- Benign bloating, or bloating that has no long-term health consequences, is fairly common and can happen due to a person’s diet, medications, or genetics.
- But sometimes, bloating can signal something is wrong with your health.
- Bloating can be a symptom of cancer, Celiac disease, or thyroid disease, New York-based dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman told INSIDER.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Most of us have gotten a bit of belly bloat at some point in our lives, whether after eating too quickly or downing one too many beers.
Even the most health-conscious get bloated from time to time when they eat a food they can’t digest easily. Foods that produce more gas in the body, like garlic, legumes, and dairy, for example, are common belly bloat culprits, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
These instances, called benign bloating, don’t lead to any life-threatening health complications because the bloat is a result of excess gas buildup in the stomach, according to New York-based dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman, author of “The Bloated Belly Whisperer.”
While benign bloating may lead to some constipation or diarrhea, the bloating will typically go away on its own. It can also be prevented if you abstain from eating the foods you find to be your bloat triggers.
But if your bloating is accompanied by other symptoms, like fatigue, joint pain, or loss of appetite, it could mean the bloating is a sign you have a serious health problem.
Here are red flags that suggest your bloat is a symptom of something more serious.
If you’re constantly tired or have brittle nails, your bloat could be a sign of Celiac disease.
Sometimes bloating can reflect your body’s inability absorbing certain vitamins and minerals, which can lead to deficiencies.
For example, people with Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition, are often iron deficient. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, and chest pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to Duker Freuman, if you find out you’re deficient in iron but still eat a diet that includes iron-rich foods like meat, it could mean you have Celiac disease.
“Any bloating that’s accompanied with a nutritional deficiency needs to be looked into,” Duker Freuman told INSIDER.
You’re losing weight without any effort, but still have stomach bloat.
Another telltale sign your bloating could be serious is the additional symptom of weight loss. If you lose more than 5% of your body weight in six months to a year’s time and have no explanation for it, you should definitely see a doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Extreme and quick weight loss could be a sign of colon, ovarian, lung, or pancreatic cancer, as well as an overactive thyroid, diabetes, or liver disease.
And yes, you can lose weight and be bloated at the same time since cancerous tumors, for instance, can push against your abdomen area where bloating tends to occur, Duker Freuman said. The weight loss could occur at the same time because cancer drains a person’s energy supplies quickly.
You always feel bloated, but don’t have any other weird symptoms.
When it comes to cancer, sometimes bloating is the only symptom, according to Duker Freuman. She explained that cancerous tumors often accumulate fluid, which can lead to bloating. “Sometimes, it’s the first and only symptom with ovarian cancer,” she said.
Still, most bloating is not cancer, but it’s always better to see a doctor if you’re concerned.
Your joints constantly hurt.
Chronically achy joints, when coupled with bloating, could suggest a person has ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes sores or ulcers to form in a person’s digestive tract. In fact, about 25% of people with IBD also experience joint pain, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
Joint pain can happen in the arms, legs, elbows, wrists, knees, or ankles and happens because of inflammation, according to Medical News Today.
Ulcerative colitis can be treated with anti-inflammatory and immune system suppressant medications, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, surgery can also be used to remove a person’s colon and rectum, which may be replaced with a bag to collect stool.
According to Duker Freuman, fatigue mixed with bloating could be a sign someone has a thyroid condition. The thyroid is a gland that sits on the lower part of your neck and controls your metabolism by releasing hormones.
Some people’s thyroid gland doesn’t release enough hormones, which is called hypothyroidism. Others have a thyroid that releases too many hormones, called hyperthyroidism. In both cases, the hormone imbalance can lead to feeling constantly tired.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition. Although you can’t cure a thyroid condition, you can manage symptoms with hormone therapy that either blocks the overproduction of hormones or replaces missing hormones, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
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In some cases diarrhea plus bloating is a sign of you need more fiber in your diet to add some bulk to your stool. But if you eats lots of foods rich in the nutrient and diarrhea persists in addition to bloating, it could mean you have a nutrient deficiency or pancreatic problem, Duker Freuman said.
Pancreatic insufficiency happens when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes to help you digest you food properly, according to The National Pancreas Foundation. As a result, your trips to the bathroom could be regularly unpleasant, to say the least.
If this is the case for you, Duker Freuma said you should see a doctor right away.
Pancreatic insufficiency is treated with enzyme replacement therapy, vitamin supplements, and diets high in the nutrients the body typically needs more of, like the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
You never have an appetite.