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Abdominal fullness or bloating

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

Common causes of gas include:

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  • 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.
  • The side effects of medications 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.

Author Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Editor Sydney Youngerman-Cole, RN, BSN, RNC
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Updated September 1, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 01, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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