What is abdominal bloating?

A Answers (2)

  • AMarjorie Nolan Cohn, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    Bloating is any abnormal general swelling, or increase in diameter of the abdominal area. As a symptom, the patient feels a full and tight abdomen, which may cause abdominal pain, and sometimes accompanied by increased stomach growling or more seriously the total lack of it. The most common symptom associated with bloating is a sensation that the abdomen is full or distended. Rarely, bloating may be painful or cause shortness of breath.

    Pains that are due to bloating will feel sharp and cause the stomach to cramp. These pains may occur anywhere in the body and can change locations quickly. They are so painful that they are sometimes mistaken for heart pains when they develop on the upper left side of the chest. Pains on the right side are often confused with problems in the appendix or the gallbladder.

    One symptom of gas that is not normally associated with it is the hiccup. Hiccups are harmless and will diminish on their own; they also help to release gas that is in the digestive tract before it moves down to the intestines and causes bloating.

  • ABill Salt, MD, Gastroenterology, answered
    Functional abdominal bloating is described as a feeling of excessive abdominal pressure that may or may not be accompanied by actual visible abdominal distention or enlargement. Abdominal bloating can be uncomfortable and even painful. Furthermore, when associated with abdominal distention, bloating can make dressing awkward and contribute to poor self-image. Finally, bloating may induce an urge to pass gas that can be inconvenient or embarrassing and associated with anxiety. Bloating is seen more commonly in women than in men and tends to become more prominent towards the end of the day and in the pre-menstrual period.

    Abdominal bloating may be part of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) if the symptom is associated with abdominal pain and alterations in bowel habits. Bloating may also be associated with functional dyspepsia (pain or discomfort centered in the upper abdomen), making the symptom difficult to differentiate from the fullness that occurs following meals. Bloating may also be associated with gas.
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