Abdominal bloating: What are the possible causes?

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Abdominal bloating occurs if the GI tract is filled with gas or air. Most describe it as a sensation of tightness or fullness. The abdomen might also become swollen, painful and hard.

The bloating is often accompanied by the following:

  • Excessive gas or flatulence
  • Pain
  • Frequent belching or burping
  • Abdominal gurgles or rumbling

It is important to note that abdominal bloating can disrupt with ability to work and engage in recreational or social activities.

What are the causes?

Gas is the usual cause of abdominal bloating especially after eating.

Air and gas

Gas is the usual cause of abdominal bloating especially after eating. The gas accumulates in the GI tract if undigested food is broken down and when swallowing air. More air is swallowed especially if:

  • Chewing gum
  • Eating or drinking rapidly
  • Smoking
  • Wearing loose dentures

Additionally, delayed emptying of the stomach can also add up to bloating and distention.

Medical causes

Other potential causes of abdominal bloating are due to medical conditions such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Weight gain
  • Food intolerance
  • Giardiasis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Hormonal flux in women
  • Certain medications
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa
  • Mental health factors such as depression, anxiety or stress
  • Other functional digestive disorders


Lifestyle changes

In most cases, the indications of abdominal bloating can be reduced or even prevented with the adoption of simple lifestyle changes such as cutting down weight if overweight.

Ways to reduce swallowing of excess air include the following:

  • Limit the intake of carbonated beverages
  • Avoid chewing gum since it causes one to swallow more air
  • Avoid “gassy” foods such as vegetables included in the cabbage family, lentils and dried beans
  • Eat in a slow manner and avoid drinking with a straw
  • Only use lactose-free dairy products


An abdominal massage can also reduce abdominal bloating. In studies conducted, the massage can help improve anxiety, depression, well-being and the symptoms of abdominal bloating.


A doctor must be consulted if lifestyle changes and dietary modifications could not alleviate the bloating. If there is a medical cause, treatment might be required such as antibiotics, antidepressants and antispasmodics but it depends on the condition of the individual.

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