- Bloating is when your stomach is full or stretched.
- Bloating is a common feeling.
- Bloating can be caused by many things, such as a change in your diet.
- If your bloating doesn’t go away, your doctor can check for other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
What is bloating?
Bloating is a feeling that your tummy is over full or stretched.
It happens when the organs in your digestive system are stretched. This can be when:
- liquid, gas or solids build up in part of your gut
- your tummy muscles are weak, such as after pregnancy
What symptoms are related to bloating?
If you are feeling bloated, you may also experience:
- gas (flatulence/farting)
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What causes bloating?
Bloating can be caused by many different factors. Gas can build-up in your gut when you:
- eat a lot of salty food and carbohydrates
- swallow a lot of air when you eat too fast
- drink a lot of fizzy drinks
Regular bloating can be caused by other problems, including:
- coeliac disease
- food intolerance, to milk (lactose intolerance) and other foods such as some fruits, vegetables and grains (such as wheat)
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- hormones, including before your period or during menopause
- helicobacter pylori infection
- some medicines
- gaining weight
When should I see my doctor?
If your bloating doesn’t get better, you should see your doctor. The doctor can help diagnose the cause of your bloating. This way, they can direct you to the best treatment. If needed, they can also refer you for further help. This may include seeing a:
- gastroenterologist ( a doctor who looks at problems with your digestive system and intestines)
You can also see a doctor for relief if your bloating happens:
- before your menstrual cycle
- during menopause
Seek medical attention if you have bloating as well as:
- persistent or severe abdominal pain
- blood in your stools (poo)
- changes in the colour or frequency of your stools
- weight loss without trying to lose weight
- loss of appetite or feeling full quickly
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How is bloating diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your bloating. They may conduct blood tests and stool (poo) tests for
- bacterial overgrowth
- coeliac disease
They can also examine your digestive system by doing a gastroscopy or colonoscopy. During these procedures, your doctor can take a biopsy (tissue sample) of anything unusual they may see. This can help aid your diagnosis.
Bloating can sometimes be due to non-digestive problems. If your doctor thinks that something else is causing your bloating, they may order an ultrasound.
How is bloating treated?
The way bloating is treated depends on the cause of your bloating, and changes for each individual. Bloating will usually go away by itself.
Adjusting your diet can help. Try to take note of any foods that make your bloating worse and try to avoid them. You may need to try an elimination diet to find out which food or foods are causing your problems. Your doctor or dietitian can help you with this.
It may help to cut down on:
- salty foods
- fizzy drinks
- onion or garlic
- lactose products
If you have constipation with your bloating, try:
- eating more high-fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains
- increasing the amount of water that you drink
- exercising regularly
Your doctor may also suggest over-the-counter medicines to help with your bloating. Depending on why you are bloated, these may include:
- medicines to help with digestion
- supplements and vitamins
Your doctor can also prescribe hormone therapy if your bloating is caused by menopause. You may need laxatives to treat constipation.
Bloating caused by a medical condition such as coeliac disease may need you to follow a strict diet. This can help prevent bloating and other symptoms.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, following a high-fibre diet and the low FODMAP diet may help. This may involve cutting out:
- some dairy products
- wheat and other grains
- some fruits and vegetables
Talk to a health professional such as your doctor or a dietitian before starting any diet.
Your doctor or a physiotherapist can give you exercises to help strengthen weak tummy muscles.
Can bloating be prevented?
To keep your digestive system working well, follow a healthy diet. Try to:
- increase your fibre intake
- cut down on processed and fatty foods
- drink less alcohol
- drink plenty of water
Be sure to also take any medicines as directed by your doctor.
Try to eat regularly and slowly. This will also help to prevent digestive problems.
Regular exercise is also important for your gut because it can:
- strengthen the muscles in your tummy
- stimulate your digestive system to push food through
Physical activity also helps with stress, which can impact your digestive system.
Smoking is bad for your digestion. If you smoke, try to quit now.
Complications of bloating
Bloating and the symptoms that accompany it can be uncomfortable. They can also sometimes be painful.
Depending on the cause of your bloating, you may experience further problems. This is why it is good to see a doctor if your bloating is ongoing.
Resources and support
For bloating caused by diet, IBS, or food intolerance, you can visit Dietitians Australia for more information.
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Last reviewed: November 2022