Four Notorious Causes of Distended Stomach

The feeling of a distended stomach is something that most of us have experienced in the past. In the United States, this is a condition that occurs on a regular basis in about a quarter of the adult population. A distended stomach, which is also known as abdominal distension, is a feeling of increased pressure inside the stomach or abdomen which often appears in the form of the stomach pooching out a bit more than usual. Some of the primary symptoms of distention in the stomach are excessive burping and/or flatulence, feeling of fullness in the stomach or abdomen, the need to urinate frequently (which may be especially noticeable at night when you have to get out of bed more often), diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and feeling generally irritable or moody.

There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to stomach distention by either triggering the condition or worsening it. Take a look at some of the causes behind stomach distention and how the condition can be alleviated.

Certain Foods and Lactose Intolerance

There are some foods that have are notorious for causing stomach distention, usually due to certain compositions that trigger the release of excessive gas in the stomach. Some of the foods known to cause excessive gas production and bloating are cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas, beans, lentils, and even dairy products like milk and cheese. In some people, the cause may not be the actual food but rather a food allergy, particularly when it comes to milk. Milk intolerance is also known as lactose intolerance and is characterized by gas, bloating, burping, stomach fullness, cramping and pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some people also experience a runny nose or gurgling sounds in the stomach. If you think that you might be lactose intolerant then try to eliminate all dairy products from your diet. Even if the pain/symptoms go away that doesn’t necessarily mean that dairy was the cause of your symptoms. Try to reintroduce dairy back into your diet and if the symptoms immediately come back within 24 – 48 hours then you may be lactose intolerant.

Excessive Eating or Overeating

Overeating is the most common culprit behind distended stomach in the United States. We’ve all been there, though—the meal that tasted so good you simply couldn’t put your fork down when your stomach started signaling that it was full. The end result was probably gas, burping, heartburn, indigestion, and—you guessed it!—stomach distention. When the stomach is forced to contain more food that it should it literally stretches, which in some individuals can lead to a noticeable difference in the shape and size of the stomach. This condition can cause the abdomen to “pooch” or protrude further than it normally does. Luckily overeating doesn’t cause permanent distention of the stomach unless one teds to overeat all of the time, in which case stomach distention could become a chronic and bothersome condition. The solution in this case is to simply try to eat smaller portions. It might even be a good idea to break up the three major meals a day into five or six smaller meals. This not only cuts back on distended stomach and bloating but can also help relieve discomfort cased by indigestion and heartburn.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, also called IBS, is a disorder that causes changes in a person’s bowel movements and is characterized by stomach pain, cramping, fullness of the abdomen, gas, bloating, and involuntary abdominal and bowel contractions. This is a condition that can be caused by a few different factors and in most cases doctors are not sure exactly why some people develop IBS and others do not. It seems that IBS can crop up after the intestines have recently undergone an infection but it is also possible that the connectivity between the intestines and the brain becomes strained or impaired. The result is intestinal sensitivity that triggers spasms and squeezing which can be uncomfortable to say the least! Studies have shown that stress can have a major cause in IBS flare-ups. People diagnosed with IBS have usually experienced the symptoms of this disorder for at least three days per month for three months or more.


A distended stomach is another complaint among women who are coming up on their menstrual cycle or are already on it. It is a well known symptom of PMS, or pre-menstrual syndrome. Other symptoms of PMS include bloating, gas, headaches, mood changes, irritability, cravings for food, sensitive or painful breasts, cramping in the stomach and abdomen, fatigue, joint and/or muscle pain, diarrhea, constipation, acne, and temporary depression. It is estimated that about 75 percent of all menstruating women experience some form of pre-menstrual syndrome. It doesn’t always occur with every menstrual cycle and in some months the symptoms can be much worse or obvious than others. The symptoms of PMS typically go away when menstruation begins but some women continue to suffer the symptoms into or throughout their period. To reduce stomach distention during PMS, try to cut back on carbonated beverages, dairy products, and legumes. Studies have shown that stress, poor dietary habits, depression, and mineral deficiencies can also contribute to PMS symptoms. Over the counter medications such as Midol, Pamprin, and Gas-X can help to reduce the discomfort caused by pre-menstrual syndrome.

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