Does Constipation Cause Bloating?

Medically Reviewed By Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C

Constipation can cause bloating. Sometimes, another underlying condition may be responsible for constipation and bloating, such as irritable bowel syndrome, stress, or pelvic floor disorders. A small amount of bloating is common and expected, especially after eating gassy foods or drinks such as sodas or vegetables.

However, sometimes, an underlying health condition can cause bloating and constipation. Talk with a doctor if you experience new, worse, or persistent bloating or other digestive symptoms.

This article explains the link between constipation and bloating, including other possible causes of your symptoms, treatment, prevention, and when to see a doctor.

Does constipation cause bloating?

A person holding their hands to their stomach
Photography by LaylaBird/Getty Images

Constipation can cause bloating and stomach distension, meaning the stomach seems swollen or larger than usual. You may feel pressure or discomfort in the stomach or pass more gas.

In addition to bloating, other symptoms of constipation include:

  • passing fewer than three bowel movements in a week
  • passing hard, dry, or lumpy stools
  • pain or difficulty passing stools
  • feeling as if you haven’t passed all the stool

Read more about how often you should pass a bowel movement.

Other conditions can also contribute to bloating.

Other possible causes of bloating and constipation

Other possible causes of bloating include medical conditions and daily habits, such as:

  • swallowing air, such as from smoking, chewing gum, or eating quickly
  • eating foods that contribute to gas, such as certain sweeteners, vegetables, dairy foods, and carbonated drinks
  • overeating
  • acid reflux
  • weight gain

Causes of constipation and bloating

Many other factors and health conditions can cause bloating and constipation, sometimes together. Examples include:

Digestive and gastrointestinal conditions that may cause constipation and bloating include:

Lifestyle factors that may cause constipation and bloating include:

  • older age
  • traveling
  • changing your usual diet
  • not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water
  • not going to the toilet in response to bowel urges
  • not getting enough physical activity

Also, some medications or a change in your medication routine can cause bloating or constipation. Talk with a doctor if you have symptoms of bloating or constipation.

Learn more about the causes of constipation and bloating.

Treatment for bloating and constipation

Severe bloating or bloating due to a health condition may require medical treatment. General treatments to help improve constipation can include:

  • bowel retraining to help build a habit of regular bowel movements
  • over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as:
    • fiber supplements
    • stool softeners
    • laxatives
  • prescription medications, such as:
    • linaclotide (Linzess)
    • lubiprostone (Amitiza)
    • prucalopride (Motegrity)
  • biofeedback therapy to help retrain the muscles that control bowel movements
  • surgery for blockages in the digestive tract or structural conditions such as rectal prolapse

General treatments to help improve bloating can include:

  • over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications, such as simethicone (Alka-Seltzer Anti-Gas, Genasyme, Mylicon)
  • charcoal capsules
  • peppermint oil capsules
  • probiotics

Always talk with a doctor or pharmacist before using new medications, supplements, or remedies, even if they are available OTC.

Your medical team may recommend stopping a medication or supplement if they believe those are causing your symptoms. Still, always talk with your doctor before stopping or changing your medication.

Prevention and remedies for bloating and constipation

The following steps may help improve or prevent mild constipation and bloating:

  • getting regular physical activity
  • getting enough fiber in your diet
  • staying hydrated
  • quitting smoking, if you smoke
  • eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • eating and drinking slowly, avoiding talking or keeping the mouth open while chewing
  • massaging your stomach from right to left to help trapped wind move on

Avoiding potentially triggering foods and ingredients may also help, including:

Talk with a doctor if your symptoms continue despite trying these tips.

When to see a doctor

Contact a doctor for new, persistent, or worsening symptoms of bloating or constipation.

Also talk with a doctor if you have bloating or constipation alongside other symptoms or symptoms are affecting your daily life.

Sometimes, only a doctor can identify the underlying cause of your symptoms, and some causes may require medical care.

Summary

Constipation can cause bloating. This constipation may be due to another underlying health condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, or diabetes.

However, sometimes lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity levels, can also contribute to constipation and bloating. Also, not all bloating is linked to constipation.

To diagnose the cause of your symptoms, talk with a doctor. They can provide personalized treatment and advice to improve your symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2024 Feb 9
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