Nearly one in seven Americans experience bloating on a weekly basis, and most aren’t seeking professional care for it, and women are also more than twice as likely as men to report bloating, says a study.

Bloating can make people feel swollen or tight in the abdomen. It may occur when a person’s gastrointestinal tract fills with air or gas and can sometimes be the result of diet or an underlying condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, carbohydrate enzyme deficiency, or chronic constipation.

“Although bloating is a common symptom, some patients may not bring it up with their doctors,” said Janice Oh, a resident physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in the US and first author of the study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Other studies have also found that women report more bloating than men, and researchers have proposed various hypotheses for why this may be occurring.

“These include hormonal, metabolic, psychosocial, lifestyle, and dietary differences between men and women,” said Oh.

To understand the scope of bloating in the US, the authors emailed a survey to nearly 90,000 people.

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Of the 88,795 people who completed the survey from May through June 2020, 12,324 (13.9 percent) reported bloating in the past seven days.

“To our knowledge, this is among the largest studies of bloating in the US. Anecdotally, we often hear about bloating in the clinic, but this study adds concrete evidence to describe how commonly it occurs and what other conditions it’s associated with,” said Brennan Spiegel, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai.

Of the people who reported experiencing bloating, about 58.5 percent said they have never sought care for their symptoms.

Some of the reasons they gave for not seeking care were that the bloating resolved on its own; it wasn’t bothersome; they were able to manage it with over-the-counter medications or lifestyle changes; they didn’t have health insurance or time to go to the doctor, or they weren’t comfortable discussing bloating with a healthcare provider.

“Bloating can often be managed effectively with various medications, such as gut-directed antibiotics or treatments that affect serotonin levels in the gut,” said Oh.

There is also evidence that lifestyle changes can help, including exercise, such as core strengthening, as well as dietary changes.