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abdominal distention after swimming

After swimming at a very fast pace or hard work out I get severe bloating or distention. I'm pretty certain that my breathing is correct with freestyle from what i've read. The bloating which starts about 1 hour after the swim is very painful and can take up to 2 hours to dissipate either thru burping or flatulence. Heavy deep breathing seems to help dispell the gas as well as lying down in the fetal position and doing stretches that i've learned from Yoga. It does not occur when I do a casual easy swim of say 30 or 40 minutes only when I push myself to go fast. This has been happening for 15 to 20 years and none of my primary care physicians have ever thought it very serious.
I'm a long time smoker, have hypothyroidism , 43 years old, not overweight and in relatively good shape. I also bike and sometimes go pretty fast and the bloating does not occur with this sport or any other just swimming.
Does anyone else have this problem? I've tried to eat before swimming, drink more water, not eat before swimming, drink during the workout,, and can not figure out what works. Please let me know if you have any remedies or diagnosis.
{i've just reduced my smoking in half and on my waay to quitting and haven't seen any changes}
24 Responses
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Did you check to see if your LES is loose??
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what is LES?
thanks for your reply
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lower esophagus sphincter is the valve between your esophagus and your stomach,it can get loosen due to age,medication,certain exercise.
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When you are swimming at a casual pace your breathing is measured and usually goes in/out the same depth via the mouth.  Air breathed via the mouth moves up into the lungs via the asophagus and fills the lungs to capacity. If your breath is larger than the lung capacity, this excess air still being breathed in goes into the stomach. When you release the air at the end of respiration, lung air is released before stomach air.  Excess air in the stomach is belched out or moves along with food into the intestines.  Normally it is a small amount of air and gives no problem. When you swim at an increased pace over a longer period, or in a panic state such as with racing or just pushing yourself, then your breathing becomes uneven and gasping. You may skip (hold) a breath in order to give yourself more time to pull yourself through the water.  This time increases swimming speed. When you take that breath, you will breathe in great gulps of air at one time and then blow it out at a slower pace.  When you gulp air, that air goes into the stomach with each breath and instead of moving into the intestines with food processing, it is pushed out of the stomach into the intestines without food because it has no where else to go; you need more space for incoming air.  The air becomes a "bubble" moving along. Because there is no food, there is little bacteria hanging onto it to break it down into smaller pockets of air as it moves along the intestional tract. With great bubbles, the intestines expand or distend to allow the air to move along.  Your stomach seems a bit firmer or harder to the touch, you feel bloated, which can be painful, until the air is either released from the rectum or is reduced in size from residual bacteria in the bowels.  This can take several hours.  As long as the manner in which you breathe during swimming continues, the problem will persist.  Hope this helps
Avatar universal
star queen,
thank you for your thoughtful reply to my problem. from what i understand in your message it might be that my breathing is problematic during sprinting and that i might be gasping on the intake part or that intake/outake is not synchronized well. today i noticed that i definately hold breaths when kicking off teh wall and that my first breath off the wall is so needed.
i think what would be the best diagnosis is for someone to say "BECAUSE YOU SMOKE.. your lung capacity is compromised and you're not getting the CO2 out quick enough under stressful conditions". Tomorrow i'll buy the patch and get rid of this horrible addiction once and for all. its so time for that.
thanks again.
Avatar universal
reading your article about flatulence and swimming as this is happening to my three year old grandaughter who spends more time under the water than above it. The wind has been so severe after swimming that she has had a bowel motion at the same time. So what you are saying is she has to learn to breathe properley for this not to happen ?
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Star queen's explanation makes A LOT sense to what I have been experiencing!  (and this is the first time I have ever seen somebody explaining why I am experiencing this).  I am a triathlete and I have to throw up either during a cyling or running leg of a triathlon race after swimming.  I think I do breathe properly but maybe there are opportunities for better breathing.  Is there anything else that could help avoiding this air buble issue.....
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well done to star queen for coming up with a likely cause! I've been pushing myself swimming, and gasping at the end of a double length. Stomach gurgling is the bane of my life at the moment! (I've also lost a lot of weight, so thought that stomach/imtestine shrinkage may also be a factor. Think I've been over-stretching too (dull pain, lower-left stomach.) So, I'll try swimming less vigorously and control breathing more. Will let you know how it goes!
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Has anyone experienced a change after star queen's suggestion to breath at a normal pace?
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I swim and I have all the above problems. They start the first moment I eat something sweet, like chocholate or cereal bar. If I do not eat than I will not get the pain. Unfortunately, I swim 3 times a week for 10 months a year, and I do want to eat after a workout. Any opinions? Thank you !
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I swam today and our coach wants us to push it every swim for certain workouts. I tried to watch my breathing but I think I still got more air than needed. I talked with the coach about it and he also knew of certain phenomena! Bottom line, after workout, I wated 1 hour before having my chocolate, and everything was fine! I will also try to sip as less air as I can (optimal needed) for the swim!  I hope this helps someone else in our shoes as well!

PS: Keep on changing the setup until you find the cause, that is how I found this post!

Initially I though it was gaterode + chocholate in the morning with empty stomach! I got rid of the gatorade, which is fine during my runs or cycling workouts, and I still got the pains after eating a chocolate right after swim! I also got rid of eating and lunch time would be fine, but I would be starving for the day. 1 hour fasting works for me now :)

Avatar universal
I have the exact same problem and have had it all my life. I have swam competively for years and currently swim with a master's team. I have horrible stomach bloating and pain starting sometimes immediately but usually it really starts up to an hour after I swim, as soon as I get to work. It lasts for several hours. Sometimes I can't even button up my pants because my stomach is so bloated. It is so painful and uncomfortable. I want to get a good workout, so I do limit my breathing at times when swimming challenging sets, and I don't breathe off the wall, etc. I will try to focus on my breathing more tomorrow when I swim. I'm so glad I found this thread!! The pain is getting so bad I almost want to stop swimming, but I won't! Keep the tips coming. I too have experimented with eating, not eating, drinking during swimming, not drinking, and nothing changes.
Avatar universal
Wow! This post is very informative. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts.  I currently just started swimming laps again after a 5 year break. I had a baby 6 months ago via c-section. Changed my sugar to xylitol, and just this week started swimming laps.  Been to the pool 4 times this week and now I am feeling this lower abdominal pain that I just can't seem to make go away. I thought it was the switch from regular sugar to xylitol sugar. Maybe it adds to the problem.  The c-section I've had has completely healed and I have been given the "ok" to work out since 3 months ago, so I doubt that has anything to do with my pain.

I have been doing sprints on and off during my workout and maybe I pulled something.  I did however, remember, after reading star queens post, that I could possibly be drinking some of the pool water, gulping air and my breathing isn't as correct as it should be.

Do you think it is necessary to see a doctor for this symptom? Or should I just let it be and see how I feel in a couple of days?
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I have some of the same symptoms but also have Atrial Fibrilation that came to the surface after training for a sprint tri. Have you all experienced an irregular heart beat?
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This is enlightning - my 5 year old daughter is having this problem when she goes swimming to the point where she looks like a beach ball! Any advice?
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I have the same issue. I just started swimming about two months ago and in the beginning i did not have the issue because i was only swimming 4 laps at a time and then resting. Now I am up to the point where I can swim for 30 minutes straight. After the workout, I experience the bloating and severe pain about 10 minutes afterwords. I immediately have to start burping or release gas in other ways to help ease the pain. It generally take about 1-2 hours for it to subside.

I've been feeling this for a week now and I totally know it's due to the breathing. I am pushing myself and gasping for air sometimes. I feel myself inhaling and not exhaling all of the air sometimes.

This morning I swam again and I focused to try to take smaller breaths, slow down my swim and try to release all of the air. I have not perfected that yet so I was still bloated but I will say it has been better than some of the last times.

I am going to continue to work on my breathing and try to figure out what works for me. If and when I do, I will post back on this forum.

If anyone figures out a solution please let me know as well.

Thank you all and happy, painless swimming to you all.
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There is also a good explanation here as well - http://*****************/question/index?qid=20070625083209AAjwpC6
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It's been a little over a month since I made my last post and I am happy to say that I have figured out what was causing me stomach bloating after swimming.  I used to swim breathing out primarily through my nose.  After doing some research, I've learned that it's best breath out primarily the mouth or a combination of mouth and nose.  It's important to make sure all the air is out before you take the next breath, and having control to force all air out through the mouth is much easier than through the nose.

Since I've changed my breathing to breath out primarily my mouth, I am happy to announce I no longer get bloated and have zero stomach pain after I swim.  There is no more gas and no more stomach distention.

It seems like such a simple solution but for someone that was trained to breath out through their nose, it wasn't so obvious.  I now make sure I force all the air out through my mouth before taking my next breath... and this allows me to have pain free swimming.
Avatar universal
Hi everybody. I have the same problem.  I take two Gas X when the bloating is unbearable.  Taking Gas X reduces the time of relief to 30 minutes tops.  There are also genetic brands as well as Extra Strength which have worked for me as well.
Avatar universal
Hi everybody. I have the same problem in deed, get really bloated after swimming long distances, (i.e. more than 45 mins), I thought my problem was the chroline in the pool...
I have tried Gas X extra strenght before swimming and the bloating goes to a minimium...I guess i will have to work on my breathing,

Swimming rocks, bloating doesnt!

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I also have this problem. I have been swimming all my life. It started 23 yrs ago. I am 58. It starts while I swim - with presure in my stomach and burps and continue after - with pain and bloating that gradualy fades in about 2-3 hrs. Herb tea helps.
I see that while swimming I breath all my air out but it dosn't help. I swam in a salt pool this week and the problem was much smaller.
Can it be connected to the Chlorine ?

Avatar universal
Thank you so much! I've been having the exact problem. Your response helped so much.
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hey guys
i am a triathlete that has these same issues. my problem is on the bike( on longer races) i almost always need to throw up to clear my stomach from this air. i cant really go 2 hrs without taking in any fluid. does anyone have any other advice besides gas x? before and after? glad to see im not the only one that deals with this.
Avatar universal
Hi tailgunner, I too struggled with this issue with half and full IM distance tris. (sprint and Olympic less so). What works for me is immediately to drink water only on the bike until you have passed enough wind for your stomach to return to 'normal'.

Don't panic that you are not taking carbs on board because the alternative to adding gels / carb drink / bars to a bloated stomach will result in the stomach shutting down. My last half IM I only had to wait for 25 mins before my stomach returned to 'normal' then I could stuff it full of gels to get me through.

Hope it helps
I suffer from this too, am I allergic to chlorine? I've always thought I was and now I'm just confused about it. My stomach kills after swimming and I get bad cramps and flatulence which no one else in my family gets. Do u know y this is happening?
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