For those of you who have ever suffered from a swollen stomach, you will be aware that this can be an uncomfortable and emotionally distressing experience. What you may not know is the root cause of this. While many believe that it occurs as the result of excess belly fat, it may actually be the manifestation of bloating.
It is important to distinguish between these two issues, as both have entirely different triggers and are indicative of potentially diverse health problems. A lack of knowledge and understanding may also cause you to use the wrong approach to deal with the problem, which could exacerbate the issue and the symptoms you are forced to manage.
How Can you Tell the Difference Between Belly Fat and Bloating?
When presented with a swollen stomach, the first step is to monitor your symptoms to determine what is the most likely cause. This can enable you to make an informed decision on how you deal with the problem, ensuring that you pursue suitable courses of treatment that deliver the desired result.
With this in mind, here are four important considerations when attempting to distinguish between belly fat and bloating:
1. Is the Swelling Localized or Widespread?
To begin with, examine your stomach visually. Is the swelling localised, or can you identify bulges in other places on your body? If you answer yes to the former, you are most likely suffering from bloating that has targeted the stomach and the abdominal regions. If you notice additional bulges elsewhere and particularly on the thighs, hips and buttocks, however, you are probably carrying excess fat.
2. Is Your Swollen Stomach Firm or Spongy?
At this point, take the time to press your stomach and focus specifically on the most pronounced areas of swelling. As a general rule, stomach fat will feel spongy and malleable when pressure is applied, whereas bloating usually makes your abdomen appear tight and noticeably firm. As a result of this, anyone who can grasp more than an inch of your stomach, it is probably carrying excess fat.
3. Is the Swelling Constant or Intermittent?
The duration of your swelling is also a key indicator of the root cause, as fat cells build up over time and are likely to remain constantly. In contrast, bloating occurs in intermittent periods, meaning that the shape of your stomach may fluctuate throughout the course of each day.
4. Is the Swelling Painful?
On a final note, it is important to check whether or not the swelling is accompanied by pain. After all, bloating is almost always a painful experience to some degree or another, whereas excess fat is not known to cause any physical discomfort. The presence of excess gas is also a symptom of bloating, particularly if it coincides with the expansion of your stomach.
How Can you Deal with a Bloated Stomach?
Establishing your precise symptoms should offer a clear indication into the root cause of your swollen stomach, and at this stage, you can begin to plot a clear course of action. This is crucial, as the failure to distinguish between fat and a bloated stomach causes many to categorise swelling as a trivial and unimportant problem that only impacts on their physical appearance.
This is a significant oversight, as a bloated stomach may also be indicative of a serious health concern known as dysbiosis. This refers to an imbalance that exists between good and bad bacteria within your stomach, where unhealthy and unnatural organisms such as yeast and protozoa become prominent in the intestines and alter the bodies fundamental nutrition patterns.
This imbalance, which hinders the growth of the 400 organisms that are naturally found in the stomach, can cause a multitude of health complaints in addition to bloating (including indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, iron deficiency, stomach infestations, fatigue and even skin conditions).
So if you have determined that your stomach is bloated rather than covered in excess fat, here are some initial steps you can take to manage this problem:
1. Stay Hydrated At All Times
Let’s start with the basics, as when you are not drinking enough fluids, your body automatically retains water to prevent dehydration. So, by maximising your fluid intake and drinking at least six, eight-ounce glasses of liquid each day, you can remain hydrated and prevent the retention of water. Just be selective about the drinks that you consume, with the best bet being to focus on water and avoid sugary or artificially flavoured drinks.
2. Consume Largely High-Protein Meals
Similarly, high-protein meals can also reduce water retention and alleviate the symptoms of bloating. This is because such diets promote the elimination of fluids through urine, helping tissues to dry out over time. This is particularly effective for women, who are most likely to suffer from water retention and subsequent bloating.
3. Reduce your Carbohydrate Intake
In case you weren’t aware, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) remains the most common digestive disorder in the world, affecting an estimated 14% of the global population (most of whom are undiagnosed). Bloating is a common symptom of this ailment, but even if you are not suffering from IBS, this conditions may offer an insight into the root cause of your problem.
More specifically, indigestible carbohydrates known as FODMAPS are known to drastically increase stomach bloating and exacerbate the symptoms of IBS, so reducing or at least modifying your carb intake can lead to a dramatic improvement in your condition over time.
What if You are Suffering from Belly Fat?
For those of you who find that they are simply carrying excess belly fat, here are some tips and techniques that can help you to trim this and restore a healthier physical form:
1. Avoid Refined Sugar and Simple Carbs
Interestingly, those carrying excess belly fat should also look to manage their carbohydrate intake carefully. Avoiding ‘simple’ carbs that are loaded with fat is a good starting point, as it eliminating the type of refined sugar found in chocolate, sweets and so-called energy drinks.
2. Create a Protein and Fibre Rich Body
The cultivation of a protein and fibre rich body can also help to reduce stomach fat over time. Protein is known to reduce unhealthy food cravings by 60%, for example, while also boosting metabolism by between 80 and 100 calories. A diet containing soluble and viscous fibres also triggers a slower and more effective digestion process, making you feel fuller for longer and maintaining a reduced, natural appetite.
Just remember that fibres are similar to carbohydrates in terms of their complexity, so you will need to determine which ingredients are the most conducive to fat and weight loss.
3. Combine Diet with Exercise
When looking to trim body fat, exercise is a key consideration. This should be aligned with diet to achieve the optimal results, although it is important to strike the ideal balance between cardiovascular and muscle work-outs. Performing abdominal exercises alone is not enough to reduce belly fat, as you must engage in high-intensity activity to burn the fat and reduce the circumference of your weight.