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Is there a difference between bloating and distension?
Posted 5 years ago by Lou
I see many clients in my clinic who experience digestive issues, and the terms ‘bloated’ and ‘distended’ are commonly used interchangeably when explaining their symptoms. But is there a difference between these two terms or are they actually the same thing? Read on to find out!
Are certain foods causing your bloating and distension? Find out about food intolerances here
It depends on where you live
In the UK and on this site, we tend to use the two terms bloating and abdominal distension interchangeably, meaning that when we talk about bloating, we usually mean a 'distended' stomach or abdomen - ie. one which is visibly larger in appearance than normal. In some other countries such as America though, it seems that people tend to refer to bloating to explain the sensation of fullness that they feel after overindulging or eating a large meal, rather than referring to a stomach which is noticeably larger in appearance.
How do you decide?
I often ask clients whether they start the day off with a flatter stomach or abdomen than when the day ends- that is, often people will notice a visible increase in size of the stomach throughout the day and after meals, and some women even feel like they almost look pregnant at the end of the day! Many people also often find bloating a painful experience as the increased pressure may place a strain on the digestive organs. A noticeable bloating of the stomach can be due to a range of factors, although a common contributing factor is an increase in the production of gas as a by-product of digestion (which may or may not be associated with an increase in belching and flatulence). If a client mentions that this distension increases throughout the day and is coupled with a change of bowel movements such as diarrhoea or constipation, then I like to explore whether food intolerances or gut dysbiosis, (the balance of good and bad bacteria) is playing a role.
So what now?
Working out when and why you feel bloated or distended can be just as important as realising that you do experience it at all, and keeping a food diary to investigate if there are any connections between the food you eat and the occurrence of bloating (which can actually be associated with pain) can be very useful. Read some tips about keeping a food diary here. As I mentioned above, you might also want to investigate food intolerances as they can contribute significantly to bloating.
Look after your digestive system and it will love you back! Read about 10 top health foods here
Want to read more about bloating? What is bloating may be just the article you need to read. If you are looking for some natural remedies for bloating, Megan, who is a herbalist and naturopath, has written a great article on it here.
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