Stomach bloating: Feeling bloated could signal this underlying condition

STOMACH bloating typically describes that puffy, stretching sensation in the tummy that follows a blowout meal, and is often the result of too much gas filling up a person’s gastrointestinal tract. While cutting out gassy foods known to cause wind usually alleviates the symptoms, sometimes the bloating may persist.

In addition to gas, bloating can be caused by underlying health issues, which may call for a different treatment approach.

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  • Stomach bloating: Tummy swelling may signify this underlying condition

One underlying condition that can trigger tummy swelling is Giardiasis, a tummy bug that causes symptoms like diarrhoea, farting and bloating, according to the NHS.

It usually goes away in about a week if it’s treated, but can sometimes last much longer.

There are lots of ways you can catch giardiasis, such as:

  • Drinking water that has not been treated to kill germs (usually while travelling in developing countries)
  • Water getting in your mouth while swimming in places like lakes, rivers or swimming pools
  • Eating food that’s been washed in untreated water or handled by someone with the infection
  • Touching surfaces that have been touched by an infected person
  • Having sex – especially unprotected anal sex

You can also have it and be able to spread it to others without having any symptoms, according to the NHS.

It is important to contact your GP if you have you have had diarrhoea for more than a week or you have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom, warns the NHS.

It’s best to call rather than visit a GP surgery as you might have an infection that can spread easily to others, notes the health site, and you should also tell the GP if you have recently travelled abroad.

According to Harvard Health, bloating can also signify the following underlying conditions:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterised by a combination of symptoms (bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, 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 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.

Sometimes bloating is the result of the body struggling to digest sugars in certain foods, and the key culprits are in a food group known as FODMAPS, says Harvard Health.

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Examples include wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), honey, pistachios, cashews, asparagus, and artichokes. Foods or drinks with fructose or artificial sweeteners are also on the FODMAP list.

“We all have an increased amount of gas in the body after eating them, but some of us react to them more severely than others,” says Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

As Harvard health notes, milk and dairy foods are also considered FODMAPs as they contain a type of sugar called lactose, which is hard to digest if you don’t have enough of the enzyme that breaks it down (lactase), and the result is gastrointestinal distress that includes bloating.

If your bloating is being triggered by a food intolerance, the NHS recommends eating less of the problem food or cutting it out completely.

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  • Stomach bloating: How to know when it’s more serious

The health body also recommends keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting everything that you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most, but do not get rid of food groups long-term without advice from your GP.

In addition to shunning certain foods, eating certain foods may help to beat the bloat, for example increasing fibre intake can help to ease bloating triggered by constipation.

Eating potassium-rich foods can also ease bloating caused by consuming too much salt.

As Dr Oz explains, salt is hidden in most processed foods and restaurant items, and sodium attracts and retains water in the body, causing bloating.

He said: “Potassium on the other hand, can help counter sodium’s role. Maintaining your overall potassium-sodium level is important for water balance.

“If your bloat is a result of yesterday’s salty dinner, try adding sliced banana to your morning oatmeal for some balance.”

Evidence suggests eating papaya may also help to beat the bloat, according to Dr Oz: “A 2009 study showed that raw papaya contains a white, milky substance called papain and when ripe, the fruit is moderately laxative and helps in the movement of the bowels.”

The NHS also recommends trying to reduce your air intake to reduce tummy swelling, and ways to do this include not talking and eating at the same time, sitting down to eat (sitting upright and not slumped over), reducing the amount of fizzy drinks you consume, stop chewing gum and chewing with your mouth closed so that you’re not taking in excess air.

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