Most Americans who regularly experience bloating don’t seek help for it, new research has shown.

To gain a better understanding of the extent of the problem in the US, the researchers sent a survey about bloating to almost 90,000 people in 2020. Around 14% of the 88,795 respondents said they had experienced bloating in the past week.

Now the authors of the study, which has been published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, have urged people to seek help if they are experiencing symptoms.

First author Dr Janice Oh, from the Division of General Internal Medicine Division at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, said: “Although bloating is a common symptom, some patients may not bring it up with their doctors. It’s important that people feel comfortable discussing bloating because it could be a symptom of a serious condition and there are treatments available.”

Bloating can occur due to diet or an underlying condition, including chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.

Out of the people who said they regularly experience bloating, around 58% said they have never asked for help with the issue.

Reasons for not seeking help included:

  • The bloating resolved on its own (32.5%)
  • It wasn’t bothersome (29.9%)
  • They managed it with over-the-counter medications or changes to lifestyle (20.8%)
  • They didn’t have health insurance (10.2%)
  • They didn’t have time to go to the doctor (9%)
  • They weren’t comfortable discussing bloating with a healthcare provider (8.5%).

According to the findings, women were more than twice as likely to report bloating compared to men.

Dr Oh said: “Bloating can often be managed effectively with various medications, such as gut-directed antibiotics or treatments that affect serotonin levels in the gut.

“There is also evidence that lifestyle changes can help, including exercise, such as core strengthening, as well as dietary changes, but it requires discussion with a healthcare provider about what might be causing the bloating.”

Senior author Dr Brennan Spiegel, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai, said: “To our knowledge, this is among the largest studies of bloating in the US. Anecdotally, we often hear about bloating in the clinic, but this study adds concrete evidence to describe how commonly it occurs and what other conditions it’s associated with.”

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