way that they eat food. For example, try not to take in pockets of air as you eat, which can cause you naturally to be more gassy. Not only does this create more bloating, so does eating foods that are known for the gas-causing properties. Foods such as beans and lentils do cause gas, which in turn can cause bloating if eaten in larger quantities (or if the person is sensitive to them). These are the types of cases that are typically easy to ignore, and patients can simply modify their diet to avoid bloating.
Some patients are also intolerant to dairy products, which can cause bloating and cause gas. Eating foods such as ice cream or cheese, or drinking milk, can cause bloating in some people. If lactose intolerance is suspected, a good way to check is to eliminate it (or any suspected food) from the diet from one to two weeks. If your bloating symptoms decrease, it’s a good sign that dairy products were the cause. However, it may be wise to have a chat with your doctor just in case.
Menstruation, overeating, acid reflux (GERD), and constipation may also cause bloating. Generally speaking, this is not too much cause for concern, although a doctor should evaluate acid reflux as well as constipation if it is prolonged. There are more serious causes of bloating, however, such as infection, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), liver disease, blockage, Crohn’s disease, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All of these conditions are serious and should be evaluated by a doctor. If you find that your bloating is frequent (occurs more than once a week or occurs in consecutive weeks) or is comorbid with other symptoms such as feeling “full,” you should let your doctor know. Some of these other symptoms include:
- Blood in the stool
- Other persistent digestive system issues
- Unexpected weight loss
- Persistent fatigue
- Vaginal bleeding (unrelated to menstruation)
Quick Tips to Get Rid of Bloating
If bloating is simple or occasional, but still interferes with quality of life, you can try some methods to get rid of bloating. Some over-the-counter supplements do help, such as the ones you take before food to prevent gas, but it’s wise to ask your doctor before starting any treatment, even ones that seem common. Patients should also quit smoking and stop or limit chewing gum. There are, of course, many reasons to quit smoking. Chewing gum allows extra pockets of air to get inside of your mouth, which can get into your GI tract. Other advice includes:
- Avoid beans, lentils, cabbage, and other gas-causing foods
- Avoid carbonated drinks (like soda)
- Eat foods that are high in fiber
- Eat more slowly
- Don’t use straws for drinking
Always remember, if bloating persists or interferes heavily with your quality of life, consult your physician as soon as possible. For more information about abdominal bloating, gas, cramps, or if you would like to be evaluated, request an appointment with Dr. Sameer Islam today. Dr. Islam provides a full spectrum of gastrointestinal care and services, including several weight loss procedure methods.