Bloating and fullness shouldn’t be ignored

People very often complain of a feeling of fullness or a tight abdomen (loosely referred to as a bloated belly) due to visual distension of the belly or because their clothes feel too tight around the middle. This distension can be true swelling such as fluid in the abdomen also known as ascites or the presence of a mass. But more often than not, what is being referred to is increased air/gas in the stomach and/or intestines, also known as bloating. While all of us feel bloated from time to time, particularly after large meals or consuming foods that produce more gas in the body such as dairy products, cabbage, lentils, beer, sodas, chewing gum, and many more. Few medications can also cause bloating as a side effect, such as sleeping pills, sedatives, and antidepressants. But if the bloating is accompanied by other symptoms, especially loss of appetite, it could mean there’s some serious health problem.

by Shifa Khan

Here’s what the expert says

Dr. Lovkesh Aand, Medical Consultant Gastroenterology and Hepatology, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka says, “Loss of appetite and bloated belly can be significant indicators of a wide variety of gastrointestinal diseases. Foodborne infections, chronic constipation, lactose intolerance, gastritis and peptic ulcers are few of these common gastrointestinal diseases. Patients with these diseases may also have abdominal pain, intestinal discomfort, nausea and/or vomiting. Other common causes of these symptoms are irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, hookworm infections, giardiasis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Each of these diseases has different markers that can help with diagnosis and treatment.


Symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases

These symptoms of loss of appetite and bloated belly could also be an indicator of serious illnesses such as intestinal obstruction and gastroparesis. Patients with these diseases experience severe abdominal pain, recurrent vomiting, constipation, and constipation along with abdominal fullness and loss of appetite. A bloated stomach that lasts longer than 2 weeks after taking medications, weight loss, pale skin, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the skin can be warning signs of cancer, including ovarian, colon, stomach, and pancreatic cancers.
There are some non-gastrointestinal conditions, where people can have these symptoms. The most common of these is fatty liver which can be due to many reasons like alcohol, obesity, diabetes, virus etc. Other non-gastrointestinal causes are thyroid disorders, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pregnancy especially in the first trimester, and PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

Diagnosing gastrointestinal conditions

People should see a gastroenterologist if they have experienced persistent bloating and loss of appetite for 2 weeks or more. with or without other red flag signs such as unexplained weight loss, persistent or severe abdominal pain, blood in your urine or stool, changes in the color or frequency of bowel movements, or feeling full quickly. Your doctor would have a detailed assessment of associated symptoms and medical history along with various blood, stool, urine, imaging, endoscopy and/or colonoscopy tests. Treatment for these diseases varies based on the diagnosis, but largely includes medications, lifestyle changes, as well as endoscopic or surgical procedures. Pain relievers, immunosuppressant drugs, dietary modifications, and antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the abdominal pain and inflammation associated with these diseases. More serious conditions, such as an intestinal blockage or cancer, may require surgery.

Treatment and care

In addition to following your doctor’s recommended treatment plan, taking simple steps at home can help relieve symptoms. This involves dietary changes, such as avoiding excessive caffeine and increasing fiber, or monitoring and avoiding foods that trigger IBS. Eating slowly and then sitting upright can also help reduce the risk of indigestion. Avoiding overeating, increasing water intake and regular exercises are the other measures that help relieve the symptoms.

The takeaway

Loss of appetite and a bloated belly can be signs of a variety of gastrointestinal and systemic diseases. It is important for those experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention, as early diagnosis and treatment of these diseases can often provide the best outcome.