Abdominal bloating and distension occur extremely commonly in the functional gastrointestinal disorders with many patients ranking them as particularly intrusive symptoms. Characteristically, the problem is exacerbated by meals, fluctuates in intensity, is worse at the end of the day and settles overnight. When these symptoms follow this pattern, they are almost path gnomonic of a functional gastrointestinal disorder and it is somewhat surprising that their diagnostic utility has not been harnessed more often.

This is in part because these features do not appear to be so common in men, but to some extent, this is because men describe the problem differently often referring to it as a 'hardness' or 'tightness' of the abdomen. Probably the best way to view these features is that when they are present, they make the possibility of a functional bowel disorder almost certain but when absent, they don't exclude the diagnosis.

Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels full and tight. It is usually caused by gas in the bowel. Bloating is largely caused by intestinal gas. Intestinal gas can result from eating gassy foods or swallowing air. Swallowing air while eating is often done unconsciously and may result in frequent belching during or after meals. To avoid swallowing air, slow down when eating, don't 'slurp' drinks, and don't talk while chewing. Also try to avoid chewing gum, hard candy, carbonated beverages such as soda pop, and drinking through straws.

The most common symptoms of gas are belching, flatulence, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms. The determining factors probably are how much gas the body produces, how many fatty acids the body absorbs, and a person's sensitivity to gas in the large intestine. Chronic symptoms caused by too much gas or by a serious disease are rare.

Hormonal Bloating for premenopausal women, bloating is often related to the menstruation. During the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase, women can retain water, which causes swelling in not only the abdomen, but also sometimes in the hands, feet and breasts.

The rising levels of hormones also have a direct effect on the gastointenstinal tract. "This hormonal effect causes the GI tract not to empty as quickly and to produce gas," explains Dr. Grace Janik, director of Reproductive Endocrinology at St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee.

Starches are another common source of intestinal gas. Starches are polysaccharides that are produced by plants and are composed of long chains of sugars. Common sources of different types of starch include wheat, oats, potatoes, corn, and rice. Rice is the most easily digested starch and little undigested rice starch reaches the colon and the colonic bacteria. Accordingly, the consumption of rice produces little gas.

In contrast, the starches in wheat, oats, potatoes, and, to a lesser extent, corn, all reach the colon and the bacteria in substantial amounts.

Avoid chewing gum if you're prone to bloating - it can cause you to swallow a lot of air. Eliminate all carbonated beverages from your diet. Carbonation in general is a potential trigger for IBS attacks, and it's particularly likely to exacerbate bloating. Have a nice hot cup of fennel tea instead of soda pop or sparkling water, follow the and practice the bloating-specific yoga poses, and you should notice a tremendous improvement.

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