Distended Stomach



What is distended stomach?

Despite the name, distended stomach is the term that is used to describe the swelling of the abdomen, not the stomach. A distended stomach may be uncomfortable and even painful. This occurs when there is accumulation of certain substances, such as gas, air or fluid in the abdomen which results in outward expansion of the stomach and waist beyond its normal girth. It’s usually a symptom of some underlying medical condition or disease in the body and is not exactly an illness on its own.

How common is distended stomach?

Distended stomach is extremely common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can distended stomach usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath (due to pressure placed in the upward direction on the diaphragm and lungs)
  • Belching
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea


Your abdomen could be distended for a number of different reasons. These range from eating too much to pregnancy. Only your doctor will be able to determine the exact cause of your swollen abdomen.

Some of the most common causes of abdominal swelling include overeating and gas. Swallowing air as part of a nervous habit or from eating foods that are high in fiber can lead to gas production. If you don’t release this gas, it can lead to abdominal swelling.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that causes cramping and pain in your stomach, among other symptoms. IBS can also cause bloating and gas, which could cause you to have a distended abdomen. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Diseases, about 1 in every 10 people have symptoms of IBS.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when your body is unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal bloating and gas. These symptoms can cause your abdomen to swell. If you experience a swollen abdomen within two hours of ingesting dairy, you might be lactose intolerant. According to the Mayo Clinic, lactose intolerance is most common in people of African, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian descent.


Ascites is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up inside your abdomen. This buildup is usually due to problems with your liver, such as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when your liver becomes extremely scarred. When ascites first develops, you probably won’t notice any symptoms. As the fluid accumulates over time, you’ll start to notice your abdomen becoming more and more swollen. Ascites can cause you discomfort.

Other causes

Your swollen abdomen could be caused by a number of other less common symptoms. For example, gallstones are hard masses that can build up in your gallbladder. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. Weight gain may also cause swelling of the abdomen, as can a blockage in your intestine. An ovarian cyst may also lead to a swollen abdomen.

The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of distended stomach. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for distended stomach?

You are more likely to experience distended stomach if you have any of the condition mentioned above.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:

  • Abdominal swelling that gets bigger with time
  • Swelling accompanied by fever or nausea
  • Extreme diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Inability to eat or drink for more than 8 hours

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage distended stomach?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with distended stomach:

  • Depending upon the cause of your swollen abdomen, you might be able to treat your symptoms easily at home. If your abdomen is swollen because you ate too much, simply waiting for your food to digest could solve your problem. Eating smaller meals can help prevent this problem in the future. Also, consider eating more slowly to give your stomach time to process your food.
  • If your abdomen is swollen because of gas, try avoiding foods that are known to cause gas. Some of these foods are beans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. Avoid drinking carbonated drinks and drinking out of a straw. Eating slowly can also help prevent you from swallowing air, which leads to gas.
  • Avoiding dairy products can help relieve abdominal swelling caused by lactose intolerance. In the case of IBS, decreasing your stress levels and raising your fiber intake have been shown to help relieve symptoms. If you have ascites, bed rest and reducing your sodium intake can help your body get rid of the excess fluid.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: December 22, 2018 | Last Modified: December 22, 2018

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