For most of us, the holidays are our favorite times to binge on foods and drinks. What follows are numerous cases of abdominal discomfort such as bloating. Why? In this article, we look at just that. What bloating is its symptoms and how to deal with it during the holiday season.
What is Abdominal bloating?
This condition occurs when there is too much gas in the belly making it feel full and tight even when not much has been eaten. In most cases, the abdomen looks swollen almost like a balloon sometimes forcing the person to loosen clothes. In other cases, the person just feels uncomfortable but the belly does not swell.
According to the UNC Centre for functional GI & motility disorders, this condition affects 10-30% of Americans yearly. It is most common reported among expectant mothers and patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders.
Although not a life-threatening condition, the uncomfortable effect of abdominal bloating interferes with people’s ability to work, socialize and relax. It is a leading cause of sick leaves in the United States of America.
How does it happen?
There are several things that contribute to bloating. The most common factor being, physical changes in the lining of the inner and outer tubes of the belly. The outer tube is the wall of the abdomen that protects the inner tube which houses the intestines. Any changes in the inner tube perhaps increase in food deposits, gas or excrete will increase volume and pressure in the abdomen causing the inner tube to swell –so will the outer tube.
What causes abdominal bloating?
According to the UNC Centre for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, the causes of bloating range from simple things such as swallowing too much air, overeating, weight gain, constipation to more serious cases such as lactose intolerance –causing slow digestion of food. Visceral hypersensitivity is a common cause of bloating. This happens when it causes volume changes in the abdomen or the GI tract.
Also eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia ay cause bloating as a result of gut regulatory signals to the brain that there is a problem with normal bowel movement.
Among pregnant women bloating is common because of the high-level of progesterone produced due to the pregnancy. While this is for protection of the uterus for the embryo, it causes the gastrointestinal tract to relax its muscles. This leads to decreased bowel movement which leads to a bloating sensation.
In more serious cases, bloating can be as a result of kidney failure or congestive heart failure –conditions that cause accumulation of body fluids in the abdomen or the legs-leading to changes in the abdominal pressure and volume.
There have been cases of people with irritable bowel syndrome, Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and people with bowel bacteria growth-complaining of a bloated feeling. Bloating can also be a symptom of grave conditions such as tumors, Ascites, Celiac disease, ovarian cancer, Dumping syndrome or problems with the pancreas (Causing it not to produce enough digestive enzymes)
Medication for diabetes (oral), acarbose, and medication or foods that have sorbitol or lactulose may lead to bloating.
What are the symptoms of abdominal bloating?
Bloating has a variety of symptoms ranging from a swollen stomach to experiencing pain in the abdomen. The U.S library of medicine- blog MedlinePlus has quite a number of the most common symptoms of bloating outlined below;
1. Fullness and tight sensation in the abdomen,
2. Some people experience physical swelling of the abdomen with periodical flatulence.
3. There may be recurrent burping and in most cases, and audible abdominal rumbles.
Symptoms of abdominal bloating
1. Some people experience pain in the abdomen.
2. There may be blood in the stool or sometimes stool has a dark almost black color.
3. May experience diarrhea and vomiting during bloating
4. Severe heartburns are common Vomiting
5. Excessive weight loss
How to relieve abdominal bloating?
1. Avoid taking large amounts of carbonated drinks, instead take lots of water.
2. Do not chew gum especially when hungry.
3. Avoid foods contain a lot of sorbitol, fructose and lactose such as dairy products. Should also stay away from foods that produce gas such as beans, lentils, cabbage, kales, turnips and Brussel sprouts.
4. Eat slowly –Eating too quickly slows down digestion increasing volume and pressure in belly too quickly.
5. Do not smoke
6. If you experience gastrointestinal discomforts such as irritable bowel movements and constipation, get medication for them.
7. Also avoid fiber supplements such as psyllium, they increase bloating.
8. Medication such as simethicone and charcoal caps help to reduce the gas in the belly.
Although bloating in itself not a life-threatening condition, it can be a symptom of a much bigger problem such as ovarian cancer, kidney failure or even heart disease. In the treatment of bloating, several diagnoses are recommended from avoiding foods and drinks that cause gas and congestion in the belly, to the treatment of conditions such as constipation. If you experience any of the above named symptoms please visit your nearest health provider for diagnosis and help to ease the discomfort.