What Causes Bloating and How Can I Prevent It?

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We’ve all had it, but what causes it? There are several scenarios that can lead to bloating – medically defined as abdominal distention – but more informally referring to our stomach feeling swollen and puffy. Because bloating can be caused by so many different things, the exact cause can be difficult to identify.

Related to another condition

First, we know that bloating can be a result of another condition. According to Harvard Health Publishing, any of these disorders can cause bloating:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterized by a combination of symptoms (bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation) that last for three or more months.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, an inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the small intestine. It's triggered by a protein called gluten that's found in wheat, barley, and rye.
  • Constipation, a condition defined by fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard or dry stools, the need to strain to move the bowels, and a sense of an incomplete evacuation.
  • Gastroparesis, a sluggish emptying of food from the stomach into the small intestine.
  • Cancer. Colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancer are among the cancers that can have bloating as a symptom.

Other causes and prevention

The body can experience difficulty digesting sugars in certain foods, often known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). This group includes wheat, onions, beans, dairy products and fructose.

These FODMAP carbohydrates are poorly digested in the small intestine and are fermented by bacteria in the colon, ultimately producing gas. To get to the source of your bloating, consider cutting out FODMAP foods and reintroduce them into your diet slowly so you can pinpoint the troublemakers.

Ultimately, in order to beat the bloat, it’s important to know the cause. If the issue is related to mild constipation, try a fiber-rich diet coupled with water and exercise. For more chronic symptoms, related or not to the conditions mentioned above, be sure to schedule an appointment and talk to your doctor.

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