Expert Commentary -- Bloating, Distension, and the Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Richard Lea, MD; Peter J. Whorwell, MD

In This Article


Bloating and distension may occasionally occur in apparently healthy individuals, but are much more common in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders. Although it has been suggested that the term "bloating" should be used to describe how the patient feels, whereas the term "distension" is reserved for an actual increase in girth, it is important to appreciate that the 2 phenomena may not be precisely the same. Despite the prevalence of these symptoms, the pathophysiology is only just beginning to be discerned and is likely to be much more complex than attributable to just the accumulation of excessive quantities of gas. Until the underlying mechanisms are better understood, treatment will remain challenging; however, modification of diet, use of antidepressants, psychological therapies, or tegaserod may lead to improvement.


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