Bloating is a condition where your belly feels full and tight, often due to gas.
People might confuse bloating with other reasons for a more noticeable belly, such as abdominal wall laxity, or looseness. This is common, especially among older women and those who have had children.
It’s important to know the difference so you can get the right treatment. A toned abdomen can make it easier to see a difference when the gut is full of food or stool.
One common cause of bloating is constipation. You can be constipated and not realize it, since having fewer bowel movements than you normally do is just one symptom of constipation. You may still be constipated even if you have regular bowel movements. Other symptoms of constipation include:
- Straining to start or finish a bowel movement
- Stool that looks like rocks and pebbles
- Not feeling empty after a bowel movement
Constipation can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating. The longer your stool stays in your colon, the more time bacteria have to ferment what’s there, resulting in more gas and bloating.
Aside from constipation, other causes of bloating include:
- Gut sensitivity: People with IBS can be extremely sensitive to gas, which can cause pain, cramping and diarrhea.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): Most healthy people have relatively few bacteria in the small intestine. People who have had intestinal surgery and/or IBS with diarrhea are more likely to have SIBO, which can cause bloating.
- Gastroparesis: This condition causes delayed stomach emptying, which can cause bloating, nausea and even bowel blockage.
- Gynecological conditions: Sometimes problems with your ovaries or uterus may cause bloating. Make sure you never skip your annual pelvic exam.