A swollen abdomen occurs when your stomach area is larger than
normal. This is sometimes known as a distended abdomen or swollen belly. A
swollen abdomen is often uncomfortable or even painful. A swollen abdomen has a
number of potential causes. It’s a common occurrence.
Causes Abdominal Swelling?
Your abdomen could be swollen for a number of different reasons.
These range from eating too much to pregnancy. Only your doctor will be able to
determine the exact cause of your swollen abdomen.
Some of the most common causes of abdominal swelling include
overeating and gas. Swallowing air as part of a nervous habit or from eating
foods that are high in fiber can lead to gas production. If you don’t release this
gas, it can lead to abdominal swelling.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that causes cramping
and pain in your stomach, among other symptoms. IBS can also cause bloating and
gas, which could cause you to have a distended abdomen. According to the International Foundation for Functional
Gastrointestinal Diseases, about 1 in every 10 people have symptoms of IBS.
intolerance is a condition that occurs when your body is unable to digest
lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance
include abdominal bloating and gas. These symptoms can cause your abdomen to
swell. If you experience a swollen abdomen within two hours of ingesting dairy,
you might be lactose intolerant. According to the Mayo
Clinic, lactose intolerance is most common in people of African, Asian,
Hispanic and American Indian descent.
is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up inside your abdomen. This
buildup is usually due to problems with your liver, such as cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis occurs when your liver becomes extremely scarred. When ascites first
develops, you probably won’t notice any symptoms. As the fluid accumulates over
time, you’ll start to notice your abdomen becoming more and more swollen.
Ascites can cause you discomfort.
Your swollen abdomen could be caused by a number of other less
common symptoms. For example, gallstones are hard masses that can build up in
your gallbladder. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. Weight gain
may also cause swelling of the abdomen, as can a blockage in your intestine. An
ovarian cyst may also lead to a swollen abdomen.
Are the Treatment Options for Abdominal Swelling?
Depending upon the cause of your swollen abdomen, you might be
able to treat your symptoms easily at home. If your abdomen is swollen because
you ate too much, simply waiting for your food to digest could solve your
problem. Eating smaller meals can help prevent this problem in the future.
Also, consider eating more slowly to give your stomach time to process your
If your abdomen is swollen because of gas, try avoiding foods
that are known to cause gas. Some of these foods are beans and cruciferous
vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. Avoid drinking carbonated drinks and
drinking out of a straw. Eating slowly can also help prevent you from
swallowing air, which leads to gas.
Avoiding dairy products can help relieve abdominal swelling
caused by lactose intolerance. In the case of IBS, decreasing your stress
levels and raising your fiber intake have been shown to help relieve symptoms.
If you have ascites, bed rest and reducing your sodium intake can help your
body get rid of the excess fluid.
If rest and lowering the amount of sodium in your diet don’t work
to relieve symptoms, your doctor might suggest using diuretics. Diuretics will
help your kidneys remove more of the fluid causing the swelling. In rare cases,
an infection can develop in your ascitic fluid. If this happens, you’ll need to
undergo rigorous treatment with antibiotics.
There isn’t much medical treatment available to relieve a swollen
abdomen due to IBS and lactose intolerance.
Ascites is typically a side effect of another serious issue in
the body, such as cirrhosis.
You should talk to your doctor about a plan of care. In addition to treating
the causing ailment, you may need to undergo removal of the fluid. The fluid
removal procedure, or paracentesis, varies in duration since it depends on how much
fluid needs to be removed.
Should I Seek Medical Attention?
It’s unlikely that your swollen abdomen is the result of any
serious illness, but there are a few things you should look out for. Call your
doctor if your abdomen is getting bigger, or if you have other symptoms that
accompany the swelling, such as fever or nausea. Seek medical care if you have
extreme diarrhea or blood in your stool. If you find that you’re unable to eat
or drink for more than eight hours, tell your doctor.