What Are Abdominal Bloating and Loss of Appetite?
Abdominal bloating is a condition that causes your stomach to feel fuller and/or larger. The effect can typically occur within a few hours, whereas weight gain tends to occur over time. Abdominal bloating can be uncomfortable and even painful at times.
Loss of appetite occurs when you no longer have a desire to eat regular meals and snacks. The medical term for loss of appetite is anorexia. Loss of appetite can be a short-term or chronic condition.
What Causes Abdominal Bloating and Loss of Appetite?
Abdominal bloating typically occurs when the stomach fills with excess air or gas. This can be due to taking in too much air through your mouth or during the digestive process.
Loss of appetite is frequently a side effect of acute illness or medical therapies such as cancer treatment. Changes in the body associated with aging can cause older adults to experience loss of appetite.
Abdominal bloating and loss of appetite causes include:
- food intolerances, such as to lactose or gluten
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- gastrointestinal blockage
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- pregnancy, especially in the first trimester
- taking certain medications, such as antibiotics
In rare instances, abdominal bloating and loss of appetite can be a sign of certain cancers, including colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. Sudden weight loss is an additional symptom that tends to accompany cancer-related abdominal bloating and loss of appetite.
When to Seek Medical Help
Seek immediate medical attention if you’re vomiting blood or if you have bloody or tarry-colored stools along with abdominal bloating and loss of appetite. Call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency room if you’re experiencing chest pain, dizziness, sweating, and shortness of breath. These are symptoms of a heart attack, which can mimic GERD symptoms.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have experienced sudden, unexplained weight loss.
Don’t stop taking medications prescribed to you unless your doctor specifically instructs you to do so.
This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
How Are Abdominal Bloating
and Loss of Appetite Treated?
Your doctor will consider your symptoms to determine treatment. They may order blood, stool, imaging, or urine tests to determine an underlying cause. Treatment will target the disease or condition responsible for these symptoms.
Patients with IBS may benefit from taking probiotics. These live bacteria may prevent bloating and discomfort that leads to loss of appetite. Your doctor also may prescribe medications that keep the intestines from cramping and moving too quickly.
GERD can be treated with over-the-counter antacids. Medications such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers can reduce the acid amount in your stomach that leads to your symptoms.
More serious conditions, such as an intestinal blockage or cancer, may require surgery. A physician will carefully evaluate your symptoms to determine the best course of action.
How Do I Care for Abdominal Bloating and Loss of Appetite at Home?
Bloating and loss of appetite related to something you ate often resolve with time. However, increasing your water intake and taking a walk or performing some other physical activity can help treat constipation.
Over-the-counter treatments such as simethicone may help if you’re experiencing gas or flatulence along with your symptoms.
Eating small meals with bland foods, such as crackers, toast, or broth can help soothe your stomach. Drinking protein shakes can increase your calorie intake while providing essential nutrients.
How Can I Prevent Abdominal Bloating and Loss of Appetite?
If your abdominal bloating and loss of appetite are related to certain foods, avoid those whenever possible. Examples of foods known to cause these symptoms include:
- Brussels sprouts
- carbonated beverages
- chewing gum
- dairy products (for those who are lactose intolerant)
- hard candy
- high-fat foods
Always keep snacks that you like on hand, which can help increase your calorie intake when you experience loss of appetite.
Refraining from smoking can also help. When you smoke, you take in extra air that can lead to abdominal bloating. Avoid taking over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen if you experience GERD, as they can worsen symptoms. Acetaminophen is preferred to relieve pain when you have GERD.