Bloating is that uncomfortable feeling that happens when your tummy feels full, stretched and uncomfortable. Some describe it as feeling like there is a lot of gas or air in the tummy. Most of us have experienced bloating at some point in our lives, often as a reaction to something we have eaten or drunk. Bloating can also be a symptom associated with women's menstrual cycle, although it can occur in both adults and children of either gender.
If bloating continues it may be due to a problem with your digestive system. There are different possible causes, such as an intolerance to something in your diet, or as a consequence of constipation. Bloating often occurs with conditions like coeliac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
It can sometimes be a side effect of medications you are taking, so it is worth discussing this with your doctor or pharmacist.
A less common but serious cause of bloating and fullness sensation in women is ovarian cancer.
Foods likely to cause bloating include dairy and gluten (wheat, barley, rye). Beans, carbonated drinks, lentils, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and onions can sometimes also be implicated.
The management of bloating very much depends on the cause. If it is caused by a food intolerance, keep a symptom diary for a few weeks to identify the offending foods and the symptoms you experience with them. Foods such as dairy, wheat and gluten are commonly linked and may be causing lactose intolerance or symptoms of coeliac disease.
Coeliac disease is where your digestive system cannot digest gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. You are likely to have other symptoms such as tummy pain, changes to your bowel habit and tiredness with this. A gluten-free diet is the most effective way to manage your symptoms.
IBS is another digestive condition with an unknown cause. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means other problems need to be ruled out first. Treatment options aim to relieve symptoms, and these can start small. Aim to avoid common dietary causes of symptoms for you, and if necessary use some over-the-counter products proven to help with digestive symptoms such as bloating to bring you some relief.
If your bloating symptoms persist and are causing you bother, speak to your doctor to rule out any of the more concerning causes. If bloating is associated with any severe symptoms such as weight loss, a swollen tummy, fullness, fevers, persistent tiredness, vomiting or persistent poor appetite then speak to your doctor urgently.
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