Bloating: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

“It is just bloating” is the common phrase used across the world as an excuse for belly fat. If you are one among them continue reading. It is not just bloating but could be the cause of the ballooning belly.

Bloating is a symptom of an underlying disease which is fast becoming the most common one around the world. It has no age barriers and could affect anyone.

The lifestyle and food habits of the modern day world are the main reason for bloating. With the development of technology physical work is minimum nowadays which made people lazy and bloated.

What is Bloating?

Bloating is not only a symptom of illness but also could be a major image damaging factor in the society. The whole appearance of the body due to bloating gets distorted which does not give a pretty picture.

The main reason for bloating is the formation of gas in the stomach due to various reasons. It could be by way of mouth or through the anus. Hence the release of it in either of the two possible ways is so bad a situation among people.

Stomach bloating with its far reach around all demographic locations of the world is now called as an epidemic. The discomfort of bloating and the embarrassing flatulence could not be explained in words.

With the increase in stress of day to day living, pollutants of all kinds, side effects of medications and processed food, bloating is only on the rise with every day.

Nearly 10 % of Americans suffer from bloating. The bloated days are more for these affected people than the normal days. This is the major discomfort for day to day activities and for successful and peaceful life either personal or professional.

Ten to twenty-five percent of healthy persons experience bloating. Also in this fast and stressed world, most people could have experienced bloating at some point of time in their life. Hence bloating has become the prime concern of health issues of the humankind.

The abdominal bloating term is used interchangeably with abdominal distension. These two symptoms are not fully understood even today with different pathophysiological processes. Bloating is the symptom and distension is the sign of an underlying disease.

Causes of Bloating:

The main causes of bloating are associated with FGIDs or the functional gastrointestinal disorders and organic diseases or other common causes.


FGID or the functional gastrointestinal disorder is due to the gut-brain disorder. They include many idiopathic or unknown disorders which affect the gastrointestinal tract impairing gastrointestinal motility.

FGID is the reason for Gastro duodenal disorder which forms an integral part of bloating.

Organic Diseases :

The organic disease is due to the physical or physiological changes in the tissues or parts of the body. Bowel disorders can be the cause of bloating in many cases.

Common causes of bloating :

Overeating :


Overeating is the most common cause of bloating. The stress of modern living and the ready availability of junk foods are the reasons for overeating. The acidity in the stomach causes hunger all the time and result in overeating. This is a cyclic process. Due to acidity we overeat and because of overeating acidity forms. Consulting a doctor and proper medication is the only remedy.

Constipation :

The foods we eat and not eat along with retention are some of the reasons for constipation. Due to constipation, the stool remains in the intestines causing a lot of discomforts and bloating.

Gas-producing foods :

In this fast-moving world, fast foods are the order of the day. These foods as per the name are prepared fast and without the traditional care which includes all ingredients for proper digestion. Eating these foods along with natural gas producing foods cause excess gas formation. This causes bloating and also the embarrassing moments of flatulence.

Smoking :


Smoking which is the cause of several diseases including the life-threatening cancer is the culprit for bloating also. Many smoke immediately after taking food. It is not that they smoke without food.

It is a more common conception that a good meal should be enjoyed by a smoke. This started with the introduction of cigarettes as a manly and enjoyable act promoted by advertisements.

The beneficiaries of this are the cigarette companies and the losers are the smokers. Smoking hinders the digestive process and causes bloating.

Gastric distension :

This is a simple reason for bloating. This occurs when someone is blowing air to resume stopped breathing during shock or other reasons. The air filled in the abdomen causes bloating which heals within minutes of resuming breathing.

Food allergy :

Awareness of what we eat is very important. The financial and personal commitments make us not aware of the food we eat. This leads to eating the foods which could cause allergy and hence bloat.

Just being aware of what we eat and what causes the bloating is very important and self-medicine to avoid bloating.

Certain foods which are allergic to a particular person could lead to life-threatening causes

Food tolerance :

Many people have a problem with tolerance of foods rich in fructose and lactose. This food intolerance is due to the lack of enzymes, irritable bowels, and sensitivity to food additives.

This in contrast to food allergies is a very simple problem only related to digestive system.

Certain medications :

Some medications which are necessary for certain ailments also cause bloating. If the medicine is to cure a disease it is unavoidable. But certain medications like phentermine to reduce obesity, painkillers, and other unnecessary medications can cause bloating which could be avoided.

Aerophagia :

Everyone swallows air while eating or drinking. But some swallow more than necessary. This excess swallowing of air is medically called Aerophagia. This causes gas and thus bloating. Aerophagia occurs during the following process :

  • Chewing gum all the time
  • Smoking rarely or frequently
  • Eating and drinking too fast
  • Loose fixation of dentures in the mouth

Fiber-rich food :


Bacteria produced in the colon or the large intestine as a byproduct of soluble fiber digestion may cause gas and thus bloat. Fiber is not easily digested by the gastrointestinal tract. Natural plants are rich in fiber which includes fruits, vegetables, grains form flatulence on digestion.

The two types of dietary soluble fiber or prebiotic are readily fermented in the colon to gases. The insoluble fiber is metabolically inert and absorbs water for digestion as it takes time to move through the digestive system which increases defecation and the volume of stools.

Medical causes for bloating:

The medical causes of bloating are due to the FGIDs or the organic diseases. The underlying disease for bloating is to be identified and cured to avoid bloating and its discomforts.

Crohn’s disease :

Crohn’s disease or the IBD which is the Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the main clinical cause of bloating. Bloating could be the symptom and distension the sign for Crohn’s disease.

There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease but bloating and distension could be reduced by therapies.

Ascites :

Ascites or fluid retention in the body can also cause bloating. The fluids stored for a long time in the abdominal area is not the only cause of bloating but also could be because of liver failure.


PMS or the Premenstrual syndrome is common among 80 % of women. This starts from 10 days prior to the menstrual cycle of woman every month and subsidies at the start of the menstruation.

The most common symptom of PMS is bloating. As with the PMS, it gets solved as soon as the menstruation starts.

Dehydration :

Dehydration due to several reasons and electrolytic imbalances makes the body to retain water consumed after dehydration around the belly. This is to prevent the body from dehydration. This causes bloating.

Celiac Disease :

This is a genetic and hereditary disease and 1 % of the total population are affected by it.

The autoimmune disorder caused in the small intestine when gluten in the wheat or barley is eaten causes bloating. This is because of the villi which are finger-like projections lining the small intestine get affected. This leads to nutrients not absorbed by the body.

Since the nutrients are not absorbed by the body because of celiac disease it could be the cause of various ailments from diabetes to osteoporosis. Hence bloating by celiac disease should be immediately taken care of by proper medication.

Visceral fat :

Visceral fat in excess causes bloating. Since it influences the secretion of hormones in the body it is called active fat.

Excess visceral fat not only causes bloating but also diabetes and heart issues.

Alvarez Syndrome :

When the abdomen becomes bloated without any specific reason mainly intestinal gas it could be because of Alvarez Syndrome.

It is because the contents of the abdomen are pushed forward by the contraction of the muscles in the superior abdominal wall.

Bowel Gas :

Gas is formed in the body by Aerophagia or by infections by bacteria. These infections in the intestines most particularly the colon causes bowel gas.

There are three ways to remove bowel gas.

Belching :

When the stomach swells belching occurs to remove the gas from the stomach. Belching is the release of gas by mouth to alleviate the pain due to bloating.

Burping :

This is also another way of releasing gas through the mouth to reduce abdominal discomfort apart from the release of gas through the mouth.

Flatulence :

Burping through the anus is called flatulence. Bacteria in the intestinal tract causes gas to be released through the anus.

Hiatal Hernia :

Any body part pushed to an area which it does not belong is called hernia. The stomach bulging to the chest by the hernia of the diaphragm also causes bloating.

The diaphragm opening or the hiatus is the muscular valve separating the chest cavity and the abdomen. The food pipe or the esophagus goes through the hiatus and attaches to the stomach.

There are two types of a Hiatal hernia. They are the sliding and paraesophageal hiatus hernias. The sliding is more common and paraesophageal is a rare occurrence and cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

GERD causes heartburn and mostly confused with a heart attack and hence GERD gains importance and bloating because of GERD should be taken seriously.


SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth due to the presence of various bacteria causes bloating. Some of the bacteria which apart from causing bloating could lead to life-threatening complications.

Intestinal obstruction :

Intestinal obstruction is caused by small or large intestines. The large intestine could be 25 feet long in humans and any obstruction of food particles and wastes in this long journey could cause severe bloating.

If the blockage in any part of the intestine is severe enough to obstruct food, acid, fluids among others to create enough pressure for a rupture in the intestine. These harmful substances including bacteria could leak to the abdominal cavity and could cause life-threatening complications.

Fatty Liver :

Hepatic Steatosis or fatty liver is due to the excess fat in the liver. The liver is the second largest part of the body which is essential for various functions. When the fat level is increased from the normal level it causes a lot of diseases.

An average of 20 to 30 percent of Americans suffers from the Fatty liver.

Fatty liver is of two types.


This type is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. If untreated they could lead to liver failure or liver cancer which are both fatal.

Alcoholic fatty liver :

Here the prime culprit is alcohol. If alcohol consumption is stopped this could be cured easily or else could cause liver cirrhosis and death.

Serious causes of bloating:

Apart from the common and medical causes which could be treated over time, there are some serious causes of bloating. These could be the result of no proper diagnoses or treatment of an underlying disease for a long period of time.

Serious causes are to be taken care asap and treatment or surgery performed immediately to save a life. Some serious causes are as follows :

Ovarian Cancer :

Bloating due to PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) or IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) when persists could be due to ovarian cancer. Nearly 15000 American women died due to this cancer in 2017.

Stomach cancer :

The death rate from stomach cancer or gastric cancer is around 75000 every year around the world. From heartburn to burping all the symptoms of bloating when persist could cause stomach cancer.

Megacolon :

The enlargement of the colon or the larger intestine from the normal size leads to sepsis and death.

Abnormal bloating could be an easy way to identify the megacolon and surgery to remove it could be an option to prevent death.


Symptoms of bloating could depend on any wrong food eaten, indigestion or an underlying ailment.

Common symptoms of bloating :

  • Hiccups
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Brain fog or loss of concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Irregular periods
  • Trouble in bathroom
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy throats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach cramps
  • Heartburn

If the bloating is of a serious ailment it could have the persistence of the above common symptoms along with the following ones.

Symptoms of bloating which needs to consult a doctor :

  • High fevers over a period of time
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Pain in the groin, lymph nodes, throat, and armpits
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Unexplained and unintentional weight loss
  • Tumors

Treatments for Bloating:

Treatment for bloating depends on the cause of bloating. The treatment could also depend on the severity of an underlying ailment. Simple daily lifestyle changes could reduce, prevent, control, and stop bloating along with it several diseases.

Medications for bloating :

Several OTC over the counter medicines is available across the world for bloating.

OTC Medicines:

  • Antacids
  • Antiflatulents
  • Laxatives
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Rifaximin
  • Placebo
  • Prokinetics for controlling fluid retention like erythromycin, cisapride, and many others

Foods to be eaten for bloating treatment :

  • Probiotic foods
  • Fruits and vegetables which are rich in water content
  • Herbs, spices, and tea
  • Raw diary
  • Simple and foods which are easy to digest.

Foods to avoid for bloating treatment :

Food awareness is the basis for preventing and curing diseases including bloating. Over the period of time, what food is causing bloating could be identified and avoided completely.

Also, foods which are not suitable for an underlying ailment which is the cause of bloating should be avoided totally.

For example of the Celiac disease where the gluten is the culprit all gluten-rich foods like wheat, barley and others should be avoided.

FODMAP foods should be avoided. FODMAP is the shortened form of foods which are fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. This is because FODMAP foods are made of small molecules that could ferment fast and active osmotically which could cause abdominal distention.

Common foods to be avoided for bloating treatment:

  • Sugar
  • Sweetened foods mainly snacks and drinks
  • Processed dairy products
  • Gas-forming foods
  • Refined products including grains
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Artificial flavors and sweeteners contained foods
  • Alcohol

Lifestyle changes for bloating treatment :

Lifestyle changes are the lifeline for today’s healthy living. It is not only confined to bloating or its underlying ailment but also for better living.

Time and awareness are the basic factors of lifestyle changes.

Basic lifestyle changes for bloating treatment:

  • Taking time to eat by chewing the food well
  • Exercising a minimum of 5 days in a week
  • Eating healthy and nutritive food
  • Stress-free peaceful life
  • Drinking adequate water
  • Avoiding chewing gum, smoking and alcohol
  • Resisting the temptation to eat sugar and other harmful food
  • Sound sleep

Final options for bloating treatment:

In some severe cases of the underlying ailment surgery is the only option. For example, Megacolon where the colon or the larger intestine has to be removed by surgery.

Also, tumors which are causes of cancers should be operated and removed to save a life.

Bloating and distention of the abdomen are the symptoms and sign of a disease acquired or to be acquired. Hence not taking the bloating easily or an excuse to belly fat will help in leading a happy and successful life.

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