Guide to Treating a Bloated Stomach

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What You Need to Know

  1. The most obvious symptom associated with bloating is simply a stretched or 'full' feeling around the abdomen, while hiccups, burping and cramp are also common.
  2. Learning what’s causing a bloated stomach is generally the best way of addressing the problem.
  3. Common causes of bloating include eating too much or eating the wrong types of food and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  4. Coeliac Disease may also be the cause of a bloated stomach. This condition can go undiagnosed for years, so it’s worth seeking expert advice if you suspect you may be a sufferer.
  5. Making changes to your diet, such as cutting down on beans, legumes, caffeine and alcohol can be an effective way of treating bloating.
  6. Taking a stroll after a meal can be a good way of encouraging activity in your bowels and so breaking up the gases that can lead to bloating.
  7. Abnormal abdominal reflexes may be the reason behind severe bloating. If you are diagnosed with this, a good diet and regular exercise are essential.

Symptoms of a Bloated Stomach

As its name suggests, the most obvious symptom associated with bloating is simply a stretched or 'full' feeling around the abdomen. In most cases, this will be largely uncomfortable, though in rare instances, you may feel short, sharp pains, including pains that don't appear to be coming from your stomach.

Other sure signs of a bloated stomach include hiccups and burping, while you may even feel short of breath, though this is relatively rare.

Some Common Causes of Bloating

Learning what’s causing a bloated stomach is generally the best way of addressing this health problem, though if symptoms persist, it’s best to seek the advice of a doctor rather than trying to diagnose yourself using the internet or a textbook. Some of the most common causes of a bloated stomach are:

  • Overeating: Quite simply, the feeling of being bloated could be down to eating too much, especially if you’ve overindulged in sweet, oily or fatty foods.
  • Food intolerance: If you’re lactose or fructose intolerant, consuming dairy products or fruits can lead to bloating.
  • Diet: Even if you don’t suffer from allergies, some foods can still lead to bloating. Beans and legumes, for instance, can cause excess gas to build up, while high-fibre foods and processed oils can also be triggers.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A chronic feeling of bloating and abdominal pain are common among sufferers of IBS, with the condition often becoming apparent in later life or after a period of severe stress.
  • Coeliac Disease: Coeliac Disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine, can cause stomach bloating, as well as excess gas and mouth ulcers. Many cases of Coeliac Disease go undetected for years, with sufferers often attributing symptoms to IBS or a poor diet.
  • Stress: A period of stress, or even a single stressful event, can cause stomach bloating, with IBS sufferers particularly susceptible.
  • Chewing Gum: Something as simple as chewing gum can be the source of the problem, with sugar-free versions particularly troublesome as they may lead to increased fermentation in the gut.

Simple Treatments

  • Changes to Your Diet: Cutting down on beans and legumes or avoiding foods you have an allergy or intolerance to may be the easiest way of treating stomach bloating. If the problem persists, seek the advice of a dietician as new allergies can emerge in later life. At the same time, you should also ensure that your diet is high in fibre, with natural sources of this being certain fruits and vegetables and wheat or oat bran.
  • Keeping on Top of IBS: If you have been diagnosed with IBS, it’s likely that your doctor has told you what you need to do to keep symptoms at bay. Nevertheless, you should avoid red meat, oil, fatty and fried foods and keep your alcohol and caffeine consumption down if you want to avoid feeling bloated.
  • Antacids: Antacids, which are easily available in pharmacists and supermarkets work by increasing pH levels in the stomach, thereby reducing acidity levels. This in turn makes it easier for you to dispel the gas that builds up in your stomach, easing the feeling of being bloated. Activated charcoal tablets – available from a pharmacist – are also used to prevent the onset of bloating.
  • Mild Exercise:Taking a stroll after a meal can be an effective way of encouraging activity in your bowels and so breaking up the gases that can lead to bloating.

Other Possible Solutions

Some of the severest cases of stomach bloating are caused by what’s known as abnormal abdominal reflexes. This is when the abdominal muscles stretch and relax more than is usual, causing sharp pains and the waist to expand by several inches in the space of a few minutes. If your doctor diagnoses this, abdominal exercises can ease the problem, while yoga to relax the body or even wearing a special bloating belt may also prove effective.

Even if you don’t suffer from abnormal abdominal reflexes, it’s a good idea to keep your stress levels down and to stay fit and healthy. Again, stress is a common trigger of bloating, so exercise and relaxation techniques such as yoga and Pilates can be an effective and enjoyable way of treating the problem. And dieticians generally advise that you try out different non-chemical solutions before you turn to over-the-counter medication.

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