Bloating is best described as a sense of gassiness or a sense of being distended in the abdominal area. There is a build-up of gas in the gut. Some of these gases are; carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane, oxygen, and sulphur gases. One in five persons has issues with bloating and women seem to be more affected than men. Common causes of bloating are:
- Poor attention to digestive health
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Other Gastro-intestinal (GI) and non-GI conditions
Poor attention to digestive health
Food combinations can interfere with digestion as some types of food require either an acidic or alkaline medium to aid the breakdown of the food so that it can be absorbed by the digestive tract. Pay attention to food which give you indigestion or cause an over-production of gas. Indigestion can also be attributed to food allergies, smoking, and medication.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not well understood. It is important to note that these names suggest the gut-brain interaction. Mental conditions which are associated with IBS are anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other conditions associated with IBS include food sensitivity, bacterial gastroenteritis, overgrowth of bacteria, altered level of the body chemicals called neurotransmitters, hypersensitivity to intestinal distension due to gas or stool, hereditary (genetic) causes.
Symptoms of IBS
- Cramping pain or discomfort in the abdomen
- Loose stools which can alternate with constipation
- Passage of mucus
- A sensation that a bowel action is incomplete
- Bloating of the abdomen
An anomaly which can occur in the wall of the colon (large bowel) is the formation of pouches (pockets) that push into the lumen of the large intestines. These pouches are called diverticula and when they become irritated, inflamed, and infected the condition is called diverticulitis.
A link has been established between diverticular disease and chronic constipation, overweight, lack of physical exercise, smoking and certain types of medications (steroids, aspirin) to name a few.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis are:
o Left-sided severe abdominal pain of sudden onset
o Chills and fever
o Nausea or vomiting
o Loose stools or constipation
o Blood in the stool. Significant bleeding will result in:
- Fainting spells
Other Causes of Abdominal Bloating
There are many illnesses that can cause the abdomen to feel tight and uncomfortably distended. Most of the causes are related to illnesses of the gastro-intestinal tract but there are a few which are not GI related.
Other GI illnesses which cause bloating are:
- Lactose intolerance
- Sugar malabsorptive disorder, sugar intolerance
- Gall stones
- Gastro-intestinal infections (E.coli, H.Pyloric)
Non-GI causes of Bloating are:
- Ectopic Pregnancy
General Management and Treatment
If you are having symptoms of abdominal bloating, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider who will do a physical examination, diagnostic tests, and initiate treatment with medication to relieve the discomfort.
The cross–cutting conservative management to prevent and control these GI illnesses requires a change in life-style especially the diet. Other life-style changes are stress management, physical exercise, smoking cessation and limiting alcohol intake.
Dietary changes include:
ü Eating small meals every 2-3 hours
ü Limiting caffeine drinks including coffee and tea
ü Have at least 8 glasses of fluid daily
ü Avoiding spicy foods if these trigger the symptom
ü Restrict fruit to only 3 servings per day if there is also diarrhea
ü Fiber supplement is useful if there is also constipation
ü Eat oats to alleviate bloating and wind
ü Discuss with your doctor whether a gluten-free diet will help
Other life-style changes are:
• Stress management: A life-style coach can assist you to identify the stressors in your life and help you with practical suggestions to minimize the adverse effects.
• Physical exercise: There are tremendous benefits to be gained from daily physical exercise.
• Smoking cessation: Get help to overcome the addiction of nicotine.
• Limit alcohol intake
See your doctor who will assess and treat your symptoms if the lifestyle adjustments have not improved the bloating.
Readers Bureau Contributor
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