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Abdominal bloating

Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the belly (abdomen) feels full and tight. Your belly may look swollen (distended).

Alternative Names

Bloating; Meteorism

Causes

Common causes include:

The oral diabetes medicine, acarbose, and medicines or foods containing lactulose or sorbitol, may cause bloating.

More serious disorders that may cause bloating are:

Home Care

You may take the following steps:

  • Avoid chewing gum or carbonated drinks. Stay away from foods with high levels of fructose or sorbitol
  • Avoid foods that can produce gas, such as Brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, beans, and lentils.
  • Do not eat too quickly.
  • Stop smoking.

Get treatment for constipation if you have it. However, fiber supplements such as psyllium or 100% bran can make your symptoms worse.

You may try simethicone and other medicines you buy at the drugstore to help with gas. Charcoal caps can also help.

Watch for foods that trigger your bloating so you can start to avoid those foods. These may include:

  • Milk and other dairy products that contain lactose
  • Certain carbohydrates that contain fructose, known as FODMAPs

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stools or dark, tarry looking stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn that is getting worse
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

References

PR Gibson, SJ Shepherd. Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Feb;25(2):252-8.

Bailey J. FPIN's Clinical Inquiries: Effective management of flatulence. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79:1098-1100.

Ohge H, Levitt MD. Intestinal gas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 16.

Updated: 5/15/2014

Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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