Are you still struggling to get that flat tummy even when you are doing all you can through diet and exercise? There might be something else at play. A number of health-related issues could be causing your bulging belly, and each one has slightly different characteristics.
Here, we look at four common problems that can affect your tummy shape, and explain what you can do about them.
THE SIGNS: This tummy shape often appears as a visible bulge around the mid-section and may hang over your waistline as a ‘muffin top’.
THE CAUSE: Cortisol is a key stress hormone often triggered by physical or psychological stress as your body prepares for fight or flight, says Dr Samarra Toby. Research has linked cortisol to extra fat, particularly in the abdominal area. Because it increases the production of insulin, cortisol can affect your appetite for sugar and fatty foods at the same time as directing fat cells towards your middle.
THE FIX: Build your stress resilience. “Exercise, relaxation strategies and meditation are excellent ways to combat stress,” advises Dr Samarra. “Making sure your sleep habits are healthy can also help.” It’s a good idea to see your doctor to discuss other possible causes and to rule out serious conditions, which can also cause abdominal distension.
THE SIGNS: Many of us use the term ‘bloated’ to describe this type of tummy, but bloating is more a sensation rather than a visible symptom, says Professor Jane Andrews, spokesperson for the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.
THE CAUSE: The type of food you eat and how much air you swallow determine how much gas you’re producing and holding onto. The distension is often caused by reluctance to release that gas, says Professor Andrews.
THE FIX: Let it go! Producing gas is a good sign because it means you have healthy bacteria in your gut, explains Professor Jane, adding that the normal person farts 12-20 times a day.
“If it’s happening frequently, limit foods such as onions, garlic, cabbage and wheat. If you have a real problem with gas it’s a good idea to consult a dietitian before drastically changing your diet and possibly missing out on essential nutrients,” advises Professor Jane.