Common Causes of Abdominal Bloating

Bloating is an uncomfortable feeling that many of us will experience at some point in our lives. It affects us all differently, and you’ve probably felt it after an indulgent weekend or a full meal. Bloating can make you feel like your stomach is swollen, distended or puffy.

Struggling with stomach pain or a bloated tummy is never fun, and it can be unpleasant and inconvenient, especially when we’re trying to relax with our friends. Everyone’s body reacts to food and gas differently, so some people can find themselves experiencing bloating with more regularity than others. However, this does not mean that bloating is unavoidable. 

But what causes bloating? Take a look at some of the reasons we get stomach bloating and learn how you can try to mitigate this uncomfortable experience.

EXCESS WIND

One of the most common – and, unfortunately, more embarrassing – causes of a bloated stomach can be trapped wind or gas. Thankfully, it usually passes after a short time.

The biggest culprits for causing gas are high-fibre foods like beans, onions and broccoli, especially if you’ve made recent changes to your diet to include more fibrous food. Dairy can also result in increased gas. You can help to treat trapped wind by eating regularly and slowly, avoiding gassy foods and relaxing more at mealtimes.

CONSTIPATION

Constipation can be another cause of bloating. It may occur if you’re not eating enough fibre, drinking enough fluids, or getting enough exercise. 

Luckily, all three of these causes are relatively simple to counteract. You should start by making sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking six to eight glasses of water (or other fluids) a day. You can also start moving more – even if it’s just taking a quick walk around the block. There’s also yoga positions you can try which may aid digestion and help you relax at the end of a long day!

While too much fibre can cause excess wind, it’s thought to be good for gut health by increasing stool size and making them easier to pass. Without enough fibre, you’re more likely to struggle with constipation.  That means if you’re dealing with abdominal bloating, it’s best to find a good balance. The NHS suggests that adults should have a 30g intake of fibre every day.

A glass of a fizzy soda drink

SWALLOWING AIR

Another leading cause of bloat is swallowing air. Everyone swallows air from time to time and usually, most of this excess air is removed from the body through burping and flatulence. If you’ve swallowed a lot of air, however, it can cause uncomfortable bloating.

If you suspect you’re swallowing air, there are several changes you can make to keep it to a minimum. When you’re eating, try eating slowly and chew with your mouth closed. Other causes include drinking from a straw, fizzy beverages, vigorous exercise or chewing gum.

INDIGESTION

Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of indigestion, as well as pain or discomfort after eating. It’s very common for most people in any stage of life, and you’re very likely to get it during pregnancy*.

The bloating, nausea and stomach pain that comes with indigestion is often linked to eating heavy meals or fatty foods, drinking alcohol, smoking or even just stress! Thankfully, if your bloating is caused by indigestion the symptoms are fairly easy to treat through lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medicines like Rennie Heartburn, Indigestion and Wind Relief.

STRESS

We all feel stressed from time to time, but can often overlook the physical effects that stress has on our bodies. Bloating is just one of several stress-related causes of stomach pain, which can strike whenever you’re feeling frazzled.

While you can begin to help treat stress-related bloat with over-the-counter medicines like Rennie, you can’t always get away from the things that are making us feel stressed. There are lots of ways you can combat feelings of stress, including regular exercise, planning ahead through stressful situations, breathing exercises and of course – talking to friends and loved ones!

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

With some reports suggesting that it can affect up to 75% of the population worldwide, lactose intolerance is a leading cause of bloating and other kinds of digestive distress.

Aside from bloating, other symptoms of lactose intolerance include gassiness, diarrhoea, nausea and stomach pain. If you’re experiencing bloating alongside any of these other symptoms after consuming dairy products like milk, cheese or ice cream then you may be lactose intolerant.

If you’re concerned that you may be lactose intolerant, you should visit your doctor for more advice.

OTHER FOOD INTOLERANCES

While not as serious as food allergies, those suffering from food intolerances can find themselves dealing with some unpleasant symptoms, especially when it comes to digestion. Bloating is a very common side effect of some food intolerances.

If you’re suffering from bloating after eating, there may be a particular food causing it, but it can take a bit of trial and error to identify which food it is. A good way to find the culprit responsible for your bloat is to isolate certain foods and try to eliminate them from your diet for a week. Alternatively, you can make a food diary and make a note of how you feel after each thing you eat. You should always consult your doctor if you’re concerned you may have a food intolerance before you restrict your diet.

Gluten and dairy are among the most common food intolerances, so try to monitor those first. Once you know what’s causing your bloat it should be easier to reduce it.

A woman clutches her stomach in pain

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition that causes discomfort in the stomach and digestive system and its symptoms include bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. While these symptoms usually tend to come and go, they can last for days, weeks, or even months at a time and can continue to be a lifelong problem.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS, nor a concrete understanding of what causes it. However, with lifestyle changes and certain medicines, it can become more manageable, if a little inconvenient. If you suspect you may be suffering from IBS, talk to your GP.

COELIAC DISEASE

Similarly to the way food intolerances and allergies can cause bloating, so can coeliac disease. It affects approximately 1 in every 100 people and is an immune disorder that affects the gut, especially the small intestine, triggered by gluten intake. When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, it triggers their body’s immune system to attack their own tissues.

Other symptoms of coeliac disease are gas/flatulence, stomach pain, diarrhoea, constipation and indigestion, as well as general weight loss and fatigue. 

If you suspect that your bloating is a symptom of coeliac disease or another chronic condition, you should speak to your doctor. While Rennie can begin to help relieve your symptoms, it cannot treat the cause of your bloating if it’s triggered by a chronic or long-term condition. 

MENSTRUAL CYCLE 

Many people experience bloating before their period starts. This common symptom of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) can start in the week or weeks before your period, and typically goes away a few days after it has started. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely stop bloating when it’s a symptom of PMS, but you can try to manage your symptoms. Avoiding trigger foods, eating healthily and avoiding alcohol and smoking may help to lessen the discomfort of bloating.

PREGNANCY

Feeling bloated can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, triggered by your body producing the pregnancy hormone progesterone, which slows down digestion.

It’s normal to feel bloated for the duration of pregnancy, but you can combat pregnancy bloating and digestive problems with eating changes, lifestyle changes and medicines like Rennie.*

WATER RETENTION

If your body’s hydration level isn’t balanced, it can hang onto excess water, causing bloating and swelling. There’s a number of things that can cause water retention, including diet, hormones, certain medications, sitting or standing for too long and even flying on a plane!

You can begin to combat water retention by eating a low-sodium diet or eating more protein. You can also keep your feet and legs elevated and wear compression socks when travelling by plane.  

FODMAPs

Otherwise known as “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”, FODMAPs are short-chained carbohydrates which are notorious for triggering digestive problems because they are more resistant to digestion than other carbohydrates. 

FODMAPs affect everyone differently, but if you’re more sensitive to them they can cause bloating, excess gas, stomach ache and diarrhoea. Common FODMAPs include fructose, a sugar found in many kinds of fruits and vegetables, and lactose, which is found in dairy.

If you think you might be sensitive to FODMAPs, you can begin cutting them out of your diet to see if it improves your symptoms. You should also talk to your doctor or look for a dietitian for help and guidance.

DEALING WITH BLOATING

There’s lots of tips and tricks you can try to deal with bloating, from changing your eating habits to taking a hot bath! 

If you’re looking for a way to ease your symptoms in a pinch, you could also try some home remedies for bloating, like drinking peppermint or ginger tea.  

A bowl of baked beans

FOOD TO AVOID

Some people find that they can better avoid digestion troubles like bloating by making lifestyle changes. Avoiding certain foods may start to help tackle your symptoms. If you’re suffering from bloating, you could try cutting back on:

  • Spicy foods
  • Onions
  • Fatty foods
  • Salty foods
  • Wheat
  • Beans

If you think your bloating is triggered by certain foods, try keeping a food diary to track what you eat, and how you feel afterwards.

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

While bloating is something that can affect all of us, if it’s persisted for some time or is more intense than usual it may be a symptom of something more serious. If you have bloating alongside any of the following symptoms, or your bloating is particularly painful and prolonged, you should visit your GP:

  • Appetite loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Major changes to bowel movements
  • Bloody stools
  • Frequent vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Persistent heartburn or gas

You should also visit the doctor if OTC remedies or lifestyle changes aren’t helping to relieve your symptoms or if your symptoms are disrupting your day-to-day life.

If you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms or think you may have one of the conditions mentioned above that Rennie does not treat, you should seek medical attention:

  • Severe diarrhoea
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • A high fever

Rennie Heartburn, Indigestion and Wind Relief Chewable Tablets. Always read the label.
*Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy.

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