Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on March 27, 2020. Written by Libby Pellegrini. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Stomach pain and bloating in women can be hard to manage, particularly if you’re experiencing these symptoms on a frequent basis. There are many possible causes of stomach pain and bloating. Read on to learn more about why and when bloating happens, how to alleviate your symptoms, and how to know when the situation is potentially serious.
Your gastrointestinal tract is a long tube that spans from your mouth to your anus, encompassing your esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines.
When excess gas is stuck at any point along this tube, it can feel like your abdomen is stretched tight and bloated. It can be hard to find a comfortable way to sit or lie down when you have abdominal bloating because air gets trapped in the bends of your colon, causing pain. You may also experience burping or flatulence when you are bloated, which can be socially uncomfortable.
Here are common reasons for stomach pain and bloating in women.
One common cause of gas is ingesting or swallowing air. This can happen if you are eating food rapidly, smoking, or chewing gum. You can also swallow an excessive amount of air if you are gulping a beverage rapidly, or consuming a carbonated drink.
Some women have an intolerance to certain artificial sweeteners, due to the added sugar alcohols. This is particularly true for sorbitol, which is a sugar-free substitute that is known to cause excess gas. If you experience stomach pain and bloating after eating sugar-free candy, drinking diet soda, or chewing sugar-free gum, try eliminating this ingredient from your diet to see if there is an improvement.
Lactose intolerance can also contribute to stomach pain or bloating. In the case of lactose intolerance, the gastrointestinal tract lacks the digestive enzymes that are needed to break down lactose, which is the sugar found in many dairy products. Women with lactose intolerance may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, or flatulence after eating foods that contain lactose, such as cow’s milk.
If you are experiencing bloating after eating, a food sensitivity may be at the root of your symptoms. You can learn more about your own potential food sensitivities using the Everlywell at-home Food Sensitivity Test.
During the typical menstrual cycle, hormone levels surge and drop. An imbalance in menstrual cycle hormones can cause symptoms of menstrual pain and bloating in some women. Bloating during this time of the month can also be caused by excess fluid retention and local inflammation.
A medical condition called SIBO can cause stomach pain and bloating, as well as malabsorption of food. In this condition, there is an alteration in the gut microbiome, and an overabundance of bacteria grows in the small intestine.
This bacterial overgrowth produces excess gas as a metabolic byproduct, leading to stomach pain and a sensation of a bloated stomach or abdomen. This condition is typically seen when intestinal movements slow down; this can happen due to increasing age, chronic pancreatitis, and other factors. Antibiotics are generally used to help manage this condition.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms that affects the colon, also known as the large intestine. Research shows that 10 to 20 percent of adults in Western society have symptoms of IBS. Women with this syndrome can experience a mix of digestive issues, ranging from diarrhea to abdominal bloating and constipation. IBS symptoms can also include abdominal pain or stomach cramps.
Irritable bowel syndrome is typically diagnosed after a thorough evaluation with a healthcare provider to rule out other possible causes of digestive symptoms. Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome can include specific dietary modifications, such as adhering to a high fiber diet.
Stomach bloating and pain can also be caused by hormonal imbalances in women. Hormones are responsible for a multitude of body processes, including weight regulation, temperature regulation, metabolic regulation, and sleep. If you begin to experience hormone imbalance symptoms, consider raising this to your healthcare provider to learn what you can do next.
The interplay between the body’s hormones is very delicate, but knowledge is power. With the Everlywell at-home hormone test, you get a comprehensive look at 10 key hormones, helping you discover if a hormonal imbalance might be at the root of your symptoms.
To get rid of abdominal swelling or bloating, try taking an over-the-counter medication that has simethicone as the active ingredient. Simethicone is a medication that is used to treat the symptoms of excess gas and persistent bloating; it works by breaking up gas bubbles in your GI tract.
Other over-the-counter medications that can be used to help with bloating include alpha-galactosidase (like Beano), which help the body break down more complex carbohydrates.
In order to beat the bloat, it’s also important to keep an eye on your digestive symptoms and log in a food diary the foods you eat and how you feel after consuming them. Also make sure that you’re keeping track of whether your symptoms seem to occur around a certain time each month.
If you’re able to identify a specific food that could be causing your persistent bloating, check out your suspicion by temporarily eliminating it from your diet, and then gradually adding it back in. If your symptoms go away completely, but then return once you resume eating a particular food, you may be experiencing stomach pain and bloating from a food intolerance or food sensitivity.
Our at-home Food Sensitivity Test can guide your elimination diet by giving you a list of “suspect foods” to target based on your immune system’s IgG antibody reactivity to 96 different foods.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms like stomach pain and bloating; they may recommend effective options that give you relief.
Speaking with your healthcare provider is the best way to find out if your stomach pain is serious and requires medical intervention.
Check for imbalances in 10 key hormones—which can cause stomach pain and bloating—with the at-home Women's Health Test, which gives you easy-to-read results you can share with your healthcare provider.
Heavy menstrual period? How to identify if there’s a problem
Women's weight fluctuation: what does it mean?
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