Endo belly occurs when you have endometriosis and your tummy becomes bloated. It is also called endometriosis bloating. Medications and changes to your diet can help ease your symptoms, as well as treating the underlying condition, endometriosis.
If your abdominal bloating occurs frequently, for longer than a few days and/or is painful, see your GP. You may have endo belly but there are also other conditions that can cause abdominal bloating. Your doctor will examine you and discuss your symptoms to help identify the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.
If you have endo belly, the abdominal bloating can last for just a few hours, days or weeks.
Endo belly refers to abdominal bloating linked to endometriosis and can cause discomfort, pain and swelling.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of your womb (endometrium) starts to grow elsewhere and attaches to other organs, such as your ovaries and fallopian tubes. It is estimated to affect one in 10 women of child-bearing age.
Endometriosis symptoms include heavy bleeding during your periods, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, infertility and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as endo belly. Endo belly is not a commonly discussed symptom of endometriosis despite it often being distressing.
The exact cause of endo belly is unclear although there are several theories.
One theory suggests that the endometrial tissue growing outside your womb causes pain as it still bleeds during your periods but the blood has no way to exit your body and becomes trapped.
Another theory suggests that the endometrial tissue growing outside your womb causes other nearby tissues to become inflamed. This can cause swelling, bloating, water retention and the formation of scar tissue, as well as causing tissues in your pelvis to stick together when they shouldn’t.
It has also been suggested that if you have endometriosis, your gut is more sensitive. This makes it more likely that your intestines will become overworked and increases your risk of digestive problems, such as constipation and bloating.
If you have endometriosis, you are also more likely to develop fibroids and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which can both cause bloating.
If the endometrial tissue growing outside your womb grows over or into your ovaries, blood produced by this tissue during your periods can become trapped in the form of cysts. These cysts can also cause bloating.
The most common symptom is severe abdominal bloating, particularly just before or during your period. Abdominal bloating occurs when your tummy fills with gas and consequently swells — this can last for hours, days or weeks. This can make your tummy feel tight or hard when you touch it.
Other symptoms include discomfort, pain and pressure in your abdomen and back.
Endo belly causes extreme abdominal bloating, which can make you appear pregnant, even though you aren’t. If you have endometriosis and endo belly, you are also more likely to have other gastrointestinal conditions that can worsen your bloating and make your tummy swell even more.
If you have endo belly, you are more likely to have other gastrointestinal conditions, including:
If you have abdominal bloating that occurs frequently, lasts longer than a few days and/or is causing you pain, it is important to see your doctor to get a diagnosis.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your tummy and pelvis to feel for cysts or scars behind your womb. They may also recommend you have a transvaginal ultrasound or an abdominal ultrasound so they can see images of the inside of your pelvis. This can help them better identify any cysts, scars or other abnormalities, which may be causing your bloating.
Changing your diet can help reduce endo belly symptoms, such as bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms, which can reduce your discomfort and pain. You can try to:
There is no specific endo belly diet, so you will need to try out different changes to your diet to find out what works best for you.
Track what you eat daily
Keep a food diary to track what you eat and drink, including how much water you drink, alongside your endo belly symptoms and how much sleep you get. This will help you identify patterns that may suggest what makes your endo belly symptoms worse.
You can also try using smartphone apps designed to track menstrual cycle symptoms and gastrointestinal symptoms.
This information may help in getting a diagnosis and making changes to your diet that will reduce your symptoms.
Exercise and massage
Regular exercise can reduce pain caused by endo belly over time. This is because exercise improves your blood flow, which ensures your body gets all the oxygen and nutrients it needs, and reduces stress, which can worsen endo belly symptoms.
You can try gentle twisting actions to improve blood flow and movement through your tummy, and reduce bloating and pain. You can also try going for a short walk before bedtime to help food move through your digestive system and/or a gentle tummy massage to reduce bloating.
Your body needs sleep to repair and restore itself. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal and metabolic changes, which can increase your body’s stress responses. This can worsen pain and cause bloating. Women with endo belly are more likely to have insomnia.
Relax your pelvic floor
The pain caused by endo belly causes your pelvic floor to contract and become hypertonic ie your pelvic floor muscles become too toned. To prevent this happening, try relaxing your pelvic floor by performing specific pelvic floor relaxation exercises, lower abdominal muscle relaxation exercises, deep belly breathing and total body relaxation exercises. You can speak to your GP or a physiotherapist for more information on these exercises.
Reduce stress, find a sustainable self-care routine and stick to it
Stress can worsen the symptoms of endometriosis. Reducing your stress levels can therefore help reduce your endo belly symptoms, as well as other symptoms caused by endometriosis.
People relax in different ways, so find what works for you and stick to it. Make sure you set personal boundaries and a sustainable self-care routine.
Treating endometriosis and managing its symptoms can reduce your endo belly symptoms.
Medications for endometriosis include:
Surgical treatments for endometriosis include:
There are many other conditions, in addition to endo belly, which can cause abdominal bloating. This includes:
The types of food you eat can also cause bloating as certain foods produce more gas when they are broken down in your digestive system. This includes:
Drinking fizzy drinks can also cause bloating.
If you experience bloating frequently that lasts more than a few days and/or causes you pain, you should see your GP. You should also see your GP if your bloating occurs alongside:
There are many charities and non-profit organisations that provide free resources and information about endometriosis, as well as support if you have endometriosis. This includes:
Can endometriosis cause stomach problems?
If you have endometriosis you are more likely to have gastrointestinal problems, including endo belly, as well as other digestive problems, such as constipation.
What does it mean when your stomach gurgles and you have diarrhoea?
Stress and anxiety can cause your stomach to gurgle and cause diarrhoea. However, these symptoms can also be caused by a food allergy, stomach infection or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you are concerned or your symptoms persist for more than two days, see your GP.
What can you do to relieve an endo belly?
Getting treatment for endometriosis can improve your symptoms of endo belly. However, you can also try keeping a food diary to see if certain foods trigger or worsen your bloating so you can avoid them. Regular exercise and gentle massage can also improve your symptoms.
Does endo belly cause weight gain?
No, endo belly doesn’t cause weight gain. However, when you experience an episode of endo belly, your tummy may appear larger as it is bloated.
Will endo belly go away after a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy may be recommended to treat endometriosis. However, it will only cure endometriosis if all of the endometrium tissue that has grown outside of your womb is also removed. If both your womb and all of the extra endometrial tissue is removed, then you will no longer have endometriosis and as a result your endo belly symptoms will go away too.
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
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