Constant bloating and gas: Causes, symptoms, when to seek medical attention

Have you ever eaten so much that your belly suddenly feels heavy and stuffed? If your answer is yes, then that is what a bloated stomach feels like. This article will give you an insight into the causes of bloating and gas, the treatment methods, and when you need to consult a doctor.

A girl lying on the couch with hands on her belly

Key takeaways

  • Bloating is a condition that causes the stomach to feel tight, stretched, and filled.
  • Causes of constant bloating and gas include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and food intolerance. 
  • Studies have shown that bloating is more common in people assigned to females at birth than in those assigned to males at birth.
  • Bloating and gas can be life-threatening in severe cases. It is best to see a doctor if your symptoms are severe or persistent.

Bloating is the feeling of the belly being filled and stretched. It is usually accompanied by an increase in abdominal pressure and the release of gases as bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract digest food. Bloating and gas usually happen when you've eaten a huge amount of food or junk, causing your belly to feel heavy and filled to the brim.

As embarrassing as they may be, burping (belching) and farting (flatulence) after having a meal are common symptoms that many people experience. They are ways of passing out gases that can't be retained in the body through the mouth and the rectum, respectively.

Sometimes a bloated stomach bulges out and is noticeable when you look at it. But at other times, it may not be noticeable physically; you only feel the bloated sensation.

While bloating and passing out gases are common symptoms, they can also be a cause for concern when they occur constantly with severe symptoms. The right treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms. 

Common causes of constant bloating and gas include:

1. Constipation

Constipation is a condition that causes you to experience pain or discomfort while trying to pass out stool (poo). Constipation is one of the causes of constant abdominal bloating and gas.

If you are having constipation, you experience slower than normal bowel movements, which gives the normal bacteria in the gut more time to ferment the food remnants in the colon, causing them to release more gas in the gut. This may cause bloating and gas. If you experience constipation often, you may have constant bloating and gas.

Aside from the difficulty in stooling, other symptoms that may indicate that you're constipating are:

  • Experiencing fewer bowel movements
  • Stony and pebble-looking stools
  • Feeling tight even after stooling

2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the major causes of constant bloating and gas. It's a condition that alters your bowel movements, causing common symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and stomach cramps.

IBS can delay the excretion of waste or unused food materials from the body. This causes distension of the belly and further fermentation by bacteria, leading to the production of more gas in the body.

3. Partial stomach paralysis (gastroparesis)

This is a clinical condition that affects the normal movement of the stomach muscles. Due to the delayed movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract and the emptying of the stomach (peristalsis), symptoms like abdominal bloating and gas may occur.

4. Gynecological factors

Some gynecological factors, like the menstrual cycle or underlying ovarian complications, can cause bloating in women. 

During the early days of the menstrual cycle, the body experiences some hormonal changes. Increased estrogen levels may lead to an increase in fluid retention. Also, low progesterone levels can cause water retention because it's a hormone that assists the body in getting rid of excess water and salt.

Bloating is also a prevalent symptom of ovarian cancer, which is why you should get yourself checked annually.

5. Food intolerances

Some people may experience difficulty digesting certain types of food, such as lactose (called lactose intolerance) or gluten (called gluten intolerance). This may cause bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

If your body does not produce enough lactase—an enzyme that digests lactose—eating foods that contain lactose, such as milk and dairy products, can cause you to experience unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and gas.

Likewise, foods that contain the protein gluten, such as wheat, rye, and barley, can cause constant bloating and gas in people whose guts are sensitive to gluten.

6. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth refers to the presence of so much bacteria in the small intestine. It can also refer to a change in the types of bacteria in your small intestine.

Usually, healthy people do not harbor so many bacteria in their small intestines. But, people whose intestinal tracts have been exposed to excess bacteria are likely to experience bloating and gas.

7. Eating too much and too fast

When you eat too fast, you tend to swallow a lot of air, which causes gas in the belly. Also, having too much to eat at once may lead to bloating and, eventually, the release of gases when bacteria begin to ferment the undigested food molecules.

Common foods that can cause bloating and gas

Some foods that may cause you to have abdominal bloating and gas include:

  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Foods with artificial sweeteners
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Whole grains
  • Beer
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels
  • Fructose-rich fruits (Apples, grapes, berries, ripe bananas, watermelons, peaches, and pears

Does constant bloating and gas cause pain?

Yes, constant bloating and gas can cause pain. Some people who experience severe bloating and flatulence also complain of mild to severe pain. Some also complained of feeling sharp pains in their lower abdomen.

Usually, the pain doesn't last for long, but people who have noticed a constant recurrence of abdominal bloating and pain should visit a doctor for therapy.

Are bloating and gas a sign of pregnancy?

Bloating and passing out of gas can be early signs of pregnancy. During the early stages of pregnancy, even before missing your first period, there's an increase in progesterone hormone levels, which causes the relaxation of muscles in your body, including the muscle that helps in digestion.

This could cause the trapping of gases in your body, bloating, and abdominal discomfort.

Are bloating and gas serious and life-threatening?

In severe cases, bloating and gas can cause death.

Sometimes, especially when they constantly occur, bloating and gas may be a result of a severe health condition like ovarian cancer.

That’s why it’s important not to ignore these symptoms. When you experience them constantly, especially with other accompanying symptoms, it is safer to speak with your doctor.

Tips for relieving constant bloating and gas

Here are some additional tips that could help you ease the feeling of bloating and gas:

  • Drinking enough water. Avoid excessive consumption of carbonated beverages and soda. Instead, stick with drinking lots of clean water.
  • Engage in moderate exercise. 10 to 20 minutes after eating, try to take a walk. This can help ease bloated bellies and gas.
  • Chew your food properly before you swallow. Make sure you chew the food particles in your mouth into very small pieces before you swallow. Larger particles are harder to digest.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating. Instead, sit up straight once you are done eating. This helps with digestion and eases the bloated belly.
  • Eat slowly and moderately. Do not rush while eating or drinking.

Here are also some natural remedies for that may help relieve abdominal gas:

  • Peppermint tea
  • Turmeric
  • Coriander
  • Chamomile tea
  • Fennel
  • Caraway

Other remedies for gas may include:

  • Lactase enzyme
  • Activated charcoal
  • Beano
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Simethicone

When to see your doctor

Usually, bloating and gas are normal symptoms that fade away after a short period of time and don't have to involve you seeing a doctor. However, bloating and gas can also be symptoms of severe conditions that may lead to death if not treated. This is why you should discuss with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:

After a proper diagnosis, the doctor would prescribe medications and also map out a good plan on how to manage your symptoms.

Wrap up

Bloating and gas are common symptoms that both the young and the old experience. They are commonly caused by your eating pattern or by consuming certain foods that your gut is sensitive to.

Bloating and gas are typically also indications of other health conditions or factors like gastrointestinal disorders, ovarian cancer, pregnancy, and digestive disorders.

Some medications and home remedies can help relieve bloating and gas. But it is best not to self-medicate and instead speak with a doctor so you can get an appropriate diagnosis and follow-up treatment. 


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