Bloating or the stomach fullness may be caused by many factors or it can also be a complication of a deeper problem in the gastrointestinal tract. Stomach fullness results when our gastrointestinal tract motility will be compromised. In most cases, bloating can be caused by gases. These gases are produced in the stomach during food conversion to energy. About 40% of gastric gases come from swallowing air as we talk and as we breathe. The human body normally passes out gases either by burping or by blowing out flatus. A normal person passes out gas 3 – 6 times a day. When gases accumulate in the stomach bloating occurs.
Another cause of bloating is constipation. This is due to a hypoactive GIT peristalsis or movement. Normally we defecate 1-3 times a day. Some people defecate up to 6 times a day and still considered normal. Constipation is the inability to have bowel movement at least once daily. After 3 days of constipation, the feces in that accumulates in the colon will become hard and will solidify. Impacted feces causes’ further obstruction not just of waste material but also gas in the gastrointestinal tract. This will be manifested as bloating.
In neonates, bloating can be seen as irritability, restlessness and hiccups. They are prone to bloating because they don’t have the ability to burp the gases formed in their stomach produced during digestion. Although, bloating in this age group with no physical findings in the abdomen is considered normal.
Enterogenic infection may also cause bloating. Ironically, they all cause diarrhea; however, organisms also produce gases as a byproduct. As the organism multiplies in the GIT, the more gases are produced which causes stomach fullness. An example of this is the doudenal bacteria called Giardia lamblia and E. coli.
Helicobacter pylori, the most common cause of gastric ulcer and gastric cancer perforates and destroys the gastric wall causing formation of gastric bubbles. As the bubbles form they cause bloating together with the intense pain caused by the ulcer.
A rare but possible case is the infestation of the parasite called Ascaris lumbricoides. This large parasite has the ability to roam anywhere in the host’s body including the intestines. When the worm lodges somewhere where in the tract it causes obstruction of feces distending the tract and cause bloating.
Gallbladder stones cause colic, a condition where in the stones blocks the sphincter of Oddi found in the doudenum causing immotility of the intestine. Most common symptoms are bloating, vomiting, right upper quadrant abdominal pain and a referred pain in the right subscapular area.
The more serious causes of bloating are Colon cancer, Budd-chiari Syndrome, doudenal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Tumor mass will cause obstruction so belatedness will occur. When you look at X-rays of these conditions, you could see the gas bubbles found in the affected areas of the intestinal tract.
In neonates, most cases of bloating are normal and mild if there are no other signs and symptoms noted. In middle-aged individuals, it usually results from stress, ulcer and infections. In the 40′s to the elderly, it should be considered as a serious condition that can be an early sign of more severe conditions such as cancers and metabolic imbalance.