Abdominal bloating is a condition that causes your stomach to feel fuller or larger. It can develop within a few hours. In contrast, weight gain tends to develop over time. Abdominal bloating can be uncomfortable and even painful at times. It’s often accompanied by gas or flatulence.
Loss of appetite occurs when you lose the desire to eat regular meals and snacks. The medical term for loss of appetite is anorexia. It can be a short-term or chronic condition.
In some cases, abdominal bloating and loss of appetite occur together. A variety of lifestyle habits and conditions can cause these symptoms.
Abdominal bloating typically occurs when your stomach and/or intestines fill with excess air or gas. This can happen when you take in too much air through your mouth. It can also develop during your digestive process.
Loss of appetite is often a side effect of acute illness or medical therapies, such as cancer treatment. Changes in your body associated with aging can also cause you to experience loss of appetite as you get older.
Some common causes of abdominal bloating and loss of appetite include:
- gastroenteritis, both viral and bacterial
- food poisoning
- peripheral neuropathy
- hookworm infections
- ectopic pregnancy
- congestive heart failure (CHF)
- anorexia nervosa
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten intolerance
- gastrointestinal blockages
- gastroparesis, a condition in which your stomach muscles don’t work properly
- pregnancy, especially in your first trimester
- taking certain medications, such as antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs
- Crohn’s disease
- E. coli infection
- PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
In rare instances, abdominal bloating and loss of appetite can be a sign of certain cancers, including colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. Sudden weight loss is another symptom that tends to accompany cancer-related abdominal bloating and loss of appetite.
See your doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you’re vomiting blood or you have bloody or tarry stools, along with abdominal bloating and loss of appetite. Call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency department if you’re experiencing chest pain, dizziness, sweating, and shortness of breath. These are symptoms of a heart attack, which can mimic GERD symptoms.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you’ve experienced sudden, unexplained weight loss. You should also see your doctor if you experience abdominal bloating and loss of appetite on an ongoing or recurrent basis — even if they aren’t accompanied by more serious symptoms. Over time, loss of appetite can lead to malnutrition.
This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
To treat your abdominal bloating and loss of appetite, your doctor will try to diagnose and address their underlying cause. They’ll likely start by asking about your symptoms and medical history. They may also order blood, stool, urine, or imaging tests to check for potential causes. Your recommended treatment plan will target the disease or condition responsible for your symptoms.
For example, if you have IBS, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet and overall lifestyle. They may also encourage you to take probiotic supplements. These live bacteria may help prevent bloating and discomfort, which can lead to loss of appetite. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help keep your intestines from cramping and moving too quickly.
If you have GERD, your doctor may encourage you to take over-the-counter antacids. They may also prescribe medications such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers, which can reduce the amount of acid in your stomach and help relieve symptoms. They may also recommend changes to your eating habits.
More serious conditions, such as an intestinal blockage or cancer, may require surgery.
Your doctor will carefully evaluate your symptoms to determine the best course of action. Ask them for more information about your specific diagnosis, treatment options, and outlook.
In addition to following your doctor’s recommended treatment plan, taking simple steps at home may help relieve your symptoms.
If your bloating and loss of appetite are caused by something you’ve eaten, your symptoms may resolve on their own with time. Increasing your water intake and going for a walk may help relieve your indigestion. Staying well-hydrated and exercising regularly can also help prevent and relieve constipation.
Eating small meals with bland foods, such as crackers, toast, or broth, may help soothe your stomach. As the condition that caused your bloating starts to improve, you should notice your appetite returning.
Taking over-the-counter medications may also help relieve your symptoms. For example, simethicone can help relieve gas or flatulence. Calcium carbonate and other antacids can help relieve acid reflux or heartburn.
If your abdominal bloating and loss of appetite are related to certain foods, avoid them whenever possible. Some foods that commonly cause these symptoms include:
- Brussels sprouts
- dairy products
- high-fat foods
- chewing gum
- hard candy
- carbonated beverages
Keep track of your snacks, meals, and symptoms. This can help you identify foods that seem to trigger your symptoms. If your doctor suspects you have an allergy, you may be encouraged to undergo allergy testing. Avoid making drastic changes to your diet without talking to your doctor first. Cutting out too many foods may raise your risk of malnutrition.
Eating slowly and sitting upright afterward can also help lower your risk of indigestion. Avoid overeating, eating too quickly, and laying down right after meals.
If you have GERD, avoid taking over-the-counter aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. They can worsen your symptoms. Acetaminophen is a better option for relieving pain when you have GERD.