Stomach Distension

All About Stomach Distension

Stomach distension, whether externally visible or not, refers to the stretching of the gut wall past comfortable limits, and can be a major source of discomfort with any number of causes.



In some cases it may merely be due to something in a person’s diet. In others, though, it may be indicative of, or the precursor to, a life-threatening situation. Either way, though large pockets of oxygen or sulphur-bearing gases are present, how did the gas get there in the first place?

For example, suppose someone is administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a victim, but in the process blows too much air inside, some of which leaks past the opening of the lungs and into the stomach.

If the condition is caught in time, an inserted gastric tube can suction out air and other contents. But if not discovered, the resultant gastric distension can force the stomach’s contents- usually a mixture of liquids and solids- up through the esophagus, where it spills back down into the lungs. Once there the stomach acid will damage the lungs (causing “aspiration pneumonia”), and in the worst-case scenario, result in drowning.

A more common cause of the distension may be a temporary digestive disturbance, or irritable bowel syndrome. In most cases, though, chronic stomach distension (or bloating), is the result of gases being produced at a much higher than normal rate due to irregular digestive processes.

Doctors refer to gastric or abdominal problems as being the result of one of the “Five F’s:”

Fat (obesity)

Faeces (constipation)

Fetus (pregnancy)

Flatus (gastrointestinal)

Fluid (ascites)

Many times, the problem is diet-related. Maybe you’ve decided to go on a vegetable, bean or fruit binge. Then sudden increase in fiber can cause bloating, especially if your body is not used to the nature of the intake.

But, without knowing the exact location or origin of the problem, other possibilities exist: 

Pre-menstrual Tension (PMT)

Birth control pills

Food allergies

Excessive alcohol consumption

Excessive fatty food consumption

Excessive amounts of sodium

Insufficient protein in the diet

Excessive water intake

Carbonated drinks

Lactose intolerance

Crohn’s Disease

Colon cancer


The following is a list of foods that can cause digestive problems:

Whole grains: whole wheat and bran

Milk and milk products: cheese and ice cream

Packaged foods prepared with lactose: such as bread, cereal, and salad dressing

Fruits: pears, apples, and peaches


Vegetables: broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichokes, cabbage, asparagus, and onions.

Foods containing sorbitol: dietetic foods and sugar free candy

The following are suggestions for minimizing the risk of gastric distress and stomach distension:

Get plenty of exercise. It will help your body burn off calories instead of digesting them.

Go easy on the milk.

Drink eight glasses of water daily. Avoid soda pop and other caffeinated and carbonated beverages.

Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Avoid soups containing excessive amounts of sodium.

Eat more cooked foods and less fast foods.

Take a PMS supplement.

Avoid stimulants like coffee, tea and chocolate.

Keep in mind that regardless of the pain or distress you may be suffering, it is always best to get a professional opinion. You may believe, based on the location of the pain, that the problem is with your stomach, when it may in fact be an abdominal issue- or vice versa. Either way, it is always better to know for sure. A trip to the doctor’s office may be bothersome, but it may also save your life.