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Bloated stomach? Know causes, symptoms and strategies to alleviate discomfort

Understanding the complexities of bloated stomachs empowers individuals to adopt proactive measures for symptom management and digestive health promotion. By incorporating holistic approaches and seeking professional guidance when necessary, individuals can alleviate discomfort.

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Published on: February 19, 2024 17:14 IST
Image Source : FREEPIK Bloated Stomach: Know causes, symptoms and more

In addition to being uncomfortable, a bloated stomach can negatively affect a person's everyday activities and general well-being. It's a prevalent condition that frequently feels tight, full, and occasionally painful. Periodic or severe bloating may point to an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed, while occasional bloating might be attributable to specific dietary errors or lifestyle choices. In this comprehensive guide, Dr. Sangeeta Tiwari, Clinical Nutritionist at Artemis Lite, NFC, New Delhi delves into the intricacies of bloated stomachs, exploring the causes, symptoms, and practical strategies to alleviate discomfort and promote digestive health.

Bloated stomachs can stem from a myriad of factors, ranging from dietary choices to medical conditions. Some common causes include:

  1. Poor Dietary Habits: Consuming large meals or foods rich in fat, fiber, or artificial sweeteners can exacerbate bloating by delaying digestion and causing gas buildup. Eating hastily, chewing gum, or consuming carbonated drinks introduces excess air into the digestive tract, further contributing to abdominal discomfort and distention. These habits disrupt the delicate balance of the gastrointestinal system, leading to bloating symptoms. Opting for smaller, well-balanced meals, mindful eating practices, and choosing beverages without carbonation can help alleviate bloating and promote digestive health.
  2. Food Intolerances: Individuals with lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, or other food intolerances may suffer bloating due to their body's inability to properly digest certain substances. Consuming trigger foods such as dairy products for those with lactose intolerance or gluten-containing grains for those with gluten sensitivity can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, including bloating. Identifying and avoiding these trigger foods is crucial for managing bloating in individuals with food intolerances, promoting digestive comfort and overall well-being.
  3. Digestive Disorders: Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can disturb digestive function, leading to bloating. In IBS, abdominal pain and altered bowel habits accompany bloating. In IBD, inflammation in the digestive tract causes bloating along with diarrhea or constipation. GERD, characterized by acid reflux, can also contribute to bloating and discomfort.
  4. Fluid Retention: Hormonal fluctuations, like those experienced during menstruation or pregnancy, can lead to fluid retention and bloating. Excessive sodium intake can disrupt the body's fluid balance, causing bloating. Additionally, certain medications, such as corticosteroids or hormone-based contraceptives, may contribute to fluid retention and bloating as a side effect. Managing sodium intake and consulting healthcare professionals can help mitigate bloating associated with these factors.
  5. Stress: Psychological stress triggers the release of stress hormones, which can disrupt the gut-brain axis and lead to bloating. Stress alters gut motility and increases sensitivity to gastrointestinal discomfort. This can exacerbate bloating symptoms, as the gut and brain communicate bi-directionally. Practicing stress-management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing can help alleviate bloating by calming the nervous system and reducing stress-induced gut disturbances.

Symptoms of bloating vary from person to person and may include:

  1. Abdominal Distention: The abdomen appears visibly swollen or enlarged.
  2. Gas and Flatulence: Excessive gas production can cause belching or flatulence, contributing to bloating.
  3. Discomfort or Pain: Bloating may be accompanied by discomfort, cramping, or sharp pains in the abdominal region.
  4. Changes in Bowel Habits: Some individuals may experience alterations in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, along with bloating.

Nutritionists advocate for holistic approaches to managing bloated stomachs, emphasizing the following strategies:

  1. Mindful Eating: Adopting mindful eating practices, such as chewing food thoroughly, eating slowly, and paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, can aid digestion and reduce bloating.
  2. Balanced Diet: Prioritize a balanced diet rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats while minimizing processed foods, sugary snacks, and carbonated beverages.
  3. Hydration: Adequate hydration is essential for optimal digestion. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, while limiting intake of sugary or caffeinated beverages that may exacerbate bloating.
  4. Identify Trigger Foods: Keep a food diary to identify potential trigger foods that exacerbate bloating symptoms. Common culprits include dairy products, gluten-containing grains, cruciferous vegetables, and legumes.
  5. Manage Stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mindfulness to alleviate gastrointestinal distress associated with stress.
  6. Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes: Consider incorporating probiotic-rich foods or supplements and digestive enzymes to support gut health and promote digestion.
  7. Seek Professional Guidance: If bloating persists or is accompanied by severe symptoms, consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised assessment and management. While occasional bloating is often benign, persistent or severe bloating may warrant medical evaluation, especially if accompanied by alarming symptoms such as unintentional weight loss, blood in stool, persistent abdominal Pain, changes in bowel habits, and fatigue or weakness.

(with IANS Inputs)

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