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Bloating is a descriptive term for the sensation of increased abdominal girth. It may or may not be associated with distension. Bloating is caused by the triggering of nerves related to stretching of the bowel, stomach or abdominal wall and often causes abdominal pain and discomfort. The commonest cause of bloating is simply eating too much, of course this sensation usually passes!

Bloating may be due to the accumulation of excess gas, food or fluid within the gut or it may simply related to the premature firing of the nerves within the bowel wall which detect stretching. In patients for whom excess gas is an issue the gas may be a result of air swallowing (very common) or fizzy drinks, which is often associated with belching. Alternatively it may reflect excess gas lower down in the bowel due to fermentation of foods within the bowel. On occasion obstruction of the bowel may cause bloating and significant distension. For individuals with irritable bowel and other causes of sensitivity within the nerves of the gut even small meals may cause a disturbing feeling of bloating and discomfort. This is often distressing, but can be very challenging to treat with either diet or currently available medication.

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