Last Updated April 2024 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Beth Oller, MD

What is bloating?

The medical term is “meteorism.” But we all know the term “bloating” and the way it makes us feel. Bloating occurs in your abdomen (stomach). It happens when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas from what you eat, your lifestyle, or for medical reasons. The GI tract runs from the mouth to the anus (bottom). It includes your entire digestive system. When you are bloated, you feel as if you’ve eaten a big meal and there is no room in your stomach. Your stomach feels full and tight. It can be uncomfortable or painful. Your stomach may look bigger. It can make your clothes fit tighter. The good news is that certain lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, can reduce that awful feeling.


Common symptoms of bloating include stomach pain, discomfort, and gas (flatulence). You may also burp or belch frequently or have abdominal rumbling or gurgling.

However, if you have any of the following symptoms, along with severe bloating, call your doctor:

  • Blood in your stool
  • Noticeable weight loss (without trying)
  • Vaginal bleeding (between your periods, or if you are postmenopausal)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn that is getting worse
  • Fever (due to an infection)


Bloating happens when the GI tract becomes filled with air or gas. This can be caused by food sensitivities (something you ate) or a medical condition. It can even be caused by stress and hormones. Some foods produce more gas than others. It can also be caused by lactose intolerance (problems with dairy). Other simple causes include:

  • Swallowing air (this can happen when you chew gum, smoke, or eat too fast)
  • Constipation
  • Overeating
  • Reflux (GERD)
  • Weight gain
  • Menstruation (in some women)
  • Small bowel bacterial overgrowth (bacteria in the small intestine)

Other causes could include medical conditions, such as:

  • Infection
  • Inflammation (such as a condition called diverticulitis)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Liver disease (abnormal buildup of fluid in your stomach or pelvis)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Blockage in your bowel or bladder
  • Hormones
  • Cancer (ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, or stomach)
  • Mental health factors, such as stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Some medicines containing acarbose, lactulose, or sorbitol
  • Some medical procedures, such as a hernia repair, because doctors pump gas into your abdominal area to see while they are completing the procedure

If your bloating is caused by something more serious, such as a medical condition, your doctor will treat the underlying cause.


Your doctor can generally diagnose the cause of your bloating through a physical exam in the office. They will ask you questions about your symptoms. They will want to know if your bloating is occasional or if it occurs all the time.

Temporary bloating is usually not serious. If it happens all the time, your doctor may order other tests. These could include an imaging test to look inside your abdomen. This could be an X-ray or CT scan.

Prevention Tips

There are many ways to prevent and avoid bloating:

  • Anything that gets you moving helps, including a brisk walk, yoga, and dancing.
  • Adding more fiber to your diet can help. This can be through whole wheat cereals and bread for example as well as leafy greens and apples. Although some vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, beans, and lentils can cause bloating, other vegetables such as peppers, carrots, lettuce, radishes, and others are helpful when consumed on a regular basis. More fiber also helps reduce constipation. If foods alone don’t help, consider taking a fiber supplement.
  • Avoid chewing gum.
  • Avoid using straws for drinking.
  • Avoid talking a lot while eating.
  • Reduce or avoid drinking carbonated drinks (such as soda).
  • Reduce or avoid eating and drinking foods that include fructose or sorbitol. These artificial sweeteners are often found in sugar-free foods.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid dairy products if you notice they cause gas and bloating.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently.


For temporary bloating, ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicines that relieve gas and bloating. These could include simethicone or charcoal caps. Probiotics (such as some types of yogurts), and certain herbal ingredients can relieve your discomfort, too. Herbal ingredients include peppermint and chamomile tea, anise, caraway, coriander, fennel, and turmeric.

Place a hot water bottle or compress on your stomach, or even take a hot shower to help relieve bloating.

Exercise can do wonders. Walk, do yoga, dance, or work on abdominal core strengthening exercises to alleviate bloating. Even laying down and bringing your knees to your chest and holding them there for 3 to 5 minutes can help.

Living with bloating

Living with bloating can be uncomfortable. You may have stomach pain or just a sense of fullness. When it affects how your clothes fit, it can be frustrating. If your bloating is constant, don’t suffer unnecessarily. See your doctor to determine if the cause of the bloating is something more serious.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Do I need a test to diagnose lactose intolerance?
  • Why do certain foods cause me to be bloated when they never used to?
  • What can I do if I have diabetes and my medicine or artificial sweeteners cause bloating?
  • Could my bloating be a sign of something more serious?
  • What kind of tests will I need?
  • What kind of over-the-counter medicine can I try?


American Gastroenterlogical Association: Evaluation and management of belching, abdominal bloating, and distention

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Abdominal bloating


This content was developed in collaboration with ColonBroom, a leading fiber supplement company that helps users combat bloating, improve gut health, and foster a sustainable approach to weight loss.


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