Stomach bloating describes what happens when too much gas fills up a person’s gastrointestinal tract. The sensation can be distressing – people often complain that their belly feels like it is about to burst. Although cutting out gassy culprits should help to alleviate symptoms, if it is the result of an underlying health condition, it may require a more intensive strategy.
One lesser-known cause of bloating is gastroparesis.
Gastroparesis is a long-term (chronic) condition where the stomach can’t empty itself in the normal way. Food passes through the stomach more slowly than usual.
According to the NHS, it’s thought to be the result of a problem with the nerves and muscles controlling the emptying of the stomach.
If these nerves are damaged, the muscles of a person’s stomach may not work properly and the movement of food can slow down.
Along with bloating, other symptoms may include:
- Feeling full very quickly when eating
- Feeling sick (nausea) and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Tummy (abdominal) pain or discomfort
“These symptoms can be mild or severe, and tend to come and go,” noted the NHS.
Gastroparesis can’t usually be cured, but dietary changes and medical treatment can help to control the condition, explained the health body.
The NHS recommended the following tips:
- Instead of three meals a day, try smaller, more frequent meals – this means there’s less food in your stomach and it will be easier to pass through the system
- Try soft and liquid foods – these are easier to digest
- Chew food well before swallowing
- Drink non-fizzy liquids with each meal
The health site added: “It may also help to avoid certain foods that are hard to digest – such as apples with their skin on, or high-fibre foods like oranges and broccoli – as well as foods high in fat, which can also slow down digestion.”
According to Harvard Health, stomach bloating can also be caused by constipation. “Constipation, a condition defined by fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard or dry stools, the need to strain to move the bowels, and a sense of an incomplete evacuation,” explained the health body.
“If you’re not emptying your gut, there’s no room in your abdomen, and you’ll have excess bloating,” said Dr. Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Other underlying conditions that may cause bloating include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Celiac disease
Tummy swelling can also be triggered by a reaction to certain foods. As Harvard Health reported: “Sometimes bloating results when your body has a hard time digesting sugars in certain foods.
“The key culprits are in a group known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols).”
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans)
- Foods or drinks with fructose or artificial sweeteners are also on the FODMAP list
“We all have an increased amount of gas in the body after eating them, but some of us react to them more severely than others,” Dr. Staller said.
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