Bloating is generally manifested by uncomfortably full and gaseous stomach accompanied with burping, or abdominal rumbling and gurgling. Most of the time the causes are benign and include:
- swallowing excess air,
- irritable bowel syndrome
- intolerance to certain foods or ingredients (lactose, for example),
- drinking too many carbonated beverages, and
- some medications.
However, bloating can also indicate a more serious health issue. Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with the warning signs and symptoms that serious bloating is associated with.
SERIOUS BLOATING – WARNING SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Abdominal bloating can be the result of liver disease or cirrhosis normally caused by cancer, hepatitis, or heavy drinking. The liver is more susceptible to deterioration because it acts as a filter station where cancer from other organs spreads because when cancer cells get into the bloodstream, they eventually get filtered through the liver. Other symptoms of liver disease are yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Advanced colon cancer can block the inside of the colon, thus leading to bloating. In fact, bloating may be the only early symptom of colon cancer when the cancer is higher up in the colon, as opposed to colon cancer located at the end of the colon in the rectum, when it’s normally accompanied with bleeding and worsening constipation.
One of the most aggressive forms of cancer with low survival rates is pancreatic cancer. A serious group of symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer is bloating associated with jaundice, weight loss, poor appetite, and upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back. Plus, development of diabetes along with bloating, weight loss and abdominal pain can also indicate pancreatic cancer.
This type of cancer normally shows no symptoms in its early stages, or causes vague symptoms like bloating, indigestion, and flatulence in the upper abdomen. It’s similar to pancreatic cancer because it only gives more serious symptoms such as weight loss, nausea and abdominal pain in the more advanced stages. The greatest risk factor is Helicobacter pylori as well as nitrates and nitrites in smoked and processed meats.
Persistent bloating, feeling full faster, and pelvic pain are typical symptoms of ovarian cancer. Although it’s the fifth most common cancer in women, it’s highly lethal. Not giving birth or giving birth late in life, obesity, a family history of ovarian cancer, certain genetic abnormalities, and long-term treatment with hormone replacement therapy are the most common risk factors.
Aside from bloating, uterine cancer is also manifested by abnormal vaginal bleeding, a watery or blood-tinged vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or pain with intercourse or urination. The most common causes include taking estrogen supplements in the absence of progesterone, tamoxifen, radiation therapy, a family history of uterine cancer, or a family history of Lynch syndrome (a form of inherited colon cancer).
Ascites is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity usually triggered by liver disease. This condition causes bloating, expansion of the abdomen and rapid weight gain as fluid pools. Moreover, if bloating is accompanied with jaundice, which turns the eyes and skin yellow, it can indicate a cancer that’s spread to the liver. Ascites can also occur with milder forms of liver disease such as hepatitis.
Any weight loss of more than a few pounds, especially if it’s 10% or more of your body weight, without any significant change in dietary regime, and is accompanied with abdominal bloating, can signify a cancer. Weight loss can be the result of tumors pressing on the intestines, making you feel full after just a small amount of food, or from substances secreted by tumors that suppress your appetite.
Diverticulitis is inflammation of the diverticulum, usually in the colon, which results in bloating, fever, and abdominal pain and tenderness accompanied by diarrhea or constipation. The standard treatment includes bowel rest with a liquid diet. Antibiotics are prescribed in case of fever. A high-fiber diet is highly recommended after the acute episode of diverticulitis is over in order to ensure fecal matter flow in the bowels and to prevent future complications.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhea can lead to Pelvic inflammatory disease, which occurs when one of the female reproductive organs, such as the uterine lining, Fallopian tubes, or ovaries become infected. This condition can also occur during childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage, or with insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD). Typical symptoms include bloating, which is accompanied by fever, pain, and tenderness in the pelvic area. A vaginal discharge is the key symptom that suggests a PID. Untreated PID can lead to infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, so it’s vital to have a pelvic exam and antibiotic treatment.
This is an autoimmune disease normally affecting the digestive system, especially the small intestine or colon. Bloating is one of the earliest symptoms as it can take years before the condition is diagnosed. It can cause narrowing of the intestines that eventually leads to a bowel obstruction, which results in severe bloating, weight loss, and nausea and vomiting after meals. When Crohn’s occurs in the colon, diarrhea with blood in the stools is a typical symptom. Other symptoms outside of the GI tract include mouth ulcers, joint pain, skin lesions and inflammation in the eyes.
When bloating is accompanied with high fever (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), it is usually indicative of infection or inflammation, which is likely urinary, pelvic or a gastrointestinal. White blood count will also be raised.
Whatever the cause, it’s important to know that the earlier an illness is diagnosed, the more likely treatments will be successful in curing the underlying problem.