Bloated belly: what is it, causes and remedies of abdominal bloating
Bloated belly: what is it, causes and remedies of abdominal bloating. In this article, what is the best treatment for abdominal bloating? What is causing my abdominal bloating and how can I treat it? Why is my stomach so bloated? How do I know if my bloating is serious? and how do I get rid of bloating? What does bloated stomach mean? We have compiled all the curiosities and all the details about bloated stomach, causes of bloating for you.
What is a bulging belly?
Bloated belly-what a bummer!!! This is not just an annoying blemish but a real problem of abdominal bloating. The causes can be many and not attributable to common fermentation. In fact, the accumulation of visceral fat could also give this effect. Dealing with a bloated belly requires a real change in one’s lifestyle.
This should first and foremost come through improved nutrition. So, make room for fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and lean proteins without overdoing sugar, alcohol and smoking.
This should then be complemented by a healthy lifestyle of sports and, more generally, active living. However, it should be mentioned that the causes of abdominal bloating could include unavoidable drug therapies.
In this case, trying to give support to the health of our microbiota by taking probiotics and prebiotics (under medical advice), could help reduce these unpleasant symptoms. Not to mention that stress and bad habits, such as poor sleep, contribute significantly to causing a very bloated belly.
What is a bloated belly: the characteristics of abdominal bloating
Having a bloated belly does not necessarily mean having excess fat! That’s right-what I just wrote is not an aberration but a correct consideration. Too often people consider abdominal girth as an indicator of visceral fat when in fact the air that comes from fermenting what we eat contributes significantly to these inches.
In this regard, it should be emphasized that understanding what causes bloating (and whether this is pathological or not) is the first strategy to be able to manage and reduce it.
Bloated belly and abdominal bloating are synonymous: but are they the same thing?
When we eat, digestion leads to two completely different effects. First, it causes nutrients (not just sugars) to reach the liver to be metabolized. When we eat irregularly, this organ has to deal with an excess of certain nutrients. As a result, this excess is commonly turned into fat as a reserve material, contributing to increased fatty deposits on the abdomen as well. This is especially true in men and menopausal women. In addition, digestion commonly produces gas.
This ‘air’ forms in the fermentative tract of the intestine, the colon, causing characteristic postprandial bloating. In cases of digestive problems, this bloating can become more noticeable and long-lasting causing issues such as meteorism or bowel disorders.
Basic medical characteristics and referral area
It is apparent that bloating, whether caused by excess fat or air, is an issue that is the direct responsibility of nutrition specialists. In cases where one cannot figure out which of the two factors accounts for the problem, a gastroenterologist may be helpful.
The latter, by analyzing the health status of the entire digestive system, will be able to find the cause of the problem. This will subsequently allow the nutritional biologist to draw up the most suitable diet to solve it. In some cases, the cause of a bloated belly could be hormonal in nature. So, in such situations, the medical figure of reference for the patient and the nutritionist could also be the endocrinologist.
How abdominal bloating manifests itself
A bloated belly can appear in different ways if it is caused by excess fat or air. In this regard, the “bed test” helps us: try lying supine on the bed uncovering your belly.
If it should disappear at the hips, then fat would be the main cause. On the contrary, if it should remain globular and spherical (like a dome), then the primary culprit is intestinal fermentative air.
Symptoms of bloated belly and abdominal bloating
A bloated belly can actually appear in many forms. In fact, we might experience a very tight but not painful abdomen or a very high belly or, again, a flat stomach but bloating in the lower abdomen. Each form of bloating may have its own different cause.
Bloated and painful belly
This is probably the most common and also most annoying form of abdominal bloating. In this case, aerophagia, i.e., air formation (the main cause) could be due to excessive abdominal fermentation.
It is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome, and the abdominal distension is such that it gives pain in the lower abdominal area or upper belly. In the latter case it is mistakenly referred to as stomach pain when in fact the pain has an intestinal origin (this is often the transverse colon).
Bloated and hard belly
In this condition, the belly may also appear very bulky but what characterizes it is its ‘hardness’. Contrary to what you may think, this condition is rarely due to a bowel problem. Or rather, intestinal issues can be an unfortunate consequence of the real cause of this problem–excess visceral fat!
This fat, located around the viscera and thus under the muscles of the abdomen, takes up a lot of space and, as a result, exerts direct pressure on the muscles.
For this reason, the abdominals appear tight and hard. Obviously, if fat occupies the interstices between organs, it also limits their functioning. In this regard, one of the main effects is on the motility of the intestines, and this also promotes the production of a lot of air. But, I repeat, this is a consequence of a much more serious cause.
The effects of a bloated belly can be many, and to list them all would be complicated.
Among the main ones we can record:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort.
- Feeling of fullness or expansion of the abdomen.
The causes of abdominal bloating.
The digestive process is a step that living beings manage to carry out thanks to the action of “opportunistic” hosts in our intestines. I am referring to the bacteria, fungi and viruses that make up the intestinal microbiota.
Their action, in addition to making available nutrients extracted from foods taken in the diet, produces waste products. The latter can be solid (and will go to make up stool) or gaseous (cause the classic bloating after meals).
It is not possible to say that there is a diet that causes a bloated belly as well as that there is one to prevent it from forming. In fact, there are habits and foods that could promote a worsening or improvement of this symptom.
Specifically, we talk about those foods with high fermentative power which, being digested by intestinal bacteria, lead to the formation of gas. In these cases, excess fiber, cooking such as frying, and combinations of different proteins should be avoided.
Conversely, foods such as fennel, blueberries and apples, acting on the digestive process, could help reduce a bloated belly.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is probably one of the main causes of abdominal bloating. In this case, the bloated belly is caused by a particular sensitivity to certain foods as well as slowed intestinal transit resulting in fermentation. This is then particularly common in those people who suffer from chronic constipation.
In these cases, swelling occurs mainly at the level of the umbilicus due to the simultaneous occurrence of two events. On the one hand, a relaxation of the abdominal muscles is observed. On the other hand, a contraction of the diaphragm can be noted.
Intolerances and allergies
Those who suffer from food intolerances can often present a picture of an even severe bloated belly. This is a consequence of difficulty in digesting certain foods and from their subsequent fermentation.
Gas production in the intestines, often the cause of meteorism and belching, can also result in more troublesome gastrointestinal problems (reflux or diarrhea).
In scientific terms, a symbolic axis linking the brain and the gut is defined, known as the Gut-Brain (from English, gut=gut, brain=brain). This abstract link emphasizes how much our head can directly affect, especially with moods and stress, the balance of the microbiota.
It is no coincidence that when one is nervous, the stomach may open or close and one may feel very hungry or, on the contrary, total absence of desire to eat something. This may be because excessive nervousness acts as a switch that “turns on” the nervous system. This overactivity of it can lead to reduced production of gastric juices as well as poor efficiency of intestinal motility.
The effect would thus be the recurrence of episodes of digestive difficulty as well as abdominal bloating.
The main relationship between drug intake and abdominal bloating is related to the phenomenon known as dysbiosis or, more broadly, imbalance of intestinal bacterial flora.
The most common case is related to intestinal disorders following the intake of antibiotics. In this case, diarrhea (or, conversely, constipation), foul-smelling stools, abdominal bloating and stomach acidity are just some of the effects caused by the disturbances brought by the drug to our digestive system.
In this regard, it is no coincidence that milk enzymes (it would be more correct to call them probiotics) are often associated with taking the drug. In fact, a great many active ingredients are capable of altering the intestinal microflora.
What does the science say?
The effect of drugs on gut balance is much more “disabling” than you might think. Suffice it to say that recent research done by EFSA estimates that one in four drugs significantly disrupt the gut. In most cases, these are widely used (often abused) drug therapies that must be taken regularly every day. In the next paragraphs we will look at the main active ingredients that can give abdominal bloating from dysbiosis.
Main drugs responsible for abdominal bloating
Among the drugs most implicated in the formation of intestinal air are the active ingredients used in the treatment of diseases specifically affecting the digestive system.
Among the most widely used are certainly proton pump inhibitors. These drugs, known as prazoles (or gastroprotectors), act directly on stomach acidity. Their mechanism of action involves raising the gastric pH to limit heartburn and reflux.
The result is an improper digestion of proteins, which need a strongly acidic pH to start the process of their degradation.So, to facilitate this step, intestinal bacteria known as fermenters intervene. So as can be easily seen from their name, the downside of this activity is fermentation, that is, the production of gas. In addition to this, some “bad” bacteria proliferate in the first tract of the intestine, known as the small intestine.
A more acidic pH resulting from the stomach would allow their inactivation. Conversely, a less acidic pH would allow them to proliferate magnifying the effect of abdominal fermentation and bloated belly.
Other drugs are also likely to promote a bloated belly. Among them:
- Atypical antipsychotics.
- Hormonal contraceptives.
- Corticosteroids, primarily Bentelan.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (known as NSAIDs). Common ones include ibuprofen, diclofenac, nimesulide and aspirin (the latter only at very high dosages).
The problem of hormonal imbalances and their effect on a bloated belly, contrary to popular belief, is not exclusive to women. In fact, even in men it is possible to observe abdominal bloating due to an imbalance of these very important endogenous molecules.
Hormones and bloated belly in women
Estrogen is a hormone which, in addition to directly affecting the female reproductive system, also plays an important role in digestive processes. Suffice it to mention that it stimulates the production of bile.
This molecule, produced by the gallbladder, has a direct implication in the reabsorption of fats in the intestines. In addition to this, it also intervenes in regulating normal bowel function and stool consistency.
This has an inevitable impact on intestinal motility and, consequently, on the persistence of stool in the intestines. As a consequence of its reduced production, water is reabsorbed and stool dries out, promoting putrefactive fermentation phenomena with strong associated gas production.
To this can be added bloating from water retention, related to the “sponge” effect exerted again by estrogen. So, in a woman, it is normal to observe phases of strong swelling and a feeling of deflation over a period of one month. In menopausal women, the cause of a bloated belly changes.
In fact, at this stage of life estrogen is no longer produced. As a counterpart, testosterone production dominates, causing an increase in abdominal girth typical of men.
Chiaramente, aumentando il volume, esso spinge sull’addome e causa un aumento della tensione dei muscoli dell’addome.
In questo caso, comune anche nelle donne in menopausa, la pancia oltre che gonfia e globosa, può apparire dura. Ciò potrebbe portare a pensare all’aria addominale come prima causa di questo problema, erroneamente.
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