What Are the Causes of Abdominal Bloating & Burning?


Complaints of abdominal discomforts are common in the United States. In some cases, the problem may be related to something a person has eaten. However, symptoms of abdominal bloating and burning often indicate the existence of a medical problem, usually peptic ulcer. A medical evaluation is needed to determine the exact cause.

Expert Insight

  • Peptic ulcers, the most-common cause of symptoms of abdominal bloating and burning, were once believed to be mostly caused by stress or spicy foods. However, science now supports that the number one cause of peptic ulcers is a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. There are three main types of peptic ulcers: gastric (in the stomach), duodenal (in the duodenum of the small intestine) and esophageal (lower section of the esophagus). An esophageal ulcer is often associated with chronic gastro-esophageal reflux disease.


  • Symptoms of peptic ulcer include chronic burning or gnawing stomach pain that usually occurs 45 to 60 minutes after eating or at night (that is relieved by eating, taking antacids, vomiting or drinking a large glass of water), sometimes accompanied by lower back pain, headache, a choking sensation, itching and nausea or vomiting.


  • If left untreated, peptic ulcers can result in internal bleeding that can lead to anemia, infection of the abdominal cavity or scar tissue that obstructs the passage of food through the digestive tract. In some cases, internal bleeding can be severe and require hospitalization or blood transfusion.


  • While peptic ulcer disease is believed to be the most-common cause of symptoms of abdominal bloating and burning, other medical conditions, such as intestinal blockage, acid reflux disease, intestinal cancer and irritable bowel syndrome, can cause similar symptoms. Other possible causes of abdominal bloating and burning include the use of a group of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (which includes aspirin and many other prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers), osteoporosis drugs, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and stress.


  • Diagnostic blood tests are generally used to detect the presence of the H. pylori bacterium. However, certain medications can cause a false positive result. Other methods of testing include breath test, stool test, x-ray and endoscopy. In the treatment of peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, doctors often prescribe one or more of the following drug types: Antibiotics, antacids, proton pump inhibitors and acid blockers. In some cases, dietary changes may needed. If tests reveal that peptic ulcers are not the cause, doctors may test for cancer or other types of infections.

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