Bloating can occur for a variety of reasons, such as infrequent bowel movements, eating too quickly, swallowing air, and gastrointestinal virus or illnesses. It is physically uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, especially when it occurs with gas.
It is common for some people to feel shortness of breath when they are bloated, but this varies widely. Shortness of breath (dyspnea) occurs when you have difficulty taking air into the lungs, which disrupts the ability to breathe normally.
This article discusses the connection between bloating and shortness of breath, and what you can do to help treat it.
The Link Between Bloating and Shortness of Breath
If you eat a meal too quickly, have a digestive disorder, or swallow too much air, you can increase pressure in your abdomen, resulting in bloat. Explanations of bloating vary significantly from person to person. Bloating has been described as a sensation of fullness, tightness, and discomfort.
Sometimes the stomach pressure can push the diaphragm higher into the chest or restrict it. When this happens, you may experience heaviness in your chest or shortness of breath. People who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may also experience bloating and shortness of breath.
Possible Causes of Abdominal Bloating
Understanding abdominal bloating is complex and heavily reliant on the person being able to identify and share their symptoms. Some common causes include
Your treatment options will be based on the cause of the bloating as well as the severity. Your plan should be individualized based on your symptoms, medical history, and quality of life. Some options for treatment include dietary interventions, medications, and probiotics.
Dietary intervention is critical and usually introduced right away. An individualized dietary plan should be created based on your symptoms. Food intolerances, allergies, or other medical conditions should also be taken into consideration.
For example, many people who experience bloating due to IBS benefit from following a low-FODMAP diet (FODMAP is short for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols). If you experience bloating due to constipation, you may need to increase the fiber in your diet to help with elimination. People with bloating as a result of acid reflux or GERD may need to avoid certain trigger foods. Other dietary behaviors can reduce bloating, including slowing the pace of eating, avoidance of straws, as well as refraining from eating several hours before bed.
Certain classes of medications have been used in the treatment of bloating. The type of medication prescribed will depend on the cause of bloating. Medical treatment could include, antibiotics, prokinetics, and antispasmodics.
There is some research that suggests certain types of probiotics, such as Bifidobacteriummay reduce bloating, although larger and longer studies are needed.
Prevention of bloating often includes a variety of interventions, but first, you will need to investigate the cause. If you have an underlying health condition contributing to your bloat, seek medical treatment to prevent it from reoccurring.
Identify triggers to avoid. For example, if you feel bloated every time you eat cabbage or broccoli, you may need to avoid those foods, eat less of them, chop them up, or prepare them differently. Keeping a temporary food journal can help you identify culprit foods.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is associated with gut health and bowel regularity. However, increasing fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables too quickly can cause bloating and gas. Ideally, you slowly want to add fibrous foods, while also drinking adequate fluids to help transit fiber through the intestines.
Having a healthy gut is important in bloating prevention. Other lifestyle modifications such as exercising, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking can improve gut health.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Feeling slightly bloated after a large meal is no reason to worry, but if you are experiencing bloating frequently, or for an extended period of time, you should consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you experience shortness of breath. Once you’ve been referred to, you will likely be to a registered dietitian for dietary counseling.
Bloating can occur from a variety of causes. Sometimes bloating can restrict movement in your diaphragm, which may increase the risk of shortness of breath. Figuring out your triggers may help you to prevent bloating, and there are certain interventions, like dietary changes, and medications that can help. Meeting with a registered dietitian or medical professional will be an important component of getting you to feel better.
A Word From Verywell
Bloating is a common, complex, and uncomfortable symptom for many people. For some, there could be a link to bloating and shortness of breath. While there is a lack of clinical research on this exact connection, there is a great deal of information on potential reasons for bloating, prevention, and strategies for treatment. If you are experiencing frequent bloating, meeting with your healthcare provider can help you customize a treatment regimen that will work for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can bloating put pressure on the lungs?
Bloating that puts pressure on the diaphragm may cause a person to feel pressure in their lungs.
What are some common causes of bloating?
There are many variables that can cause bloating, including constipation, fluid retention, Celiac disease, swallowing air, gas, gastrointestinal illness, food sensitivities, fast eating, gynecological issues, and menstruation, to name a few.
Can gastric problems cause shortness of breath?
Acid reflux may cause shortness of breath. This is often more common in people with asthma and may not be associated with heartburn. If you have frequent shortness of breath, you should be seen by a healthcare provider for a full workup.