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Abdominal Fullness or Bloating

Topic Overview

Abdominal fullness or bloating occurs when excess gas builds up in the digestive tract.

Common causes of gas include:

  • Swallowed air. If swallowed air is not burped up, it passes through the digestive tract and is released through the anus as gas (flatus). Excessive air swallowing may cause hiccups.
  • Gas-producing foods and drinks, such as beans, broccoli, carbonated drinks, and beer. The amount of gas that different foods cause varies from person to person.
  • Constipation. This can cause bloating but generally does not increase gas.
  • The side effects of medicines or supplements, such as narcotic pain medications, vitamins, iron supplements, and many medications that are used to treat constipation.
  • Changing hormone levels. Many women feel bloated right before their periods because their bodies retain fluid.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Weakened abdominal muscles caused by pregnancy or abdominal surgery.
  • Obesity.

Occasionally, excess gas and bloating may be caused by a more serious medical problem, such as a bowel obstruction, liver problems, gallbladder disease, or cancer.

Treatment depends on what is causing the problem. Call your doctor for a checkup if you have abdominal fullness or bloating that has not gotten better or gone away with home treatment.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised July 5, 2013

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