We all get bloated from time to time, and although it can be a nuisance, most of the time, it's pretty harmless. However, severe and frequent bloating can be a warning sign, so you want to make sure you know how to tell if your bloating is a sign of a bigger health issue. Usually bloating is just a minor digestive issue or an indicator that you had too much salty food, but sometimes, bloating can be a symptom of a much more serious disease.
Bloating generally happens as a result of issues like water retention or intestinal gas, but hormonal and dietary changes can cause bloating as well. "Bloating in these conditions is common, but nothing to worry about if they are related to dietary choices or hormonal alterations," Dr. Nancy Steely, ND, MBA, Arbonne Senior Director of R&D/Quality, Nutrition. "There are a few instances, however, in which frequent bloating can be a sign of a potentially more chronic or serious condition."
There's no need to panic every time you get bloated, but if you do experience bloating frequently and it's paired with other warning signs, you'll want to make sure you see a doctor. Here are seven ways to tell if your bloating is a sign of a bigger health issue, according to experts.
You Often Feel Sick
"If your bloated stomach occurs simultaneously with other flu-like symptoms (a fever, swollen lymph nodes, etc), you may have an infection and should talk to your doctor if your symptoms do not improve within a week," says Youkilis. A severely bloated stomach that is also accompanied by nausea and vomiting should also not be ignored.
You're Experiencing Changes In Weight
Bloating accompanied by significant weight loss or weight gain should not be ignored. "If your weight has changed rapidly, this may be an indication that something is off hormonally or otherwise," says Youkilis.
You're Experiencing Brain Fog
Brain fog accompanied with digestive discomfort and bloating indicates that something is off with the gut-brain connection; this can include cloudy thinking, feeling easily confused, poor memory, or just feeling like you are functioning in a fog, says Dr. Frank Lipman, author of How to Be Well and founder of Be Well. "It is amazing to see how many people are relieved of brain fog by removing certain inflammatory foods from their diet and supporting the health of their gut," he says.
You Have Skin Irritation
"The skin is a window into our internal body, and therefore, when our skin is showing signs of inflammation or irritation, it often indicates that there is some kind of systemic inflammation and/or irritation happening internally," says Lipman. This can include acne, rosacea, eczema, hives, and/or overly sensitive skin.
You're Always Fatigued
If you’re chronically fatigued and bloated, this can be a problem. "If your gut isn’t properly functioning, you might not be absorbing the nutrients you need from your food, which could be making you feel tired all of the time," Dr. Mark Hyman, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and author of the soon to be released FOOD: What the Heck Should I Eat?, tells Bustle.
You Have Pain In The Abdominal Area
Persistent pain or pressure in the pelvic or abdominal area accompanied by bloating can possibly indicate ovarian cancer, according to Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. This also might be paired with vaginal bleeding.
Bloating by itself is usually harmless and normal, but when in doubt, make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect greater health issues.