What are the Most Common Causes of Abdominal Pain and Bloating?

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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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The most common causes of abdominal pain and bloating include indigestion and overeating, lactose, fructose or other food intolerances, and irritable bowel syndrome. Gallstones and pre-menstrual syndrome are other common causes of painful bloating. Bloating can sometimes be managed with lifestyle modification, home and over-the-counter remedies, and medication. It is best, however, to see a doctor if abdominal pain and bloating does not immediately respond to home care or gets worse.

Overeating and the resulting indigestion can cause abdominal pain and bloating. Eating too fast, or consuming fatty, spicy or gas-producing foods, or drinking too much alcohol, increases the likelihood of getting indigestion with abdominal pain and bloating. Tobacco, caffeine, ulcers, and some medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, aspirin, and antibiotics, may also cause indigestion and lead to abdominal pain and bloating. In addition, if someone is unable to digest the lactose found in dairy products, or is unable to absorb fructose or is sensitive to other foods, cramping pain along with gas, nausea, and bloating can occur.

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is another common cause of abdominal pain and bloating. Someone with IBS has his or her own constellation of symptoms that may include cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating along with diarrhea and/or constipation. IBS can be brought on by stress, eating particular foods, or can emerge following an infection or other health challenge.


Gallstones blocking the cystic or common bile duct can cause a cramping type of abdominal pain. This pain can also be accompanied by a feeling of fullness in the abdomen. Usually pain caused by gallstones occurs very soon after eating and may be felt in the right upper or middle abdomen, sometimes spreading to just below the right shoulder blade. Abdominal pain and bloating caused by gallstones may come and go.

Many women experience pre-menstrual syndrome, PMS, for several days each month. Water retention and bloating, weight gain, headache, and food cravings are a few of the symptoms that women with PMS must deal with between 5-11 days before the start of their periods. Most of these symptoms subside when menstruation begins, although cramping and abdominal pain can continue until the end of the cycle.

The most common forms of abdominal pain and bloating can possibly be managed through lifestyle changes. Maintaining good eating habits, not smoking, and avoiding foods that trigger painful bloating are some of the ways to avoid indigestion. Treatment for IBS may include increasing dietary fiber, using peppermint oil, laxatives, anti-diarrheals, anti-depressants, or psychotherapy. In some instances, gallstones may need to be removed surgically. PMS and the associated symptoms can sometimes be managed with over-the-counter medications, hot packs, and exercise. Anyone experiencing these symptoms, especially those on a persistent basis, should contact a doctor promptly.


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