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Bloating 101: Why You Feel Bloated

When to Ask Your Doctor About Bloating

Temporary bloating is common and nothing to worry about. But if you’re troubled by bloating on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.

Physical obstructions such as scarring of the stomach opening can make it hard for food to pass through the digestive tract normally. If your doctor diagnoses a physical obstruction in the stomach or small intestines, surgery may be required to correct it. Bloating can also be caused by impaired muscle function in the digestive tract. When muscles that normally move food along don’t work properly, gas can build up in the small intestines, causing bloating. In some cases, gas in the intestines may go the wrong way, returning to the stomach.

Persistent bloating or distention may also signal potentially serious conditions, such as enlargement of one of the abdominal organs or a malignancy.

What Else You Can Do About Bloating

If eliminating or reducing consumption of hard-to-digest foods doesn’t solve your frequent bloating problem, there are over-the-counter medications that might help. Look for a pill or liquid containing alpha-D-galactosidase, an enzyme that breaks down indigestible sugars in beans and vegetables. Tablets or capsules containing simethicone can also help alleviate symptoms of excess gas.

If you’re a smoker, intestinal distress may be one more reason to quit. Smoking has been linked to bloating, heartburn, and other digestive problems.

Fortunately, bloating is rarely a symptom of serious trouble. For most people, the most effective prescription for bloating is simple: control portion sizes, go easy on fats, and eat slowly enough to give your body time to signal when you’ve had enough. These sensible remedies should keep you from feeling overstuffed and bloated.

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Reviewed on September 10, 2011
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