Swollen abdomen

A swollen abdomen (stomach) is an uncomfortable symptom which many people experience from time to time.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021


A swollen abdomen is also called a bloated stomach and is often accompanied by abdominal pain or stomach cramps. This very common condition is usually short-lived and goes away on its own, sometimes after passing wind (flatulence).

Although usually nothing to worry about, a swollen abdomen can be a sign of an underlying health problem. If you have any concerns about a swollen abdomen, make an appointment to see your GP.

Causes of a swollen abdomen

There are several possible causes for a swollen abdomen, or bloated stomach, including:

  • Overeating or eating food that’s difficult to digest, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions and beans
  • A food intolerance or an intolerance to certain natural substances, such as lactose, fructose or gluten
  • Eating quickly and swallowing too much air, perhaps because you’re stressed
  • Constipation
  • A condition affecting the digestive system, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Some cancers, including ovarian cancer

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Getting a diagnosis for a swollen abdomen

If you regularly have a bloated stomach, or the swelling doesn’t go away, see your GP. You should also contact your GP if you have a swollen abdomen and:

Your GP will ask about your general health and any other symptoms you’re experiencing, including stomach pain or stomach cramps. Your GP may also examine your stomach.

Your GP may refer you for tests, including blood tests, a colonoscopy or a CT scan. They may also refer you to a consultant for further investigations, diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments for a swollen abdomen

A swollen abdomen can usually be treated at home. Depending on your other symptoms, try:

  • Cutting down on foods that appear to trigger your bloating
  • Reducing the risk of constipation by eating a diet rich in fibre and taking regular exercise
  • Eating slowly and chewing your food properly

There are several over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements which can relieve a bloated stomach, such as:

  • Probiotics – to encourage the bacteria that help with digestion
  • Anti-foaming medication - to break up the tiny bubbles of digestive gas that can cause bloating

If your bloating doesn’t improve, your GP or consultant may prescribe medication. If your swollen abdomen’s a symptom of an underlying condition, your doctor will arrange the necessary treatment.