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Bloating is a condition in which the abdominal area becomes swollen and increases in diameter. When a person experiences this, he or she feels a sensation of tightness or fullness in the stomach. It can also cause pain. When caused by an accumulation of liquid in the abdominal cavity, it is medically referred to as ascites.
There are a number of possible causes for bloating. The most common cause is liquids and intestinal gases accumulating in the stomach, although overeating or eating foods one is allergic to can also cause this condition. Similarly, a person with lactose intolerance may experience bloating after ingesting dairy products.
A person with the nervous habit of swallowing air, a condition called aerophagia, may also experience bloating. It is not uncommon in individuals with certain diseases and illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Alvarez’ syndrome, splenic-flexure syndrome, and diverticulosis. Menstruating women or those with ovarian cysts often have this symptom, as may those who are constipated or who have a partial obstruction of the bowels. Serious medical problems, such as intra-abdominal tumors and megacolon, can also cause it, so it's important for individuals who feel bloated for no apparent reason to consult with a medical professional.
Since there are so many possible causes for bloating, treating it usually requires addressing the underlying cause. If it's caused by constipation, for example, eating fruit can help loosen the stool. Exercising, drinking plenty of water, and consuming fiber can also help relieve this condition.
If gas is the cause of bloating, a person may find it helpful to take one to two tablets of betaine hydrochloric acid. In addition, carbonated water can encourage belching, which helps to eliminate gas and relieve the feeling of tightness. Chewing celery seeds and drinking chamomile tea can also be beneficial. Other helpful teas include fennel, ginger, and peppermint.
Activated charcoal pills can also help relieve gas and reduce bloating, though they should not be taken by anyone on birth control pills or other medication. In addition, charcoal should not be used on a long-term basis.