Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the belly (abdomen) feels full and tight. Your belly may look swollen (distended).
Common causes include:
- Swallowing air
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lactose intolerance and problems digesting other foods
- Small bowel bacterial overgrowth
- Weight gain
You may have bloating if you take the oral diabetes medicine acarbose. Some other medicines or foods containing lactulose or sorbitol, may cause bloating.
More serious disorders that may cause bloating are:
- Ascites and abdominal tumors
- Celiac disease
- Dumping syndrome
- Ovarian cancer
- Problems with the pancreas not producing enough digestive enzymes (pancreatic insufficiency)
You may take the following steps:
- Avoid chewing gum or carbonated drinks. Stay away from foods with high levels of fructose or sorbitol.
- Avoid foods that can produce gas, such as Brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, beans, and lentils.
- Do not eat too quickly.
- Stop smoking.
Get treatment for constipation if you have it. However, fiber supplements such as psyllium or 100% bran can make your symptoms worse.
You may try simethicone and other medicines that you can buy at the drugstore to help with gas. Charcoal caps can also help.
Watch for foods that trigger your bloating so you can start to avoid those foods. These may include:
- Milk and other dairy products that contain lactose
- Certain carbohydrates, including fructose (fruit sugar), that are fermentable and thus can produce gas. These carbohydrates are known as FODMAPs.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if you have:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stools or dark, tarry looking stools
- Heartburn that is getting worse
- Weight loss
Azpiroz F. Intestinal gas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 17.
McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 123.
Review Date 5/4/2022
Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.