Causes of a bloated stomach
The bloated stomach is probably a symptom that everyone has suffered from a few times. The air in your stomach that just doesn't want to go out. In technical jargon, the bloated stomach is also called meteorism. There are many different causes for this. Most of the reasons are harmless and just annoying to those affected. The bloated stomach can, however, also be a warning sign of illnesses and if it occurs frequently, a medical consultation can be useful. In most cases, the bloated stomach can be combated with the classic home remedies. In some cases, medication can also be used.
Overview of possible causes of a bloated stomach
The list of possible causes for a bloated stomach is long.
- Excessive intake of air through the mouth, for example through a straw or other means of swallowing air, is possible.
- Gas formation in the gastrointestinal tract is also possible.
- Certain foods can make you feel bloated, and carbonated drinks can also promote these symptoms.
- Constipation or intestinal obstruction are also possible causes.
- Infectious diseases are also sometimes the cause of a bloated stomach.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also often leads to bloating.
- Various food intolerances can also lead to flatulence.
- In some cases, the bloated stomach is also caused by drug therapy.
Certain foods and drinks can lead to increased gas. Some foods are generally suspected of causing these symptoms, while other foods individually cause flatulence in some people.
- Especially foods with a lot of fiber, which are actually considered healthy, lead to a bloated stomach. When it comes to vegetable foods, cabbage, savoy cabbage and sauerkraut are particularly important causes of flatulence in the stomach. Frequently affected people should avoid these foods.
- Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are also common causes of gas.
- Whole grain bread and similar products also promote the development of flatulence.
- Another reason can be a low-carbohydrate diet
- Those affected often notice discomfort after drinking carbonated beverages.
- Fatty meats are also suspected of causing gas.
An extensive list of possible foods can be found on the internet. Keeping a food diary can help to identify the individual cause of the bloated stomach and thus adjust the diet. When testing certain foods, only one food should be left out, otherwise it is unclear what exactly caused the gas.
Celiac disease is a disease of the immune system in the intestinal lining. The intestinal lining reacts to proteins in grain with severe inflammation. These proteins are also called gluten. The intestinal villi recede and those affected are less able to absorb nutrients.
Those affected usually develop symptoms such as abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, anemia and fatty stools in childhood. The frequent diagnosis of gluten intolerance is only rarely true celiac disease, from which those affected will suffer for the rest of their lives. A tightly controlled diet plan can alleviate the symptoms.
You can also find more information at:
- Celiac disease
- Diet in Celiac Disease
- Gluten intolerance
Lactose is a sugar that is particularly found in dairy products. Due to their development, all infants usually tolerate lactose and can process this sugar. The norm variant is that this ability is later lost, since it is not natural for adult humans to consume dairy products. In Asia almost all adults are lactose intolerant and it is not a disease. However, due to the climate in Europe, the consumption of dairy products as a diet has been shown to be beneficial over the centuries and most Europeans can therefore break down lactose even in adulthood.
Therefore we consider lactose intolerance to be a disease. Since the lactose cannot be used, the dairy products collect in the intestines and lead to flatulence and diarrhea. Avoiding foods containing lactose can lead to complete freedom from symptoms.
Read our article on this topic: Lactose intolerance
Normal household sugar is made up of glucose and fructose, so that almost all sweetened foods contain fructose. In the mild form of fructose intolerance, the sugar cannot be used at all and those affected develop gas and stomach cramps. Dextrose can be used as a substitute, since it only consists of glucose. In the severe form of fructose intolerance, serious illnesses and intellectual disabilities often occur in toddlerhood, as the fructose is absorbed and used, but the intermediate products can accumulate in the body when they are broken down.
For more information on this topic, read our article: Fructose intolerance
These drugs make you feel bloated
Various drugs have gas as a side effect.
- One group of drugs that cause flatulence are the oral antidiabetic drugs. These are drugs that are supposed to lower the sugar content in the blood in different ways in diabetes mellitus. Since it is often not possible to completely do without these active ingredients, different types can be tried out in order to set up an individual therapy and to avoid flatulence and other side effects as far as possible.
- Another group are the opioids. These are strong painkillers that are used in operations and tumor pain. As a side effect, these paralyze the intestinal muscles and thus prevent the trouble-free passage of food pulp. The gruel builds up and those affected develop gas.
- Certain dietary supplements, such as iron tablets, also have an impact on digestion and can cause flatulence.
- Antibiotics also often cause flatulence, as they not only kill the harmful bacteria, but also always affect the good intestinal bacteria. Antibiotic therapy should therefore be carefully weighed and not applied to every small effect.
Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract as the cause
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. The intestinal mucosa is almost permanently inflamed and leads to severe abdominal pain. Digestion is also restricted, which is why food components build up in the intestine and lead to flatulence and diarrhea. The diseases usually appear for the first time in young adulthood. A cure is only possible in ulcerative colitis by removing the posterior sections of the intestine. Some medications can alleviate the symptoms. Those affected also have to adhere to a strict diet.
You can also find more information in our articles:
- Diet in Crohn's disease
- Causes of Crohn's Disease
- Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
- Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
- Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
Diverticulosis is initially symptom-free, small protrusions on the intestinal wall in the area of the sigmoid, the last part of the large intestine in front of the rectum. These protuberances provide a habitat for gas-producing bacteria. The protuberances can also become inflamed and cause severe abdominal cramps.
Diverticulitis usually arises from diverticulosis and is also called "appendicitis of the elderly", as the symptoms are very similar and only have their main area on the left side of the lower abdomen. It is an acute disease that requires treatment, as a breakthrough of a diverticulum is life-threatening.
Obesity can have many consequences for the body. Rapid weight gain in a short period of time, in particular, leads to some adjustment difficulties. An increase in the volume in the abdomen can also lead to flatulence. This increase can occur both in the organs, in the form of blockages, and through an increase in belly fat. The latter is the cause of increased flatulence in people who are overweight.
Furthermore, in the case of massive obesity, digestion is restricted and body systems lose their natural balance. Restricted movement in the abdominal organs can cause food pulp to accumulate and the formation of gas in the abdomen is increased. In this case, the flatulence is a warning sign from the body that the weight is overwhelming.
Here, together with the attending physician, a nutrition plan should be drawn up, which should also aim to reduce weight. In addition, exercise can alleviate the symptoms. Regular exercise in the form of sport or walks should therefore be part of the lifestyle change.
Lack of pancreatic enzymes
The pancreas produces enzymes that break up food components into smaller pieces and thus enable these components to be absorbed. If these enzymes are deficient, the food can no longer be absorbed by the intestine and the food pulp is in the intestine in larger quantities and in a different composition. This leads to gas and stomach cramps, as well as deficiency symptoms. Such a deficiency occurs, for example, after tumor removal from the pancreas or a pancreatic insufficiency, since healthy tissue must always be removed.
Also read: These are the signs of pancreatic insufficiency
The intestinal mucosa is a tissue that regenerates itself again and again. These new cell formations can lead to defective growth and thus restrict the passage of food pulp. The intestine can also grow together with the surrounding tissue and thus lose mobility. Both of these lead to indigestion and thus to flatulence and diarrhea. Adhesions can be surgically resolved in the event of recurring complaints. Exercise-promoting medication can also help those affected.
After an operation
During operations in the abdominal cavity, the scarring can later lead to adhesions. These can be an obstacle to the food pulp and lead to a bloated stomach. A restricted function of the intestinal muscles can also be a possible cause after an operation.
During operations in other parts of the body, the use of opioids can also lead to intestinal problems, as these anesthetics inhibit the intestinal muscles. However, this drug-induced flatulence should subside on its own after a few hours to days.
Intestinal obstruction (ileus)
The intestinal obstruction is an acute emergency requiring treatment in which the transport of food through the intestine comes to a complete standstill. An intestinal obstruction can arise mechanically through adhesions, tumors or blockages, as well as through paralysis of the intestine. The food pulp gets stuck in the intestine and the still functional upstream intestinal areas try desperately to move this pulp. Those affected have severe abdominal cramps and flatulence up to vomiting.
More information on the subject Intestinal obstruction can be found at:
- Symptoms of an intestinal obstruction
- Signs of a bowel obstruction
- How to recognize an intestinal obstruction
- Causes of an intestinal obstruction
Psyche and stress as the cause of a bloated stomach
Stress is a natural reaction of the body to a challenging situation. Stress hormones can downregulate digestion, as this is not so important in an acute dangerous situation. Since today's stressful situations are more like tests or similar situations and no longer situations from which we can escape, stress hormones can accumulate in the body and are not directly broken down. In the event of acute stress, this quickly leads to indigestion and gas. As long as this stress is only an acute situation and does not occur chronically, it is a natural reaction of the body and can be compensated for by exercise, for example.
The psyche has an enormous impact on wellbeing and physical health. If the stress persists, hormones are released which are supposed to prepare a flight or fight reaction. Since digestion plays a subordinate role in such a supposedly dangerous situation, it is inhibited. Mental illnesses can lead to a permanent increase in these stress hormones, so that those affected can develop digestive disorders and thus suffer from flatulence. Mental discomfort, especially in children, often manifests itself first as abdominal pain.
Liver dysfunction as the cause of a flat stomach
Liver as the cause
In the case of liver disease, in an advanced stage, blood can back up into the portal vein system. This means that the blood, which actually comes from the gastrointestinal area rich in nutrients, is backed up and the abdominal organs are disturbed by the overpressure. This can also lead to permanent bloating and gas. In technical jargon, this is called portal hypertension (portal high pressure).
Liver diseases include chronic hepatitis, liver cancer and also alcohol-induced liver damage. All these diseases have in common that they contribute to a remodeling of the liver, known as cirrhosis of the liver. This remodeling means that the blood can no longer flow through the liver and is backed up. In addition to the gastrointestinal tract, this backwater can also be seen in a spider web-like pattern on the abdominal skin, also known as the caput medusae, and in hemorrhoids. The backwater in the blood vessels of the esophagus (esophageal varices) is particularly feared, as bleeding here quickly becomes life-threatening. Liver cirrhosis is irreversible and therefore the side effects, such as flatulence, remain. Those affected can achieve relief of symptoms through a targeted diet and certain medications.
Read more about this under: Cirrhosis of the Liver, or How to recognize cirrhosis symptoms
When it comes to alcohol consumption, one has to distinguish between occasional drinking and alcohol addiction. Occasional drinking can lead to a detoxification reaction in the body. This is shown by nausea and vomiting. The body is acutely unbalanced by the toxin and recovers by itself. Chronic alcohol addiction can lead to liver damage and thus to portal vein hypertension, which irreversibly affects digestion and can lead to flatulence.
Read more on the subject at:
- Alcohol addiction
- Alcohol addiction
- Consequences of alcohol
Causes of a bloated stomach in children
Children, like adults, can suffer from bloating abdominal pain. In infants, this bloating is known as three-month colic. The children repeatedly suffer from severe abdominal cramps and are therefore often referred to as crib babies. In addition to regulatory disorders, allergies and intolerances such as cow's milk allergy or lactose intolerance are also possible causes. In older children, the causes are the same as in adults. Flatulent foods, intolerances, infections and much more can cause gas.