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Bloating and COPD Part 1.

Bloating and COPD – Part 1

This week I am writing about the bump many of us wish we did not have: bloated stomachs that no amount of effort on our part seems to deflate. I remember some years ago getting out of my bath, and looking at myself shocked at the image in the mirror reflected back at me. Not only was my stomach bloated, it looked as though I was soon to give birth to twins.

Like many, I had gained weight as I was not able to exercise as when fitter. Less mobility equals less movement and on goes some weight. Even so, whatever I did, and it seems others too, had little effect on bloating.

Bloating and COPD

Bloating continues to be a much talked about subject with little in the way of conclusion, or helpful advice in the COPD community. Very many COPD’ers are effected by bloating. Doctors offer little if any advice, sometimes seeming to be none the wiser to the cause. The reason why I have looked into this often complained about part of COPD – as I needed to find answers if only to help myself.

We have to first think about where our lungs sit inside our bodies. Many assume our lungs are under our ribs, enclosed in the upper part of our torso. While part of our lungs is under our ribs, our lungs are very large and extend below our rib cage. This is the part that because it is not constrained by our ribs gives 70% of lung capacity as they extend below and down behind your diaphragm and stomach. The upper part of your lungs being constrained by your ribs can only offer 30% of capacity to a fit lung person. This explains why a knock to the stomach can leave a person winded. Not being protected by the rib cage at this point and easily crushed means anyone that is lung challenged will when bending to pick something from the floor, or tie shoe laces, get more breathless. For instance many, if not most, of us at the severe stage can no longer cut our toe nails and in some cases even find it a problem to put on socks.

Over time our lungs get larger due to being hyper inflated with emphysema, and become more extended. Doctors refer to these as long lungs. Someone with long lungs maybe asked to have two lung x-rays when at the hospital. One for the top half the lung, the other for the lower. I have long lungs.

As our lungs grow larger, and more inflated, they push our stomach and diaphragm outwards from behind, giving the bloating effect. Eating large meals makes this worse – as then we have our diaphragm and stomach fighting each other for space as our lungs push outwards, making for more bloating. And as we become more bloated, we become more breathless on movement. This really is a cause and effect condition. The good news is there are ways to help yourself. You will probably not be able to entirely stop the bloating – but can limit it and make yourself a little less breathless as a result.

What you can do to manage bloating

Eating smaller portions really does help. Have you, as I have done in the past, come out of a restaurant to find you are much more breathless than usual? That walk to the car, even though only a few yards, seeming to take an eternity? This is the point when the food in your stomach is having a fight for space with your lungs. The lungs have a smaller amount of room as they are compressed by the food in your stomach making for more breathlessness. There is no getting away from it. Eating smaller meals is the way forward. Smaller portions, little and often does help. But there is more you can do to help that bloating apart from eating smaller meals. I will write about how our breathing effects bloating and an exercise that can help to reduce bloat in my next article.

Till then keep that smile. But most of all breathe easy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • jhardwick
    3 years ago

    Thanx for the info. Smaller meals will probably do the trick for a while


  • Casey Hribar moderator
    3 years ago

    Glad to hear you found this article helpful, jhardwick! That sounds like a great plan! Let us know how it goes! -Casey, Team

  • elizabeth61
    3 years ago

    I have been using Metamucil to help with the i use my nebulizer helps take that over lbloated feeling away..I had got to where I could not hardly get up from the was awful

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi elizabeth61 and thanks for letting us know what works so well for you, with our online community. Keep up the good work!
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • PJ1960
    4 years ago

    I would like to know where you got the information that our lungs extend down past our rib cage? I do not believe that is true. Our lung do become larger and push against our rib cage which many times can result in a barrel chest. They also push downward flattening the diaphram, which makes it harder to take a breath. The reason a person that is hit in the stomach gets the “wind” knocked out of them is because it presses the stomach into the diaphram which forces the air out. Here is a pic of a normal womans lungs,, notice that her lungs only go down to the 6th to 7th rib…

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 years ago

    Hi PJ – you raise a good point and it is perfectly illustrated in your linked picture.
    The rib cage is designed to act as a protective housing for the lungs.
    Although I cannot speak on behalf of Derek, perhaps he was referring to the advanced COPD patient with significant obstruction. Patients with significant chronic obstruction tend to have ‘longer’ lungs which then ‘flatten’ the diaphragm. Even those lungs remain ‘shielded’ by the rib cage.
    We appreciate you pointing this out.
    Best regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Diana
    4 years ago

    Thank you can’t wait for part 2

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 years ago

    Hi Diana – glad that you enjoyed ‘part 1’. Just so you’re aware, you don’t have to wait any longer; ‘part 2’ is already published. You can find it here:
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • eltom
    4 years ago

    Describes what many of go through in a non-medical way. Well done.

  • Henrietta
    4 years ago

    I really like reading your articles because you speak of so much I question and also have problems with. I am happy to know I am not alone.

  • Grandma Glen
    4 years ago

    Thank you for doing the research on stomach bloating. I have the same problem. Love to hear more of your research.

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