Distended Bowel

A distended bowel occurs when the abdomen becomes enlarged beyond its normal size. There are several reasons why the condition may develop, and it is usually just uncomfortable, but at times the patient may feel some pain. The causes of the condition vary, even if the symptoms are fairly universal. The fact that the causes vary widely necessitates that the treatment is multifaceted in its approach.

Symptoms of distended bowel

Symptoms of a distended bowel will vary from one person to another. They vary widely from a mild enlargement of the bowel to extremely severe, a condition which can be very painful and cause daily discomfort. A distended bowel will present itself in many ways including constipation, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. The pain can be mild or severe and the bowel movements will have mucus on them.

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Each individual will develop their own patterns when it comes to the manifestation of the symptoms. Some may just experience some diarrhoea while others may have a lot of pain and experience constipation. The symptoms can just appear and disappear without notice.

The main symptoms that one would expect from this condition include:

  • Belch with a stinky sulfurous odor
  • Passing a lot of gas
  • The feeling of being full and having the belly stretched

Causes of  distended bowel

Research done at the University of Maryland Medical Center has shown that normal events (distension of gas or eating food) can trigger the condition for no reason, causing the colon to act up. The presence of gassy foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and even some medications can make the condition worse. It is also normal for women on their monthly cycle to experience these symptoms. This is because of the hormonal changes that occur during the cycle.

It has also been found that people who are susceptible to severe emotional changes, such as those suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and most likely to develop this condition, especially when they go through emotional distress. The condition is also common in people who have other digestive conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

People who eat too fast and swallow air with their food will also suffer from this condition. Heart failure and Cirrhosis will also cause distension, whereby some fluid accumulates in the abdomen and makes the patient feel like being full. Ladies who have ovarian cancer may also suffer from distension

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The condition is also common in people who have the following underlying conditions:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Transient constipation
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Parasitic infections such as giardia
  • Food poisoning
  • Severe peptic ulcers
  • Celiac disease
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Abdominal surgery

Diagnosis and treatment of distended bowel

Since a multifaceted approach to the treatment of this condition is required, the diagnosis is quite important. The doctor will ask the patient for the medical history of the conditions. This will help in knowing how many times it occurs. If it occurs frequently, the patient will have to keep a journal showing the diet, activity and how often the condition occurs. This will allow the doctor to see what conditions causing the distended bowel to occur. Tests will also be done to rule out Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

The doctor will then decide on which treatment is best for the patient. The first step is to go through dietary counseling where the patient learns which foods to eat so as to prevent the condition from flaring up. The patient will learn how to monitor the emotional levels which may cause the condition to occur and avoid them.

The next step would be to give medication which will alleviate the condition. Drugs that reduce flatulence are the best in such cases. There are physical exercises that can be performed which will help in reducing the amount of gas that is found in the bowel.

One should note that poorly digested food, when excreted to the colon will be degraded by bacteria thereby producing a lot of gas. The volume and odour of the gas will be determined by the type of undigested food it is. One should also avoid taking too much fibre in their food as this will cause belching, bloating and passing gas.

There are dietary supplements that have certain enzymes which are developed to break down the complex carbohydrates and vegetables that would otherwise cause excess gas when they are excreted in an undigested form to the colon.

At times a doctor will prescribe mild antidepressants to help the patient get some relief.

As you can see, this is a condition that presents itself in many ways and caused by many reasons. For proper treatment, you should be patent and follow the treatment regime religiously. This is the only way you can alleviate the uncomfortable effects of a distended bowel.

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