Bloating, or, as doctors say, flatulence, is a very common phenomenon. It is caused by the accumulation of a significant amount of gas in the intestine and is manifested by an increase in the volume of the abdomen, a sensation of fullness from the inside, rumbling, and the release of digestive gases. This digestive disorder may be a symptom of a digestive system disease, or it may be a reaction of the body to eating foods that cause increased gas formation in the intestines, or spoiled foods.
Where do the gases in the intestines come from?
In general, the presence of gases in the intestines is a normal condition. If food is swallowed, a small amount of air enters the digestive tract. Then the gases are formed during the digestion of the food lump, which occurs through various chemical reactions involving microflora. Part of the gas enters the intestines from the blood. As a rule, gases accumulate in the stomach and in the bends of the colon. How many gases are formed and what they are in composition is determined by many factors: the nature of nutrition, a person’s lifestyle, age, heredity, diseases of the digestive system, etc. Accumulated gases are foam consisting of bubbles covered with a layer of viscous mucus. It is because of this foam that difficulties arise with the breakdown of food, its digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is also the cause of decreased digestive enzyme activity.
Causes of severe bloating
Gases accumulate in the intestines in large quantities either due to increased gas formation, or due to difficulties with their removal from the body. Factors contributing to flatulence may or may not be related to disease.
Factors not related to digestive tract diseases:
1. Eating foods that increase gas production. Strong bloating can occur in an absolutely healthy person if he drinks carbonated drinks in large quantities or eats starchy, carbohydrate foods: legumes, cabbage, potatoes, and rye bread. The accumulation of gases may be associated with the consumption of berries and fruits that cause fermentation in the intestines: apples, grapes, cherries.
2. Swallowing air during meals (airbrushing). This happens if a person is in a hurry and swallows too large pieces of food. Then a large amount of air enters the stomach.
3. Lactose intolerance. Some people lack lactase — an enzyme that breaks down lactose — milk sugar. Because of this, after consuming milk and dairy products, indigestion and flatulence begin.
4. Pregnancy. In the later stages of women, a greatly enlarged uterus presses on the intestines, as a result of which peristalsis slows down and food masses are retained in the intestines.
Diseases and pathological conditions in which bloating occurs:
1. The lack of enzymes. With a lack of digestive enzymes, undigested food remains in the upper digestive tract into the intestines. As a result, fermentation and rotting processes are intensified and a large amount of gases is released. Enzyme deficiency can develop in various diseases of the digestive tract: gastritis, cholecystitis, duodenitis, pancreatitis, hepatitis, gallstone disease, as well as unbalanced nutrition.
2. Intestinal dysbiosis. Typically, gases are absorbed by certain bacteria in the colon. If the balance between microorganisms is broken and gas-consuming bacteria becomes smaller, gases accumulate in the intestine in large quantities.
3. Intestinal obstruction. Obstacles in the digestive tract: tumors, adhesions, narrowing – contribute to the disruption of the movement of food masses, which as a result stagnate and begin to ferment.
4. Violation of intestinal motility after surgical interventions on the abdominal cavity. As in the previous case, the slowdown in the passage of food masses leads to the development of fermentation and rotting with the release of a large amount of gas.
5. Acute intestinal infections. In this case, severe intoxication occurs and intestinal motility is impaired.
6. Neurogenic causes. Emotional overloads, stresses, nervous disorders, neurosis cause smooth muscles of the intestine, which slows down its peristalsis.
7. Venous congestion in the intestine. Veins increase and interfere with the work of the intestines, which is manifested including the accumulation of gases. This problem can occur with abdominal ischemia, cirrhosis.
How does bloating appear?
For flatulence, along with bulging and bursting of the abdomen, other manifestations are also characteristic: a feeling of heaviness, rumbling, boiling, exhaust of gases with a characteristic sound and a foul smell. In some cases, pain occurs. They can be blunt, spilled all over the stomach, and can be sharp, cramping. Usually they subside after defecation or gas discharge.
Most often, bloating is accompanied by other signs of digestive upset – belching, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, an unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth.