Abdominal bloating is often described as tightness or fullness of the abdomen. Some people may experience swelling and distension too. The common symptoms are flatulence (accumulation of excessive gas), and frequent burping and rumbling sound in the abdomen, termed borborygmi. In some cases, abdominal bloating may cause extreme pain in the pelvic region. Sometimes, the discomfort and pain may also spread to the chest.
What Causes Abdominal Bloating?
There are several factors, which can be held responsible for abdominal bloating. This condition is common in pregnant women, obese people and those affected with ascites (inflammation of the abdomen due to fluid accumulation in the abdominal and pelvic cavities). Given below are some of the causes of abdominal bloating.
- Aerophagia, which is defined as voluntary or involuntary swallowing of air, can cause abdominal bloating. Normally, air in the esophagus is passed out through belches; but once it enters the intestinal tract, there is no way out, except to release through the anus. Mild forms of aerophagia do not cause flatulence, but severe forms can lead to stomach bloating.
- Helicobacter pylori infection, which is a major cause for gastoesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis and peptic ulcers, is often associated with bloating.
- Causes for abdominal bloating include consumption of certain foods that contribute to flatulence. They include carbonated drinks (sometimes the gas is not released through belching), alcohol, foods high in fiber (beans, cabbage and sprouts), sugary foods and sweets, starchy foods, etc. Certain medicines may also cause bloating.
- Some people experience lactose intolerance, a condition wherein the body is not able to digest lactose found in milk, and other dairy products. Such condition can cause bloating in the affected people. Lactose intolerance is characterized by nausea, bloating, flatulence, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
- Gluten intolerance or celiac disease is also considered as a cause for abdominal bloating. This condition is caused by the body's inability to digest a protein called gluten, present in some starchy foods, like wheat and rye.
- Full or partial obstruction of the intestine may cause abdominal bloating. Such obstruction can be due to tumors, intestinal adhesions, intestinal twisting, or presence of foreign bodies.
- Irritable bowel syndrome, which is characterized by a very slow or very fast bowel movement, is also responsible for stomach bloating. In such cases, bloating is accompanied with constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramps.
- Apart from these causes, constipation, food poisoning, overeating, dumping syndrome, visceral fat, menstruation or dysmenorrhea, ovarian cysts or polycystic ovarian syndrome, severe parasitic infestation of the intestines, diverticulosis and Alvarez' syndrome, may also contribute to abdominal bloating.