Swollen belly: causes, symptoms and treatment of gas and flatulence

Swollen belly: causes, symptoms and treatment of gas and flatulence

Many people are concerned about the problems associated with increased gas formation in the stomach and swelling. Nevertheless, not everyone is ready to frankly admit these problems even to themselves, not to mention others. And few people believe that these problems deserve so close attention to go with them to a gastroenterologist. And absolutely in vain. After all, a distended abdomen and gas formation in the abdomen are symptoms that may hide many serious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Consequently, these pathological phenomena require serious and thorough treatment.

Description of the phenomenon

Gas formation in the intestines, in which the abdominal distention is often observed, is scientifically called flatulence. Why does it occur? Air and other gases are always present in the stomach and intestines in some quantity. Some air is swallowed with food (this process is called aerophage). Excess air from the stomach usually comes back during belching, however, part of it comes to the intestines. But for the most part the source of the origin of gases in the digestive tract is different. They are formed as a result of food processing and are produced by intestinal microflora. Partially they are absorbed by the intestinal walls, but a significant part of them comes out of the anus.

This is a completely normal process. A healthy person produces about 600 ml of gases per day. This process takes place up to 13-20 times a day. However, in the case of flatulence, the volume of gas discharged from the intestine greatly increases and can reach 3–4 l. Naturally, all the gas can not immediately go out of the intestine, and as a result, a person has a stomach full.

Many believe that the gas contained in the intestine is hydrogen sulfide. But in fact, hydrogen sulfide in the intestinal gas is extremely small, the main part of it is nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, oxygen and hydrogen. There are also odorous compounds, such as methyl mercaptan, which mainly (along with hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and skatole) and gives the intestinal gases an unpleasant odor.

Most of the gas in the large intestine is concentrated along the walls, and is enclosed in bubbles that form foam.

Why does flatulence and abdominal distention arise?

The reasons for which appear flatulence and bloating, can be many. In any case, abdominal distension is a symptom indicating that something is wrong with the human digestive system. However, it is not possible to determine the specific disease on this basis alone. After all, increased gas formation is observed with 90% of gastrointestinal diseases.

Also, increased flatulence and bloating can be the result of improper lifestyle and nutrition. First of all, it is worth mentioning the main causes of increased aerophagia:

  • talking while eating
  • smoking,
  • using poor quality dentures,
  • chewing gum,
  • food on the go.

Also, a significant amount of gases can enter the stomach as a result of drinking soda, kvass, beer, which can also lead to abdominal distension.

Sometimes, increased flatulence and bloating can be transient. For example, if a person sleeps at night in the same position, the gases may accumulate in one of the intestinal sections, and in the morning there will be symptoms of flatulence. However, morning flatulence is a transient phenomenon.

The main causes of flatulence include poor diet and poor diet. Some foods can cause increased fermentation in the intestines and stomach, which causes increased gas formation and bloating. It is well known to all that plants of the legume family, especially peas, have a similar property. And indeed it is. But in fact, not only legumes can cause an increase in gas production. Also enhanced fermentation can be caused by the use of sweets, cabbage, certain types of meat, dairy products.

We should also mention one more cause of flatulence – the syndrome of lactose intolerance or milk sugar. This is the name of a disease in which a person in the gastrointestinal tract does not produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down milk sugar – lactose. Excess milk sugar in the gastrointestinal tract can also lead to such a phenomenon as bloating.

In addition, poorly digested in the digestive tract, and other sugars – fructose, sucrose, raffinose (sugar contained in legumes) and starches, as well as sorbitol (sugar alcohol). And if part of the sugar remains in the intestine, then it becomes a favorable environment for the reproduction of bacteria that release gases. Thus, sweet foods can also cause flatulence.

Another syndrome in which increased gas formation and bloating can occur is celiac disease. This is the name of the condition in which the human digestive tract is unable to digest gluten – a protein found in many cereals.

In addition, they do not contribute to digestion and the consumption of heavy, overly spicy and fatty foods.

Other diseases that may cause increased flatulence and bloating:

  • enteritis,
  • gastritis,
  • colitis,
  • hepatitis,
  • cirrhosis,
  • cholecystitis,
  • intestinal wall thrombosis,
  • helminthic invasions,
  • biliary dyskinesia,
  • pancreatitis,
  • intestinal adhesions,
  • intestinal obstruction,
  • Crohn’s disease,
  • tumors,
  • intestinal stenosis.

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons that can cause bloating. If increased flatulence is caused by a functional bowel disease, then, as a rule, it does not go away even if the diet is adjusted.

Additional factors that, as a rule, are not the direct cause of flatulence, but may contribute to its development:

  • severe infections,
  • inflammatory processes,
  • intoxication of the body,
  • sedentary lifestyle,
  • extra weight.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is another possible cause , because of which there is bloating and flatulence. This is a very common disease, it affects 20% of people, among whom women predominate. Its occurrence is affected by increased levels of stress, depression and neurosis.


Dysbacteriosis is also among the possible causes of flatulence. Dysbacteriosis is not considered to be a separate disease, rather, it is a syndrome that occurs as a result of other diseases of the gastrointestinal tract or as a result of the use of antibiotics. It is expressed in a decrease in the amount of lactic and bifidobacteria in the large intestine and an increase in the amount of pathogenic microflora producing gases.

Flatulence and bloating in women

Also, premenstrual syndrome in women, adnexitis, endometriosis, fibroids, ectopic pregnancy can be the cause of flatulence and bloating. In addition, pregnant women in later periods often also experience flatulence due to the increased size of the uterus that is pressing on the abdominal organs.


Flatulence – this is not only enhanced gas release from the intestines. This syndrome is also accompanied by symptoms such as bloating, pain, heaviness in the stomach, intestinal cramps. In most cases, however, the pain in the abdomen disappears after the gas has left the anus. Also, this condition may be accompanied by constipation or diarrhea, nausea, decreased appetite, unpleasant taste, bitter taste in the mouth and even vomiting. A swollen abdomen can press on the diaphragm, which, in turn, can cause negative symptoms associated with the respiratory system or the heart – shortness of breath, increased pressure, tachycardia. Also, flatulence and bloating often leads to insomnia, irritability, depression and other neurological symptoms.

In most cases, the release of gas and bloating by itself does not pose a direct threat to life. However, the quality of human life with this syndrome may deteriorate sharply. That is why this condition requires diagnosis and treatment.

Meteorism and a swollen abdomen in combination with diarrhea may be the result of such diseases and pathological conditions as enterocolitis, IBS, helminthic invasions, dysbiosis, colon infections, cirrhosis.

Abdominal distension and pain may indicate chronic enterocolitis, Crohn’s disease, peritonitis, intestinal obstruction, biliary dyskinesia, acute pancreatitis, cholecystitis, gallstone disease.

Flatulence and bloating with simultaneous constipation may be symptoms of chronic gastritis, colitis, intestinal obstruction, liver failure, pancreatitis, gallstone disease.

With enteritis, there is often a swollen abdomen and pains in the navel that appear after eating. Also, when enteritis is observed diarrhea, deterioration of the skin and hair, weight loss.

Colitis is often accompanied not only by flatulence, but also diarrhea, abdominal pain.

Biliary dyskinesia is usually accompanied, along with flatulence, disturbances of intestinal motility, atonic constipation, intoxication of the body. Cholecystitis and hepatitis lead to a lack of bile production, which in turn leads to flatulence, pain in the right hypochondrium and diarrhea.

It should be remembered that abdominal distension, accompanied by sharp pain, and often such phenomena as bleeding from the anus, tension of the abdominal wall, delayed stools and gas, pressure drop, temperature increase, is called “acute abdomen.” With this syndrome, one should not guess which disease has become its cause, but should immediately call a doctor.


In most cases, the elimination of such unpleasant phenomena can be carried out at home. At the same time, the methods of treatment should be selected so that they are directed both at the removal of the negative symptoms themselves and directly at the elimination of the disease that caused it.


Various drugs can be used to reduce gas formation. First of all, it is defoamers or carminatives, such as Espumizan. The principle of their operation is based on the fact that they destroy foam that has accumulated near the walls of the large intestine, as a result of which the gases contained in it go outside.

Also useful will be drugs – enterosorbents, absorbing the contents of the gastrointestinal tract. Although usually they do not absorb the gases themselves, however, they can absorb bacteria and carbohydrates, which cause fermentation and, as a consequence, increased gassing. At home, the following types of sorbents are most commonly used to treat flatulence and control bloating:

  • activated carbon,
  • Smecta,
  • Polysorb,
  • Enterosgel.

Drugs that increase the tone of the muscle walls of the stomach and intestines, such as metoclopramide, also have great effectiveness in flatulence and bloating. These drugs accelerate the emptying of the digestive tract. Often they are appointed before endoscopic and radiological studies.

Often, increased gas formation can be caused by dysbacteriosis – a deficiency in the large intestine of lactobacilli and the pathogenic microflora dominated by this deficiency. In this case, suitable probiotic drugs – Linex, Bifidumbakterin, Laktofiltrum.

In the event that flatulence is caused by insufficient production of bile and digestive enzymes necessary for the digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, enzyme preparations are necessary – Mezim, Pancreatin, Creon, containing these enzymes in the required amount, as well as choleretic agents.

Antispasmodics – Drotaverinum (No-shpa) and Papaverine, are also often used for the syndrome of increased gas formation and bloating. They help relieve muscle spasms, due to which gases can accumulate in different parts of the intestines. In addition, antispasmodics can relieve pain and intestinal colic.


As already mentioned, there may be many causes of flatulence, as well as leading to bloating. And independent attempts at treating the syndrome may not help. Only a gastroenterologist, after thoroughly diagnosing the patient, after analyzing the history, is able to identify the source of the problem — an irrational way of life and nutrition, or some serious GI disease.

Methods such as radiography, colonoscopy, computed tomography of the abdominal cavity, blood and stool tests can be used to diagnose the causes of increased gas formation.

What can be done with a sudden attack of flatulence?

However, an attack of flatulence may occur suddenly, and a person may not be able to immediately go to the doctor. What means at the same time can quickly relieve unpleasant symptoms?

The quick-acting tools that help in the first place include the following:

  • antispasmodics (No-shpa),
  • defoamers (Espumizan),
  • means that increase the tone of the gastrointestinal wall (metoclopromide),
  • sorbents (activated carbon)

Diet for flatulence and bloating

Diet plays an important role and helps prevent flatulence and bloating. In addition, the diet is necessary in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases that provoke these phenomena.

Diet with flatulence and bloating involves, first of all, the rejection of products that can cause increased gas formation. These are dairy products, first of all, whole milk, rich bakery products, fruits and vegetables that cause strong fermentation – grapes, legumes, cabbage, corn, sugar substitutes – xylitol and sorbitol.

Fat meat, chocolate, sweets, ice cream, and alcohol are also excluded.

The gastrointestinal tract of each person has its own characteristics, and sometimes flatulence can cause a product, which is quite seemingly harmless at first glance. Therefore, the problem can be solved by simply excluding this product from the diet. In terms of the selection of a suitable diet, the patient can be helped by a food diary in which all the meals he eats are entered. Thus, you can find those products that provoke undesirable gas formation.

There are best as often as possible – 5-6 times a day. However, the interval between different episodes of eating should be at least 3 hours. It is advisable not to change the meal time so that the body is accustomed to the production of enzymes at a certain time. Food should be warm, not too hot and not too cold. Preference should be given to thermally processed foods – boiled or stewed, but not fried and, especially, not smoked. Fluid is recommended to drink plenty – 1.5-2 liters per day.

It is recommended to include in the menu products that improve intestinal motility, such as vegetable salads, cereals, low-fat dairy products, dietary meats and fish. The optimal diet in the absence of chronic gastrointestinal diseases should lead to getting rid of flatulence and abdominal distention.

Other methods of treating flatulence and bloating

Diet and medications alone will not help the patient if unpleasant symptoms are caused by his inappropriate lifestyle. Therefore, you should avoid stress, organize proper rest, exercise more physical activity, exercise, physical therapy.

Flatulence in Infants

Flatulence and swollen abdomen in infants is common. Flatulence occurs in about 80% of children under one year. This is due to the fact that the intestines rapidly grow in children, while the number of enzymes produced is not yet at a sufficient level for digesting food. This phenomenon can lead to the fact that the child is in pain. To prevent abdominal distention, the child must be periodically placed in an upright position to make it easier for the gases to exit. Also during breastfeeding it is necessary to ensure that it tightly wraps the lips over the nipples. Feed the baby should be on demand, otherwise the baby gets hungry and will suck too greedily, which will lead to a large amount of air swallowed and, ultimately, to bloating. To facilitate digestion, the child can be given enzyme preparations, vegetable carminative preparations, for example, dill water.

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