Bloating isn't fun for anyone. It's uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and occasionally embarrassing, depending on if the bloating is obvious or noticeable. But sometimes your bloating isn't as benign or innocent as you might think, sometimes there are some signs your bloating is actually a larger inflammation issue, rather than just due to eating foods like broccoli, beans, and onions, to name just a few. If your bloating comes accompanied with other symptoms, that could be an indication that you might have more to worry about than just your belly bloat and that you need to make an appointment with your doctor.
Bloating isn't entirely uncommon, but recognizing when you're bloated, as well as if you ate or drank something that might be causing your bloating, is important in determining what kind of thing with which you might be dealing. There are some red flags that you need to know about, particularly if you find yourself frequently bloated, that it's more than belly bloat and might be something like a chronic condition, infection, or bacterial overgrowth that can be addressed, making you feel better and bloat less often. Talking to your doctor about what else is going on in your body beyond just bloating, as well as how often you're bloating and how soon after eating that you're feeling bloated can help them determine the best way to proceed.
1. You Have A Fever
If you get a fever to accompany your bloat, that's a sign that you should definitely see a doctor. Dr. Chad Gonzales, MD, a gastroenterologist and owner of Ogden Gastro, tells Romper by email that this is a common issue when patients have a chronic inflammatory condition. Tell your doctor if you're dealing with a fever as well as being bloated so that they can run applicable tests to determine the cause.
2. You Bloat Right After Eating
"Upper abdominal bloaters bloat very early in relation to eating," Gonzales says. "They bloat while eating or within 30 minutes after eating. They may also have upper abdominal discomfort [or] pain and may experience nausea. Upper abdominal bloaters may have stomach ulcers or an infection of the stomach called Helicobacter pylori. An upper abdominal bloater may have abnormal function of the stomach, such as slow peristalsis and slow gastric emptying (called gastroparesis) or impaired dispensability [or] stretching of the stomach."
If you notice that the bloat comes on right away, there are a number of different things it could be, but your doctor can run some tests to figure out what's really going on. They'll be able to help you find the source and come up with some ways to address it.
3. You Think You Have IBS
"Perhaps 15 percent of the population has IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and up to about 75 percent of those actually have SIBO," Dr. Ann Haiden, DO, a functional medicine physician, tells Romper by email. "People are often surprised that their bowel syndrome has so many non-bowel symptoms. The inflammation is one of the reasons why."
If you've been told that you might (or do) have irritable bowel syndrome, talking to your doctor about SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) might encourage them to check that out as well, to make sure that it's not something other than IBS.
4. You're Also Dealing With Anemia
Gonzales says that if you have anemia as well as bloat, that too could be an indication that you have a chronic condition, such as Crohn's disease. "Fever and anemia are not symptoms of non-inflammatory bloating," he adds.
5. You Have Really Bad Abdominal Pain
Writing for Everyday Health, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE said that bloating paired with terrible abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, could indicate a bowel obstruction. That's something that requires swift medical attention. If you're experiencing this mix of symptoms, it's definitely not something you should ignore.
6. You're Dealing With Brain Fog
In an interview with Bustle, Dr. Frank Lipman, author of How to Be Well and founder of Be Well, said that brain fog, when paired with bloating, can sometimes be addressed by cutting out foods that are causing inflammation from your diet. If you're having a difficult time focusing, in addition to feeling bloated, talking to your doctor about what sorts of foods might be causing that could potentially help.
7. You're Losing Weight
Losing weight, but experiencing bloating, can also potentially be a sign that you're dealing with something more than just run-of-the-mill bloat. "When I encounter bloaters with fever, weight loss, or anemia I always recommend additional testing (e.g. endoscopy, CT scan imaging) very early in our time to together," Gonzales says.
Paying attention to the circumstances surrounding your bloat, as well as what other symptoms you might be experiencing, can help your doctor narrow their focus so that you can get answers sooner.
"Bloating is one of the most fascinating and interesting conditions that I treat," Gonzales adds. "The majority of bloaters I see have been suffering from symptoms for quite a long time and sometime years. Generally, the diagnosis can be found with a simple discussion and careful history of how their diet and symptoms relate to eating. We also have a careful discussion of warning signs."
Discussing your bloating with your doctor might be a really great idea, even if you think the bloat is a minor, insignificant thing. If you have some of the signs of a larger inflammatory issue, addressing the bloat right away can help you feel much better, much more quickly.