Inflated upper abdomen


An inflated upper abdomen is a common complaint. The cause is usually harmless, but there is often great suffering. Often there is a connection to nutrition.

For example, food intolerance can possibly be the cause. In very rare cases, it can also be a sign of a serious disease, for example of the liver or cancer. Even in pregnancy, the abdomen bulges out after a few weeks and may appear distended, but this is a continuous growth and there are almost always other signs.


An inflated upper abdomen is usually caused by an accumulation of air in the gastrointestinal tract. This in turn can have various causes. In most cases, nutrition is responsible for the bloating of the upper abdomen.

When many foods are broken down in the intestine, gases are produced which cause the stomach to swell. Certain foods such as cabbage, beans or broccoli release more gases than others. Even highly carbonated drinks can bloat.

If larger quantities of such foods are consumed, a bloated upper abdomen can result. The gastrointestinal tract is different in every person and has an individual bacterial colonisation, which is important for digestion. Therefore, different people have different susceptibilities to a bloated upper abdomen.

Some people can consume large quantities without developing symptoms and others are already plagued by a swollen upper abdomen due to smaller quantities. Often there is also a food intolerance such as a so-called lactose intolerance (lactose intolerance) or fructose intolerance (fruit sugar intolerance). In such people, the consumption of dairy products or food rich in fructose (fruit, convenience products) leads to complaints such as a bloated upper abdomen.

Constipation can also cause the abdomen to swell up due to an accumulation of gas in the intestine. A bloated abdomen can also be caused by water retention. In this case, however, a mere bloating of the upper abdomen is untypical.

A doctor can differentiate between water and air as the cause by means of a physical examination and possibly an ultrasound examination. If there is a slowly increasing upper abdominal bloating, in rare cases it can also be a benign or malignant tumour. If necessary, this can then also be palpable.

In women of childbearing age, a pregnancy test should always be carried out if the abdomen is swollen, which is not only temporary. Even if this only rarely makes itself noticeable by swelling of the abdomen alone, pregnancy should be ruled out before further diagnostics are carried out. The liver is located in the upper abdomen and can swell considerably in certain diseases, for example in the case of Pfeiffer’s glandular fever.

If necessary, the liver can be palpated enlarged by a doctor, but the enlargement of the organ does not usually lead to a bloated upper abdomen. However, if there is a severe liver disease, for example after many years of alcohol abuse or an untreated severe inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), scarring of the liver (liver cirrhosis) may occur. The organ that is responsible for the production of blood proteins, among other things, can eventually no longer fulfil this task.

The protein deficiency leads to increased water being drawn from the blood into the tissue and into the abdomen. The result is sometimes massive water retention and an often very bloated stomach. For the same reason, by the way, starving children usually have a bulging stomach. The insufficient amount of proteins in their blood is, however, caused by malnutrition. and tasks of the liver