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Can IBS Cause Bloating?
Updated on September 21, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
Can IBS Cause Bloating?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause a feeling of bloatedness in the stomach, among other symptoms.

This can be an uncomfortable or even painful sensation. Thankfully, there are many ways to manage bloating and IBS symptoms.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a set of symptoms that typically occur together and affect the stomach and intestines. Some of its usual symptoms include diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, or a bloated feeling.

Keep in mind that Irritable bowel syndrome is a different illness from Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD).

IBS is a common condition affecting 7% to 15% of Americans.1 It’s sometimes referred to or commonly experienced as “having a sensitive stomach.” While your gut can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable from time to time, constant stomach aches and digestive issues can be a sign of IBS.

The exact cause of IBS is yet to be discovered.

If you’re feeling consistent stomach pains and other symptoms of digestive discomfort, consult your doctor or healthcare provider immediately. They can likely help relieve or manage the pain, and even adjust your lifestyle choices to minimize their occurrences.

What is IBS Bloating?

You experience bloating when you feel like your stomach is full or being stretched. The feeling usually comes from the intestines stretching due to gas buildup. It can also be caused by digesting excess food or an imbalance of the gut microbiome.

Bloating is a common and usually harmless experience. Irritable bowel syndrome patients may experience bloating frequently. Women, in particular, may also feel bloated before their period begins.

Nevertheless, even if it’s harmless, it’s a distressing and bothersome symptom.3

Bloating can become concerning if it’s accompanied by pain or does not go away after more than an hour. If bloating and pain persist, remember to consult your healthcare provider.

How is IBS Bloating Diagnosed?

Bloating isn’t enough to diagnose IBS, so patients must report their condition to their healthcare provider instead. Medical tests may rule out other causes of bloating more serious than IBS.

Celiac disease can be diagnosed or ruled out with a blood test, while stool tests may also be used to check for infections. A colonoscopy can also detect or rule out colorectal cancer or colon cancer.

Your healthcare provider will be able to more accurately determine if it is IBS bloating if you can keep track of what you’ve eaten and done in the last few days. Mindful eating and a mindful lifestyle will help you both figure out how to avoid IBS bloating.

What Is Rome IV?

Since gastrointestinal symptoms can overlap with other conditions, the international medical community established the Rome IV criteria to make more consistent diagnoses. 

The Rome criteria consists of a checklist of symptoms used to diagnose a specific gastrointestinal disorder.6

For IBS, the requirements for diagnosis are that the patient has experienced recurring abdominal pain more than once a week in the past three months and at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Worsening or lessening pain from defecation
  • Change in stool frequency
  • Change in stool form

Your doctor may ask other questions to identify your type of IBS. If you suspect you have IBS, tracking your stool and symptoms weekly may help your doctor diagnose more accurately.

Why Does IBS Cause Bloating?

IBS symptoms can lead to bloating for various reasons.

Intestinal Gas Buildup

IBS can cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth by increasing the amount of gut bacteria in your intestines. This results in producing more gas to induce bloating.

People with IBS can also be sensitive to even average amounts of intestinal gas. This results in pain and cramping alongside the bloated feeling and may be accompanied by diarrhea.

FODMAP Diet

Certain foods can make IBS symptoms worse. For example, a category of foods called FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) are difficult to digest and contribute to bloating.

FODMAP generally refers to foods that promote excess gas. Since the small intestine has difficulty breaking down the carbohydrates in these foods, bacteria in the large intestine produce excess gas from breaking down these carbohydrates.

FODMAP foods include:4

  • Fatty foods
  • Wheat and whole grains
  • Non-cheese dairy foods
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Legumes
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Beans

Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli also produce gas, especially when eaten raw. Make sure you coordinate with your doctor for diet changes, as any sudden shifts may cause even more discomfort and bloating.

What Relieves IBS Bloating?

There are many ways to relieve discomfort from IBS bloating.

Set More Consistent Meal Times

Take smaller and more consistent meals to allow your digestive tract time to digest.

You may feel bloated easily after eating large meals in one sitting. Skipping meals can also disrupt your digestive system.

Attempt to retrain your bowels to follow a consistent timing for eating and bowel movement daily.

Maintain Healthy Bowel Movements

Chronic constipation can cause a feeling of bloating due to food waste staying in the intestines instead of being released from the body. By passing stool regularly, a buildup of gases can be avoided to relieve symptoms of constipation.

Bowel retraining is possible by stimulating the release of stool at a consistent time every day. This can involve changing your diet, avoiding drinks that will trigger your digestive system, or using laxatives if prescribed by a doctor.5

Avoid Trigger Foods

The best way to determine which foods you are sensitive to is to note when you start to feel bloating or other symptoms. Adjusting your diet by removing trigger foods can significantly improve your bowel function.

People with lactose intolerance have difficulty digesting the sugar lactose in dairy products. These should be avoided to reduce bloating and excessive gas.

Cheese and lactose-free milk alternatives, such as almond milk, can replace the dairy in your diet. Oats and sourdough can replace wheat bread. If you enjoy breakfast cereals, switch to cornflakes to avoid artificial sweeteners.4

Switch to a Low-FODMAP DIET

On top of avoiding trigger foods, switching to a low-FODMAP diet can decrease instances of feeling bloated. Many fruits and vegetables are also low-FODMAP. 

These include:

  • Eggplants
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Oranges
  • Pineapples
  • Strawberries

Manage Stress and Mental Health

Stress and other forms of psychological distress can disrupt digestion and bowel habits, leading to more bloating. Managing stress can be an effective method of reducing instances of bloating.

Exercise has a positive effect on everything from digestion to psychological stress. Incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle may help decrease instances of bloating.

You can also manage stress by avoiding stressful situations or using relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing. Consulting with a psychiatric professional may arm you with several coping strategies.

Take Medications

Several home remedies and over-the-counter medicines can help with bloating and ease symptoms of IBS.

Hot peppermint tea and ginger are long-standing home remedies for bloating and stomach aches.

Simethicone is a flatulence medication designed to help you pass gas more efficiently and is available without a prescription.

For lactose intolerance, lactase supplements help digest lactose from foods easier, resulting in less bloating.

When Should I See a Doctor for IBS Bloating?

It’s time to see a doctor if you regularly experience bloating alongside other IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and stomach cramps. Doing so will help you rule out more serious diseases that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as colon cancer.

You should note the following serious symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Uncontrollable diarrhea
  • Bloody stool

If you experience any of the symptoms above, contact your doctor.

Key Takeaways

Bloating from IBS can disrupt your lifestyle and limit the activities and foods you can enjoy.  However, managing IBS and symptoms such as bloating is possible.

Lifestyle changes such as healthy bowel movements and diet changes can ease IBS symptoms. If your bloating persists, consult your healthcare provider to determine which medication or treatments suit you best.

Updated on September 21, 2023
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6 sources cited
Updated on September 21, 2023
  1. IBS Facts and Statistics” About IBS.
  2. Bloated Stomach” Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Safaee et al. “Bloating in irritable bowel syndrome” Gastroenterology Hepatology from Bed to Bench, 2011.
  4. Low FODMAP diet” Cleveland Clinic.
  5. Bowel Retraining: Strategies for Establishing Bowel Control” aboutconstipation.org.
  6. Rome IV Criteria” Rome Foundation.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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