Stomach Feels So Hard, What's Wrong?

If your stomach feels hard to the touch, swollen or bloated, it might be something as simple as side effects from a certain drink or food. It might also be something more serious, especially if it persists. A hard stomach is usually something that goes away on its own, but sometimes it will linger. If it doesn’t go away or is accompanied by pain, it might be time to see a doctor about the problem. 

Causes and Treatments of Hard Stomach

There are many causes, and there are reliable treatments for each cause. In most cases you will find that the hardness passes and you don’t have to worry about it anymore; but in other cases, it keeps coming back or simply doesn’t go away. 

1. Gas and Bloating

When your body breaks down food, sometimes gas can result. A buildup of gas leads to bloating, or a swelling of the stomach and abdomen. This swelling can make your stomach feel hard, sometimes brings pain and might make you feel general discomfort. This is often caused by various foods or beverages, swallowed air, some medical conditions, constipation or medications.

How to deal with it: to avoid further gas and bloating, you should take care to eat slowly and to avoid certain foods that can cause the problem. Over the counter medications can offer help for the bloating and pain. You should also stop smoking and overeating.

When to worry: often the best thing to do is wait out the problem. If it doesn’t go away within a few hours or overnight, then you might have a problem that needs to be addressed by a physician.

2. Constipation

If you are constipated, your body is not eliminating feces often enough. This can lead to bloating, a feeling of fullness or pain, difficulty passing stools, and large stools that can be painful to pass. Constipation can be caused by many things, including unhealthy diet, not drinking enough water, a lack of physical activity, and delaying going to the bathroom when you need to. Other reasons include pregnancy, bowel syndromes, physical disorders or certain medications.

How to deal with it: you can reduce the chances of constipation by eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of water and getting good exercise. Over the counter medications can help add fiber to your diet and get your bowels moving again. Stool softeners or laxatives can help as well.

When to worry: if you haven’t had a bowel movement in over a week, you are passing bloody stools or you are feeling pain and discomfort, it’s time to talk to a doctor about what might be wrong. In a case like this, the constipation might be caused by something more serious, such as colon cancers or a bowel blockage.

3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

This is a common disorder that leads to hard stomach, cramping, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation and other uncomfortable symptoms in your abdomen. In most cases the symptoms are mild and annoying, but for some people they can become debilitating. Though there is no clear cause as to why IBS begins, there are some things that might trigger it, including stress, certain foods and hormones.

How to deal with it: treatments for IBS include supplements that can help settle your intestines, medications that can relieve the spasms and antibiotics if necessary. You might also be treated with a high-fiber diet. Avoiding foods that cause irritation is also a good way to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Your doctor might want to run several tests to rule out other problems before starting in-depth treatment.

4. Stomach Cancers

Fortunately, stomach cancers are a very rare cause of gas and bloating; however, it does happen. This is caused by a tumor developing inside the stomach, causing problems such as bloating, gas, a feeling of fullness or discomfort. A hard stomach might also be one of the symptoms of stomach cancer. More advanced cancers can lead to loss of appetite, weight loss, and blood in your stools.

How to deal with it: treatment for stomach cancer must often be very aggressive in order to fight the illness and have a chance for recovery. Surgery to remove all or part of the stomach is common as a first treatment, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. One of the best ways to avoid stomach cancer is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

5. Pregnancy

When you become pregnant, a hard stomach is actually expected to happen. This is because the uterus is applying pressure to your abdomen as it grows. This often starts during the first trimester, when the uterus is stretching. During the second trimester, the baby is growing and the water volume in your stomach is increasing, thus leading to a hard feeling. In the third trimester, your stomach can be so hard that it becomes uncomfortable, and you can likely feel your baby clearly when he or she moves. When you drink carbonated beverages, eat a diet low in fiber or suffer from intestinal complaints during pregnancy, the hardness can be even more pronounced.

How to deal with it: to get some relief from the problem, watch your diet carefully. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t drink alcohol or carbonated beverages, and exercise regularly. You should also avoid stress and learn various relaxation techniques. The problem will resolve completely once you have your baby.