Stomach bloating: ‘Sudden’ bloating is a serious warning sign – what it could mean
Easy Ways to Live Well: Steph McGovern discusses bloating
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Gorging on gassy foods, such as beans and broccoli, can have painful repercussions on the body. The most common being stomach bloating – that painful sensation whereby the belly distends to accommodate excess wind. In most cases, cutting down on gassy culprits should help to relieve bloating.
Stomach bloating does not always have benign causes, however.
Bloating that comes on suddenly when you get older can signal something serious is up.
“Most people who have bloating start experiencing it at a young age. But if someone is suddenly having bloating in older age, that’s sometimes a red flag that tells me something has changed and needs to be investigated,” said Dr Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
According to Professor Staller, it could signal the following:
- Inflammatory bowel condition
- Lactose intolerance
- Celiac disease, or (in rare cases) cancer.
Bloating is a symptom of both ovarian and bowel cancer.
As Cancer Research UK explains, cancer can sometimes causes a build up of fluid in the abdomen.
The medical name for a build up of fluid in the abdomen is ascites.
This build up of fluid sometimes cause swelling that can make the tummy feel tight and very uncomfortable, explains Cancer Research UK.
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“It often develops over a few weeks but might happen over a few days,” says the charity.
Other causes of bloating
Stomach bloating can also indicate you have a food intolerance.
A food intolerance is difficulty digesting certain foods and having an unpleasant physical reaction to them.
According to the NHS, a food intolerance can lead to bloating when:
- Your bowel does not empty properly
- The food causes gas to be trapped
- Too much gas is produced as a reaction to the food.
As the NHS explains, the most common foods to cause problems are wheat or gluten and dairy products.
“The best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the problem food or cut it out completely,” says the health body.
It also recommends keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks, noting everything that you eat and drink and when bloating troubles you most.
“But do not get rid of food groups long-term without advice from your GP.”
One of the worst culprits is bread, according to Isabel Skypala PhD, specialist allergy dietitian at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.
“If you have bloating or other minor symptoms after eating bread, Dr Skypala recommends trying an elimination diet,” advised Skypala.
As she explained, allergy is unlikely to be the culprit, but bread-related symptoms are real, and wheat could be to blame.
“Some people find certain foods are simply hard to digest, and wheat appears to be one of those,” Skypala added.
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