What are the Different Causes of a Swollen Belly?

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  • Written By: Vanessa Harvey
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2019
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The various causes of a swollen belly could be obvious or not so obvious. Overeating, intestinal gas and pregnancy are obvious reasons for a swollen belly. Other causes that are not so common and that might be serious can include irritable bowel syndrome, congestive heart failure, acute failure of the liver, tuberculosis peritonitis and gastric cancer. Conditions that can be added to that list are intestinal parasites, bile ascites, urine ascites, peritoneal adhesions, carcinoma colon and primary mesothelioma. Females sometimes experience a swollen belly during premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and if they have ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids.

One cause of a swollen belly is infestation with parasites. This is often the culprit for the swelling among severely malnourished individuals who suffer from a parasitic invasion. It should be remembered that even people who have plenty of food to eat can be malnourished if they do not eat a diet that provides them with the nutrients they need. A swollen belly can also be referred to as a distended belly, a swollen stomach or a distended abdomen.


Some causes of this condition are provoked by harmful eating habits, and others result from an underlying medical condition. For example, many people try to improve the state of their health by consuming more fruits and vegetables, but they notice that they end up suffering discomfort and a swollen abdomen. This usually is brought on by habits such as eating fruits and vegetables at the same meal, which generally is not good for proper digestion. Others attempt to fortify their health by increasing their intake of foods that are high in fiber. Intestinal gas resulting in a swollen belly often results when grains are not properly cooked or are not heirloom grains.

Although most causes of a distended abdomen are not indications of a life-threatening health problem, it is a good idea to consider other signs and symptoms that might accompany the distention. For example, any kind of abdominal pain, a high fever, an inability to eat or drink for several hours and diarrhea are a cause for concern. Unexplained fatigue, tenderness in the belly and any other signs or symptoms that accompany the swelling should prompt a consultation with a medical professional. A doctor will ask about these and other signs and symptoms, and based on the answers, he or she will determine what medical and laboratory tests need to be performed to make a diagnosis.


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