There can be varied reasons for abdominal distention. It generally results from an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, that pushes the abdominal wall and causes the stomach to dilate. Such distention is often accompanied by bloating, a feeling that we get due to abdominal dilatation. A distended stomach, on the other hand, refers to an actual increase in the girth of the abdomen.
What Causes the Stomach to Distend?
While excessive gas may be a contributory factor for the increase in the girth of the abdomen, at times fluid buildup or enlargement of the organs in the abdominal region could be responsible for distension. Intestinal gas can be a result of swallowing air through the mouth, and incomplete digestion of certain foods. Some people seem to face this problem after eating, which can be a result of overeating, indigestion, and intolerance to certain foods. Many times, stomach distention can also be caused by weight gain or obesity. Women, on the other hand, can get this condition before or during menstruation.
If such distention lasts for a considerable length of time, it may be a symptom of medical conditions such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (diarrhea/constipation/alternating stool pattern)
- Intolerance to certain foods
- Food allergies
- Bowel obstruction (poor digestion due to intestinal obstruction)
- Intestinal parasites (parasites found in the intestinal wall)
- Diverticulitis (inflamed pouches in the large intestine)
- Amebiasis (infection caused by amoeba)
- Celiac disease (autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine)
- Colitis (inflammation of the large intestine)
- Crohn's disease (bowel inflammation)
- Ovarian cyst (cystic benign tumor of the ovary)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (common endocrine disorder of the ovaries)
- Ovarian cancer (cancerous growth that forms inside the tissues of the ovaries)
- Tumor in the abdomen
- Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growth in the ovaries during childbirth)
- Peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum)
- Ascites (accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity)
- Gastroparesis (partial paralysis of the stomach muscles, which causes delayed emptying of the stomach)
Physicians often look for symptoms and carry out a detailed physical examination to find out whether stomach distention is the result of gas and indigestion, or some other medical condition. If the distention is intermittent, then it is generally attributed to an increase in intestinal gas. However, continuous distention of the stomach for a considerable period of time can be an indicator of major health problems. Such a condition would require some comprehensive diagnostic tests like X-ray(s) of the stomach and intestine, MRI, CT scan and ultrasound of the abdominal region, and certain specific tests to look for malabsorption and food intolerance.
- Treatment will vary, depending on the underlying causes. A case of intestinal gas and indigestion can be addressed with the help of a few lifestyle and dietary modifications.
- Eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and a fiber-rich diet can alleviate problems of the digestive tract.
- Avoiding excessive consumption of processed foods, as well as fatty and greasy foods can also help to alleviate stomach distention and bloating.
- Regular exercising is another way to maintain your digestive health and prevent indigestion or intestinal gas.
If this problem persists at regular intervals, then you can get relief with regular exercising and following a balanced diet regime. Drinking water can also be immensely helpful for relieving gas, bloating and flatulence. But if your stomach is distended for a long time, and is also accompanied by constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and rectal bleeding, then consider visiting your physician. Such a condition can be a symptom of a disease of more serious nature, and hence, should be properly evaluated and treated on time.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.