Identifying the underlying cause of constipation is important
Medically reviewed by Jay N. Yepuri, MD
This article will discuss how constipation and bloating look and feel, as well as their symptoms and treatments. It will also cover when to contact a healthcare provider for treatment.
Symptoms: How Constipation Bloating Looks and Feels
The abdominal pressure and bloating can occur anywhere along the abdomen. There may or may not be distension with bloating. When there is distension, it may or may not be visible. People with abdominal distension can look like their stomach has ballooned or that they're pregnant.
Here are all the possible symptoms associated with bloating:
Discomfort or pain
Bloating tends to increase over the course of a day and then decreases overnight.
Those with constipation can have similar symptoms as those above and may also have these symptoms:
Less than three bowel movements per week
Difficulty passing stool
Feeling unable to completely empty after a bowel movement
When to Seek Medical Help for Bloating and Constipation
When someone has severe symptoms of bloating or constipation they should seek medical help. Symptoms include:
Blood in the stool or bleeding from the rectum
Severe stomach pains
Unable to pass gas
Lower back pain
Common Causes of Constipation Bloating
One of the most common causes of bloating is constipation. The inability to regularly and completely empty the bowels can cause the abdomen to feel full and bloated.
When someone is constipated, the stool stays in the gut longer than it should. This gives the bacteria more time to ferment in the gut and leads to bloating and gas.
Constipation and bloating have several possible causes. Besides constipation, other causes of bloating include:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Constipation is often caused by the intestines absorbing too much water. When stool moves through the intestines water is absorbed forming a solid stool. However, when stool moves too slowly, the intestines will have more time to absorb water causing the stool to get too hard resulting in constipation.
Other constipation causes include:
Lack of exercise
Decreased fiber intake
How Diet Affects Bloating and Constipation
Diet has been found to have a large influence on bloating and constipation. It is generally recommended to reduce or eliminate dairy, gluten, sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and glycerol), and processed foods to reduce constipation and bloating.
Increasing water and fiber can help improve the movement of stool through the intestines and reduce bloating and constipation.
Medications Known to Cause Constipation (Then Bloating)
Certain over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications can cause constipation that can lead to uncomfortable bloating.
These medicines include:
Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Do not stop taking a medication before talking to a healthcare provider. Let the provider know if you believe the medicine is causing constipation and they will be able to guide you through the appropriate steps for relief.
How to Soothe Constipation Bloating
Most of the time constipation and bloating can be managed at home. Heating pads, light exercise, and warm drinks can soothe discomfort and distention.
If constipation and bloating are persistent then, it might be time to make a few lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes can include:
Dietary changes: This can include increased fiber intake while reducing dairy, meats, and processed foods.
Medication changes: Talk to a healthcare provider to determine if medications may be the cause of your constipation and if you can start a different medication.
Increase water intake: Staying well hydrated can help maintain regular bowel movements.
Regular exercise: Exercise helps to keep stool moving through the intestines.
Laxatives: When constipation does not resolve, a laxative can loosen stool and make it easier to have a bowel movement.
If home remedies do not resolve constipation and bloating, see a healthcare provider for guidance.
How to Treat Constipation and GI Troubles
A 2020 study from the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology described the stages of treatment, in order, a healthcare provider can take to reduce bloating in patients. These stages of treatment include:
Living With Chronic Constipation and Bloating
In many cases, constipation and bloating is temporary and can be managed at home. It's important to understand what your specific causes are and work to prevent future episodes.
Chronic constipation and bloating can be due to an underlying health condition like IBS-C or gastroparesis. These conditions need to be managed by a healthcare provider. Talk to a provider if your symptoms do not resolve.
Bloating and constipation are two uncomfortable symptoms that can interfere with your daily activities and life. Many times these issues can be managed at home with lifestyle changes like diet, increased fiber, and exercise. When at home strategies do not work then it's time to contact a healthcare provider for treatment guidance.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.