Why Do I Get A Bloated Stomach?

Stomach bloating is an uncomfortable feeling of fullness and tightness in the abdominal area that comes with mild to severe pain. The abdomen can also look larger than usual.

Bloating is not always from eating too much. The most common cause is a buildup of gas in the stomach and intestines. Bloating can also be due to indigestion, hormones, food intolerance or allergies to some foods, and serious digestive issues, among other causes.

There are many causes of bloating that can be treated at home, but some require medical attention.

In this article, you will get to know better the causes of a bloated stomach, how to prevent and manage it, and when you should see a doctor.


Symptoms of stomach bloating

The following signs indicate that you may be bloated:

  • Your stomach feels really full
  • You experience pain and discomfort in your stomach or abdominal area
  • You’re belching at regular intervals or farting more than usual
  • Your stomach is rumbling or growling

Causes of bloated stomach

Gas buildup:

This is the most common cause of bloating, and it happens when there is a buildup of gas in the stomach and intestines. When you have a buildup of gas, you feel like there’s something trapped in your stomach, and you fart frequently or burp from time to time. Usually, gas goes away on its own after a few hours.

Possible causes of gas include:

Chronic digestive disorders: These include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), coeliac disease and Crohn's disease. People with these conditions struggle more with digestion and get bloated after eating. They may also experience abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation.

Difficulties digesting some carbohydrates: quite a number of people have difficulties digesting particular carbohydrates (sugars). Common culprits include lactose, fructose and the carbs in wheat and beans. You may have an intolerance, or you may just have general difficulties that cause your body to struggle more with tougher carbs. A nutritionist or GI specialist can help you evaluate your food sensitivities.

Certain foods like carbonated beverages, dairy, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage can also lead to a buildup of gas, as well as swallowing air while eating or chewing gum, or a stomach infection


Sometimes called dyspepsia, indigestion causes discomfort or pain in the stomach that can include bloating. There are also many people who experience brief episodes of indigestion from time to time. In addition to overeating, eating too fast, and drinking excessive alcohol, some medications such as ibuprofen can also cause stomach irritation.


Constipation is another cause of stomach bloating. Constipation can arise as a result of a diet of lifestyle choices. It may also be due to an underlying medical condition.

Recent weight gain:

If you recently gained weight, probably within a year, the weight has most likely gone to your stomach first and can lead to a feeling of bloating since it’s new. Because of this, even a normal meal may cause you to feel abnormally bloated during digestion. Sometimes weight gain also involves water retention, which can make you feel bloated with fluids in your stomach and elsewhere.

Stomach and intestinal infections:

Stomach infections like Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori, or viral infections such as norovirus or rotavirus can cause bloating. It is usually accompanied by diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain. Usually, stomach infections will go away after a few things. However, it can get worse for some people and they may need to see a doctor.

Naturally, various good bacteria reside in the stomach to aid digestion, but disturbing the balance of bacteria can lead to an increase in harmful bacteria in the small intestine. This is known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO. When a person has SIBO, he experiences bloating, frequent diarrhoea, and difficulties digesting food and absorbing nutrients. 

Bowel obstructions:

Another cause of stomach obstructions can be bowel obstruction, which is a serious problem. A person’s large and small intestines can become blocked by tumours, scar tissue, strictures, stenosis, or hernias. Inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and diverticulosis can also damage parts of the small bowels, creating strictures that narrow the passage of digestive contents.

Motility disorders:

This causes the movement of foods through your digestive tract to become slow. Usually, this is because of abnormalities in the muscles and nerves that sense digestive contents in the digestive tract. Examples include intestinal pseudo-obstruction, a condition that mimics the effects of an obstruction when there is none, gastroparesis, partial paralysis of the stomach muscles, and pelvic floor dysfunction.

Fluid retention:

Salt gives food taste, and provides our bodies with sodium. But salty foods can make your body hold more fluid than it should. It is usually in the stomach and other parts of the body like the face and legs. It is also possible for an individual's body to hold more fluid as a result of hormonal changes and food intolerances. For instance, some females may become bloated at some point in their menstrual cycle or in pregnancy.

Bloating caused by fluid retention could have more serious causes, such as liver or kidney failure or diabetes. Those who experience persistent bloating should consult with their doctor.

Hormones and gynaecological disorders:

Changes in progesterone and oestrogen levels in a woman’s cycle, pregnancy or menopause can cause the body to retain more water and salt. Quite a number of women experience bloating before or during their menstrual period. 

Some gynaecological problems like endometriosis, PCOS, and ovarian cancer can also cause bloating, cramping, and stomach pain.

Other causes of stomach bloating:

In a few cases, stomach bloating may be due to other serious conditions. When a person has gallstones or gallbladder disease, they may experience intense abdominal pain that is similar to bloating.

Ascites, a pool of fluid in the abdominal cavity is another condition that leads to abdominal pain and bloating. The most common cause of this fluid buildup is liver disease.

How common is a bloated stomach?

Bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in people of all ages. It is very common in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obese people and people with other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs).

10% to 25% of normally healthy individuals report having occasional stomach bloating, and up to 75% describe their symptoms as moderate to severe. About 10% say they experience it regularly. Among those diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it may be as much as 90%, and up to 75% of women experience bloating before and during their period.

Management and treatment for bloated stomach

Most cases of abdominal bloating go away on their own and can be managed at home by:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Exercising to relieve gas and discomfort
  • Massaging your stomach from right to left to release trapped wind
  • Herbal teas like ginger, peppermint and chamomile, anise, coriander, fennel, and turmeric also help

Your doctor can also give you over-the-counter medicines that relieve gas and bloating. These could include simethicone or charcoal caps. Probiotics like yoghurt also help. If your bloating is caused by indigestion, digestive enzymes would also help.

Your doctor will treat the underlying cause if your bloating is caused by something more serious.

How can I prevent a bloated stomach?

The feeling of being bloated is not a pleasant one. Sometimes, it can affect or interrupt a person’s daily activities. It can also make your stomach more obvious in clothes. Here are ways you can prevent and avoid bloating:

  • Eat and drink slowly, and chew with your mouth closed to avoid swallowing air
  • Instead of eating fewer, larger meals, eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Avoid using straws for drinking
  • Don’t eat foods you know would cause gas in your stomach. Known foods are cabbage, beans, lentils, brussels sprouts, turnips, and dairy products
  • Cut down or avoid drinking fizzy or carbonated drinks
  • Reduce your salt intake
  • Eat less processed foods
  • Quit smoking
  • Consider taking digestive enzymes
  • Probiotics help to improve your gut health
  • Increase your intake of fibre-rich foods to avoid constipation

When to see a doctor

If you feel bloated frequently, you should see a doctor to determine if the cause of the bloating is something more serious. You should also see a doctor if you:

  • Feel bloated without eating or drinking 
  • Experience bloating that doesn’t go away within days
  • Have a fever alongside the bloating
  • See blood in your stool
  • Notice weight loss without trying
  • Experience heartburn that doesn’t go away


Bloating is quite common in many people and can be prevented as well as managed with some diet and lifestyle changes. It is important to study your body so you know when your bloating is different from the regular and see your healthcare provider.


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  2. Harmon RC, Peura DA. Evaluation and management of dyspepsia. Therap Adv Gastroenterol [Internet]. 2010 Mar [cited 2023 Jan 20];3(2):87–98. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002574/
  3. Rao SSC, Bhagatwala J. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: clinical features and therapeutic management. Clin Transl Gastroenterol [Internet]. 2019 Oct 3 [cited 2023 Jan 20];10(10):e00078. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6884350// 
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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Godswill Samson

BSc, Pharmacology, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Godswill is a budding health writer with a passion for health and wellness. She combines this with her writing skill to educate the public on ways to live fuller and healthier lives.

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