Fortunately, most issues with bloating are transient and caused by food intolerances, especially lactose, carbonated beverages, or beans. When bloating is an ongoing problem and avoiding gas-producing foods and beverages does not help, it is time to consult your doctor to rule out more serious issues.
Functional GI Disorders
There are numerous functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders that can cause bloating. These are caused by abnormal function anywhere along the GI tract. For example, many people experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which causes alternating issues with constipation or diarrhea. IBS can be difficult to treat because sometimes the triggers are unknown or unavoidable, like stress. Another, more serious, functional GI disorder is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These are a group of disorders that occur when the immune system attacks healthy tissue along the digestive tract. In addition to bloating, there can be pain, bloody stool, and damage to the digestive tract.
Bloating can be an indirect symptom of several types of heart disease, such as a heart attack or congestive heart failure (CHF). There are a wide variety of symptoms associated with a heart attack and while GI symptoms are less common during one, they can occur. Some people are likely to experience classic heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain and pain radiating to the jaw or left arm. Others however may experience bloating and digestive symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting during a heart attack. CHF can also present as bloating because the heart is not as effective at pumping blood. Both blood and fluids can back up in the abdominal organs, causing a sensation of bloating.
Ovarian cancer is considered a silent disease because it may not cause symptoms until it is in the latter stages, and the symptoms that do occur are vague and easy to blame on other problems. Bloating can occur because of excess fluid in the abdomen, but a large mass may be another cause. If cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, lymphatic fluid may also back up into the abdomen, causing bloating. Since many women experience bloating around their menstrual period, they should be concerned if menstrual bloating turns into bloating throughout the month. Women should be especially cognizant if their bloating occurs with increased firmness in the abdomen, which may be indicative of excess fluid or a large mass.
Although most instances of bloating are caused by benign issues, there are some cases when bloating is indicative of a more serious issue. Prolonged bloating should always be evaluated by a medical professional.