Bloating is one of the symptoms of IBS. It can be painful and uncomfortable, but what causes it? And what can you do to alleviate the symptoms?

What is bloating?

Bloating is a sensation of increased abdominal pressure. Many people with IBS, but not all, experience bloating. You may experience stomach pain, a feeling of fullness, a stretched stomach and pain.

Bloating is caused by increases in abdominal content. For example, you may experience symptoms after a big meal, or when you are constipated. It can also be caused by liquid and gas. Bloating is only one of a number of symptoms that may be caused by intestinal gas.

For about 50% of people with IBS, bloating is not accompanied by any increase in abdominal content and may instead be due to increases in intestinal sensitivity.

Who suffers from bloating?

Anyone can suffer from bloating. More women suffer from it than men and the problem tends to be more common in people who are overweight or obese. Many people say that their symptoms are worse in the evening.

Why do people with IBS experience bloating?

This is because people with IBS have very sensitive stomachs. Even small amounts of food or drink or volumes of gas that might be considered normal for those not living with IBS can cause a problem for people with the condition.

Sensitive stomach and bloating

For people with IBS the bloating is usually not linked to excess wind but is caused because of the erratic propulsion of contents through the bowel. The sensation of abdominal fullness can cause the lower diaphragm to contract which relaxes the abdominals, which causes the abdomen to protrude.

This may be greater if the abdominal content is increased by a meal or towards the end of the day when people are tired. The increase in sensitivity may also be related to emotional tension as well as abdominal content. So, when it comes to bloating, mood is very much linked with food.

Food and bloating

Many fruits, vegetables and cereals contain sugars and starches that are not completely absorbed, but are fermented in the colon releasing gas, which can cause bloating.

Bugs and bloating

The quantity of gas generated depends on the amount and type of unabsorbed carbohydrate consumed and the populations of bacteria growing in the colon. There is not always a clear relationship between gas generation and symptom production. It depends on intestinal sensitivity.

How can you relieve bloating?

Bloating is uncomfortable, but there are things you can try to help relieve your symptoms.

Relaxation, hypnotherapy or meditation

Stress and anxiety will make your IBS worse so try introducing regular relaxation, hypnotherapy or meditation into your routine. This can help to decrease the sensitivity and spasm in your bowel.

Peppermint oil capsules

Antispasmodic drugs may help reduce the spasms that cause gas to become trapped in the bowel. Peppermint oil capsules such as Colpermin, Mintec or Colomint may help relieve abdominal pain and bloating.


Laxatives work for some people with symptoms of bloating by encouraging the expulsion of faeces and gas.

Keep a wellness diary

This is a 12-week mood and food diary where you record what you are eating, how you are feeling (mood) and your IBS symptoms. Over the 12-weeks you can then use the diary to help you identify any food and mood triggers. The diary is designed to help you better understand your IBS.

The low FODMAP diet

If you have cut out caffeine, carbonated drinks, spicy or fatty foods, beans, onions and garlic and followed all the other ‘first line’ recommendations and are still experiencing bloating, your doctor may suggest you try the low FODMAP diet. We highly recommend that the diet is only undertaken under the supervision of a registered dietitian; ask your GP to refer you.

FODMAPS are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are more commonly known as a type of carbohydrates. They are a collection of poorly absorbed simple and complex sugars that are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables and also in milk and wheat. The low FODMAP diet cuts out certain carbohydrates for a period of time and then reintroduces them.

More information on bloating and how to relieve symptoms is available in The IBS Network members’ community. Log in to the website with your membership details.