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Stomach bloating causes: Tummy swelling could signal diverticular disease – what is it?

Easy Ways to Live Well: Steph McGovern discusses bloating

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Stomach bloating is typically a by-product of binging on gassy foods, such as broccoli and onions. A gassy build-up forces wind into the tummy area, which stretches in response. Common wisdom says to simply cut down on gassy foods to eliminate bloating but this may not suffice.

If your stomach bloating persists, it may be the result of an underlying health condition.

Diverticular disease is one such condition that has bloating as a symptom.

According to Bupa, diverticular disease is a condition whereby small pouches, called diverticula, form in the lining of your bowel and push out through the bowel wall, causing symptoms.

As the health body explains, feeling bloated is a warning sign of diverticular disease but there are a number of other symptoms that can accompany bloating.

Other symptoms include:

  • Recurring pain in your tummy – this may come on when eating and may get better after you go to the toilet or break wind
  • Constipation or diarrhoea or a general change in your bowel habits
  • A lot of bleeding or mucus coming out of your rectum (back passage).

How to respond

According to the NHS, you should contact a GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms of diverticular disease.

“If you’ve already been diagnosed with diverticular disease, you usually do not need to contact a GP – the symptoms can be treated at home,” says the health body.

It adds: “But if you have any bleeding or severe pain, seek immediate medical advice.”

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What else could be causing your bloat?

As Harvard Health explains, bloating can also be a sign of an inflammatory bowel condition, constipation, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, or (in rare cases) cancer.

Sudden bloating is often a sign of a more serious cause.

“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,” said Dr Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

According to Dr Staller, if sudden bloating lasts more than a few days, report the symptom to your doctor or gastroenterologist.

More often than not, bloating is linked to your diet.

If eliminating gassy items from your diet does not remedy bloating, it can be a sign of a food intolerance.

According to the NHS, a food intolerance can lead to bloating when:

  • Your bowel does not empty properly
  • The food causes gas to be trapped
  • Too much gas is produced as a reaction to the food.

“The most common foods to cause problems are wheat or gluten and dairy products,” explains the health body.

As it explains, the best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the problem food or cut it out completely.

If you have bloating or other minor symptoms after eating bread, Dr Skypala recommends trying an elimination diet, advised Isabel Skypala PhD, specialist allergy dietitian at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

This is where you completely cut out wheat from your diet for four weeks, then gradually bring it back in to see if symptoms reappear.

When you bring wheat-based foods back in, I recommend trying Weetabix or pasta first for a few days before starting on bread. It’s better to start with wheat in a more pure form, as bread has so many other ingredients,” Dr Skypala added.

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