A swollen stomach in women can be attributed to a number of factors and abdominal distension occurs when the stomach is filled with air or some other intestinal gas. The signs of bloating and the feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen. While there are several potential reasons for stomach pain which increase in certain age groups, you should always consult a doctor if you feel concerned especially if unexplained weight loss.
The causes of stomach swelling in women commonly are:
One of the most common causes of swelling of the stomach in women is food intolerance including coeliac disease. Temporary bloating occurs as a result of a violation of the natural balance of the gastrointestinal tract. Intolerance to certain components of food may be detected using a procedure called an IgG-test.
This test allows you to identify the presence of the antibodies in the blood serum, which react to certain foods. Diarrhoea is a common symptom of food intolerance but can bring abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and excessive flatulence.
Food intolerance typically causes diarrhoea to lactose (or Gluten in the case of celiac disease), but it can also be caused by other foods like sugar, soy and other ingredients found in some condiments and processed foods.
Linked to this is Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which also affects the digestive system. Symptoms include stomach cramps, abdominal bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
It may be worth keeping a food diary to record what you have eaten and the effects to identified any patterns.
Women typically have a higher body mass index (BMI) than men, but as they reach menopause (typically between the ages of 45 and 55), their weight gain can increase by 10 or 20 pounds from menopausal bloating.
Menopause bloating is often caused by fluid retention due to a drop in oestrogen levels, which causes the kidneys lose their ability to expel excess water. During this time, a woman’s body also starts to retain salt and sodium, which also causes the water retention.
Another cause of menopause bloating is the slowing of the digestive system. This can cause undigested foods and fat to build up in the intestines, causing severe bloating.
Fibroids are a common cause of a swollen stomach in women and can be symptomless. It is a non-cancerous growth in the uterine wall which can also cause painful periods, tummy and back pain, constipation and a frequent need to urinate. Fibroids can be as small as the size of a pea or as big as a grapefruit and commonly occurs in women who are in their late 30s or 40s.
Ovarian cysts are very common and account for approximately one-third of all benign tumours of the female reproductive system. Cysts can be either functional, which means that a functional disturbance of the ovary causes them, or they can be non-functional or pathological, which means that they are caused by external factors or that they are abnormal. The latter is often the cause of abdominal swelling which can make you feel bloated.
The liver is the largest organ in the body, and it is responsible for numerous vital functions. It helps in digestion, regulates metabolism, produces bile, stores energy in the form of glycogen, and removes potentially toxic substances from the body.
Many people suffer from liver problems which can cause inflammation and swelling of their stomach. For example, this can be caused by alcohol and drug abuse, fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver disease and more. The most common cause is an infection from a virus, bacteria, or a parasite.
The hormonal flux is the normal changing level of hormones in the body. In women, the most important one is oestrogen. This hormone, which is produced in the ovaries, is responsible for the maintenance of female reproductive functions.
The amount of oestrogen varies significantly during the menstrual cycle, which is, in turn, responsible for the cyclical changes experienced by many women during the course of their lives.
Due to hormonal flux, the woman’s body is faced with a large number of changes, especially during pregnancy. In the blood of pregnant women, the level of oestrogens increases, which provokes the excessive secretion of gastric juice. This can lead to swelling of the stomach of pregnant women.
Heartburn, also known as pyrosis, is a burning sensation in the central chest caused by acid reflux. Heartburn is caused by stomach contents leaking up into the oesophagus and irritating the lining. The pain of heartburn is almost always felt in the upper central part of the chest, behind the breastbone.
Symptoms of heartburn include a burning feeling in the chest, throat, and neck; and a sour taste in the mouth, often described as “metallic”. Heartburn is typically associated with the following conditions: acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); smoking, chewing tobacco, and being overweight; and pregnancy.
How to reduce bloating
The NHS recommend the following to try and help reduce any bloating, which can also help you identify the cause. Dietary changes may be the key to your improved health and wellness.
- Exercise regularly to improve digestion and help prevent bloating
- Chew with mouth closed to avoid swallowing air
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat foods high in fibre when constipated (although you should see a doctor if suffering from chronic constipation)
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large ones
- Massage your stomach from right to left to release trapped wind
- Avoid large quantities of fizzy drinks, alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid foods that are known to cause gas, like cabbage, beans or lentils
- Avoid large meals late at night before bed
- Try not to slouch when eating
- Avoid processed, sugary, spicy or fatty foods