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What is Bloat?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bloat is a health issue in which the stomach becomes distended due to the presence of excess gas within the stomach chamber. In medical circles, bloat is often referred to as gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV. The condition of bloat may take place for a number of different factors, and most often experienced by humans, canines, and cattle, although other animals may also undergo gastric torsion from time to time.

In many cases, bloat develops when some set of factors causes the stomach to become twisted. This effectively creates a situation where the esophagus closes off and will not allow the escape of excess gas. This means that the sufferer cannot simply burp or vomit as a means of clearing the gas from the stomach tract. The release of the gas through the bowels is also sometimes blocked as well. In severe cases, the condition may lead to what is known as a double torsion, where there are two rather than one twists that effectively block the escape of the gas.

The twisting of the stomach has a direct impact on the digestive tract or volvulus, preventing the tract from functioning properly. As pressure builds in the stomach, the tissue expands, causing a great deal of discomfort. The tension created by bloat may have both physical and emotional ramifications, as the condition can make sleep impossible, and also interfere with the processing of nutrients from food that is ingested. If left unchecked, bloat can eventually cause damage to the spleen and possibly lead to blood poisoning.

There are several reasons the condition develops. A combination of foods, or even one food, may trigger the twisting of the stomach around the digestive tract. Emotions may play a role as well, since negative emotions can impact the function of the stomach. Often, stress can be a major factor, especially when combined with the intake of foods that tend to create a lot of gas in the system.

Fortunately, there are a number of treatments that can cause the stomach muscles to relax and free the volvulus. Once this takes place, the trapped gas can escape and the distended stomach will return to normal. For humans, there are a number of over the counter medications that may help with bloat. However, if the sufferer does not seem to respond to these medications within a day or so, medical assistance should be sought quickly.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By mon123 — On Jan 08, 2011

my shih-tzu ate a corn husk by accident. is this harmful for him?

By anon131667 — On Dec 03, 2010

i have a friend who said he thought his wife was poisoning him. after he ate he would bloat and sunlight hurt his eyes. he was so sick and just as soon as they divorced he got better and it never happened again. could he have been poisoned and what could it have been.

By anon65611 — On Feb 15, 2010

My good friend developed bloat while on a trip. We got a call he was in the hospital and not expected to live. It seems that on arrival in Gunnison, Colo. after testing, 1/2 of his stomach, his colon, and half of his small intestines were removed. He lived for two days, long enough to see his children, then died of blood clots to the heart.

I later read "sheppard hooks" placed in the aorta may have stopped the clot from getting to his heart, but it is still questionable if he could have lived after such radical surgery.

By anon32994 — On May 30, 2009

What are the stats for a human surviving bloat surgery?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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