Stomach bloating is commonly attributed to a gassy buildup in the gastrointestinal tract (GI). The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. If you have trapped wind, it means the passage of gas through this channel has become blocked. The result? The wind sees refuge in your stomach, causing painful swelling and abdominal cramps.
This is not the only cause of stomach bloating, however. The complaint is also tied to a number of serious health conditions.
One of the most serious is Parkinson’s disease; a condition whereby parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that communicates with the nervous system to help control and co-ordinate body movement.
In addition to perceptible movement problems, such as tremors, it can cause digestive complaints such as stomach bloating.
How? The Parkinson’s Foundation explains: “The same brain changes in Parkinson’s disease that cause stiffness and slow movement also affect the muscles involved in swallowing and in pushing food through the digestive system.”
Nausea or bloating can result when the stomach empties its contents into the small intestine too slowly, it says.
Unfortunately, there’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms and maintain your quality of life, adds the NHS.
Other serious causes of bloating
Bloating can also be a sign of a number of cancers, such as colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancer, according to Harvard Health.
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It could be a sign of inflammatory bowel condition, constipation, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, says the health body.
A key indicator of the above symptoms is “sudden bloating”, according to Dr Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
He explained: “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.”
If sudden bloating lasts more than a few days, report the symptom to your doctor gastroenterologist, Harvard Health suggests.
General self-help tips to alleviate bloating
More often that, bloating is simply the result of ingesting too much wind and there are steps you can take to remedy this.
One simple self-help tip is to try not to swallow too much air.
According to the NHS, you can do this by:
- Not talking and eat at the same time
- Sitting down to eat (sitting upright and not slumped over)
- Reducing the amount of fizzy drinks you consume
- Stop chewing gum and chew with your mouth closed so that you’re not taking in excess air.
- It can also help to drastically cut down on foods known to cause wind and bloating.
Some of the worst culprits include beans, onions and broccoli, warns the NHS.
Lesser-known tip for reducing bloating
Alleviating stress can also help to soothe your bloating woes because the gut responds to modern stress the same way it responds to true danger.
Holland and Barrett explains: “Stress hormones mean your body is trying to divert blood away from the gut and into the muscles as part of the fight or flight response.”
To combat stress, aim to eat lunch away from your desk at work, and make mealtimes a relaxing experience, advises the health body.
“Yoga, meditation and massage can all help you unwind,” it adds.
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