Feeling bloated after a heavy and delicious meal is normal and happens to all of us from time to time. Usually, when we feel full, we are able to quickly pinpoint the exact reason why. Often it is because we have eaten too much, too fast, or we had the wrong foods that do not agree with our stomach. There is no doubt that even though it is only for a short time, feeling full does make a person feel uncomfortable. Within hours though, most people find their digestive system returning back to normal.
However, if you feel full or bloated frequently and are unable to pinpoint the reason why then it could a sign of an underlying medical condition, let us look at the symptoms you should not ignore if you feel full all the time.
Bloating is the term used to describe the feeling you get when your stomach feels swollen and heavy after eating.(1) Feeling full or bloating is generally caused by excessive production of gas or any type of disturbances in the movement of the digestive muscles.(2) In most people, feeling bloated feels like there is an increased pressure being applied to the abdomen, even though there really isn’t.(3)
Nearly 16 to 30 percent of people frequently report feeling full, making bloating a very common digestive discomfort experienced by people.(4) While usually bloating is caused by your diet and certain ingredients or foods that a person is intolerant to, sometimes bloating can also be caused by a severe medical condition.
This is why if you are regularly feeling full, here are certain signs and symptoms that you should not ignore.
Do Not Ignore These 6 Symptoms If You Feel Full All The Time
Some of Them are:
Symptom 1: Bloating and Gas
The most common reason for feeling full from bloating is due to gas. When you do not burp up gas before it reaches the intestines, then it is going to pass out as flatulence, but being a normal process, it is definitely going to pass one way or the other. However, having excessive gas can, no doubt, be uncomfortable as well as inconvenient, especially if you are around others.
It is worth considering whether you are gulping in too much air while eating or drinking, or if you are having too many carbonated drinks. However, if you are regularly feeling gassy, uncomfortable, and bloated, then there might another underlying cause behind this.
Gassiness and bloating are also known to be symptoms of the following conditions:
Celiac Disease: This is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten, the protein that is found in wheat and some other grains as well, causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.(5) It is also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or celiac sprue. In people who have celiac disease, eating any food with gluten triggers an immune reaction in the small intestine. Over a period of time, this immune response causes damage to the lining of the small intestine and also stops it from absorbing many nutrients. The damage to the intestine leads to bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and fatigue, and sometimes can also lead to some serious complications. There is no cure for celiac disease, and following a strict gluten-free diet helps people manage their symptoms while promoting healing of the intestinal lining.(6)
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI): Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is another condition that causes the development of excess gas and bloating. EPI is a condition in which the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient enzymes for digesting the food properly. It is the undigested food left in the colon or large intestine that leads to the production of excessive gas and also causes bloating. People with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency are unable to receive proper nutrition since the body is not able to absorb fats and specific vitamins and minerals from the foods. This may also lead to weight loss and abdominal pain. Medications can help in the management of symptoms and also provide you with a supply of enzymes.(7)
Gastroparesis: Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach is unable to empty itself of food in the way it usually should. This disorder brings about a slowdown or completely stops food from moving from the stomach to reach the small intestine.(8)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic disease that causes the contents of your stomach to flow back up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux, bloating, and excess gas. In fact, burping is a common sign of GERD.(9)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is another common condition that can make you feel full all the time and also produce excess gas. Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that makes the gastrointestinal system more sensitive to the effects of the gas. IBS commonly affects the large intestine or colon, and it is a chronic condition that requires management in the long term.(10)
Apart from these medical conditions, there are also certain foods that can cause gas. These can include lentils, beans, and some vegetables as well. Furthermore, allergies or food intolerances can also lead to bloating and gas. For example, people with lactose intolerance and fructose intolerance often experience bloating and gas.
Gas and bloating can also be a common symptom of conditions that obstruct the intestines, such as ovarian cancer or colon cancer. This is why it is essential to never ignore excess gas and bloating and to always consult your doctor, especially if you are experiencing these symptoms frequently.
Symptom 2: Diarrhea
All of us have experienced bouts of diarrhea from time to time, especially when we end up consuming something questionable. The loose and watery stools associated with diarrhea usually tend to be temporary, and we soon get relief within a day or two. There are many known causes of sudden diarrhea, the most common ones being food poisoning or a viral infection. Usually, diarrhea is not a matter of concern, but severe diarrhea can cause dehydration if you do not keep up with a steady supply of liquids in your diet.
If diarrhea continues to last for over four weeks, then it is referred to as chronic diarrhea, and such types of frequent and lengthy stretches of diarrhea should be a matter of concern. Chronic diarrhea of frequent stretches of diarrhea can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires a doctor’s attention.
The medical conditions that are known to cause diarrhea include:
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Lactose intolerance
- Fructose intolerance
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Chronic gastrointestinal infections
- Endocrine conditions such as carcinoid tumors and Addison’s disease
Symptom 3: Abdominal Pain and Cramping
Apart from diarrhea, gas, and bloating, abdominal pain and cramping that are recurring and tend to last for over two to three weeks, can be indicative of an underlying disorder and requires medical attention. Pain in the abdomen can also be caused by constipation.
Other medical conditions that can cause abdominal cramping and pain include:
- Diverticulitis – Apart from abdominal discomfort, symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, constipation, and fever
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) – Diarrhea, weight loss, gassiness, and abdominal cramping are the common symptoms of EPI
- Crohn’s Disease – Symptoms of Crohn’s typically include rectal bleeding and diarrhea, along with abdominal discomfort
- Ulcers – Ulcers can cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Pancreatitis – Apart from abdominal discomfort, pancreatitis can cause chest or back pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills
- Gastroparesis – Symptoms including belching, heartburn, and vomiting
Symptom 4: Malnutrition and Lack of Appetite
If you are not eating the right nutritious foods or if your body is unable to absorb the nutrients properly, then you can end up being malnourished. Some of the common symptoms of malnourishment include:
- Poor Appetite
- Unexplained Weight Loss
Frequently Falling Sick And Taking Longer To Recover
There are many conditions that interfere with the body’s natural ability to absorb nutrients from food. These include:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
Symptom 5: Unusual Bowel Movements
Under normal circumstances, there should be no need to strain while having a bowel movement. You also do not need to worry about stool leakage if your bowel is functioning properly.
Since everyone’s body is different, everybody has a different routine for bowel movements. While some people may have bowel movements every day, others may only need to go once or twice a week. However, when there is a sudden and drastic change in your bowel movements, then it could be a sign of an underlying problem.
While you may not want to take a look at your stools, but it is a wise idea to know how your stools typically appear. The color of the stool may vary even on a daily basis, but it should generally be within a shade of yellow to brown. This can change when you eat some foods that are known to affect stool color.
Some other changes to watch out for in your stools include:
- Stools are more urgent, looser in consistency, or harder than usual
- If you are alternating between constipation and diarrhea – this could be a potential symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)(11)
- Foul-smelling, greasy, and pale-colored stools that stick to the toilet or float and are difficult to flush could be a symptom of Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) as EPI makes it difficult for the body to digest fat.
- Red, tarry, or black stools could be an indication that there is blood present in your stool, or there could be pus present around the anus. Both of these are an indication of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Symptom 6: Muscle Wasting and Weight Loss
Any health condition that involves poor appetite, malnutrition, or diarrhea, can lead to weight loss. Unexplained loss of weight or muscle wasting is dangerous symptoms that must be investigated at the earliest. If you are experiencing any of these two symptoms, it is necessary to make an appointment with your doctor at the earliest.
If you are feeling full regularly and you are unable to find an explanation for this bloating, then it is a good idea to consult your doctor and undergo a complete physical examination. While it could be a simple matter of changing your diet to solve your symptoms, it could also be possible that you are suffering from a gastrointestinal condition that needs immediate treatment. Remember that the earlier a health condition is diagnosed, the faster your doctor can start treatment. In certain situations, this can make all the difference in determining a positive outcome.
You should make a thorough list of all the symptoms you are experiencing and also for how long you have been having them so that your doctor is able to get the complete picture of what’s going on. Also, make sure to mention whether you have been losing weight.
A physical examination, complete medical history, and your symptoms will help your doctor in understanding what the next steps should be taken in order to diagnose your condition correctly.
- Iovino, P., Bucci, C., Tremolaterra, F., Santonicola, A. and Chiarioni, G., 2014. Bloating and functional gastrointestinal disorders: where are we and where are we going?. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, 20(39), p.14407.
- Agrawal, A. and Whorwell, P.J., 2008. abdominal bloating and distension in functional gastrointestinal disorders–epidemiology and exploration of possible mechanisms. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 27(1), pp.2-10.
- Zhu, Y., Zheng, X., Cong, Y., Chu, H., Fried, M., Dai, N. and Fox, M., 2013. Bloating and distention in irritable bowel syndrome: the role of gas production and visceral sensation after lactose ingestion in a population with lactase deficiency. The American journal of gastroenterology, 108(9), p.1516.
- Jiang, X., Locke, G.R., Choung, R.S., Zinsmeister, A.R., Schleck, C.D. and Talley, N.J., 2008. Prevalence and risk factors for abdominal bloating and visible distention: a population-based study. Gut, 57(6), pp.756-763.
- Green, P.H. and Cellier, C., 2007. Celiac disease. New england journal of medicine, 357(17), pp.1731-1743.
- Fasano, A. and Catassi, C., 2012. Celiac disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 367(25), pp.2419-2426.
- Domínguez‐Muñoz, J.E., 2011. Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency: diagnosis and treatment. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology, 26, pp.12-16.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Gastroparesis | Cleveland Clinic. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15522-gastroparesis [Accessed 7 Dec. 2019].
- The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2019). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease | AAAAI. [online] Available at: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/related-conditions/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease [Accessed 7 Dec. 2019].
- Whitehead, W.E., Engel, B.T. and Schuster, M.M., 1980. Irritable bowel syndrome. Digestive diseases and sciences, 25(6), pp.404-413.
- Heaton, K.W., Ghosh, S. and Braddon, F.E., 1991. How bad are the symptoms and bowel dysfunction of patients with the irritable bowel syndrome? A prospective, controlled study with emphasis on stool form. Gut, 32(1), pp.73-79.
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