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Swelling in the abdomen, also known as distended abdomen.
Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes.
Organ or part of body involved: Abdomen
Symptoms and indications: Due to the swelling the pain may take the form of cramps that come and go or it may be constant. It may feel like stabbing, aching or burning in the abdomen. It may also spread to the back or chest.
Causes and risk factors: Usually not caused by disease. For example, overeating, simple weight gain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pregnancy, or the unconscious swallowing of air can all cause distention. Abdominal distention commonly results from intestinal gas. This may result from eating fibrous foods such as fruits and vegetables. People who are lactose intolerant cannot properly digest dairy foods, and eating such foods may cause distention. Abdominal distention may occasionally result from the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.
Prevention: In general, a normal diet should be followed. Patients with abdominal distention and increased flatulence may benefit from dietary reduction or elimination of beans, cabbage, and other foods containing fermentable carbohydrates. Reduced intake of apple and grape juice, bananas, nuts, and raisins may also lessen the incidence of flatulence. Patients with evidence of lactose intolerance should reduce their intake of milk and dairy products. Bowel function may also be disturbed by the ingestion of sorbitol, mannitol, fructose, or combinations of sorbitol and fructose. Sorbitol and mannitol are artificial sweeteners used in dietetic foods and as drug vehicles, whereas fructose is a common constituent of fruits, berries, and plants. Patients with postprandial abdominal pain may try a low-fat diet supplemented with increased protein.
Eating food in moderation and slowly, avoiding carbonated drinks, chewing gum or sucking on candies, avoiding drinking from a straw or sipping the surface of a hot beverage are also useful.