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Hormonal Belly

The stomach muscle covers the entire midsection of the body and connects to the pelvis. If you have a pad of excess fat covering the muscle, it is called visceral fat and is commonly known as belly fat.

What is Belly Fat?

Visceral fat extends deep into your abdomen and is close to your internal organs, such as the heart, stomach, and liver. Visceral fat is different to the subcutaneous fat which lies just under the skin and is far more dangerous. It is made up large fat cells which can grow bigger with time, and firmly pack into the spaces between the organs, having a negative effect on how they function. This can have a serious effect on your health.

It is not only overweight people who have visceral fat, but there are also factors which show that slim people may have it as well. We all need some fat to cushion our organs in case of a bump or fall. It is only when it is alarmingly expanded that we need to take action.

What causes a larger tummy?

There are many causes of visceral fat, most of them directly related to diet and lifestyle, but there are a few hormone related diseases that lead to an increase of fat in this area. This is when it gets disheartening, when you eat well and exercise but the excess fat refuses to budge.

Here are some of the dietary reasons for the increase in belly fat:

· Excessive intake of sugary and refined foods such as cakes, candies, sweets, rolls, and cookies.

· Nutrient-poor processed foods and carbohydrates which are not able to be processed by the liver, are stored as fat in your fat cells.

· Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to excess belly fat.

· Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle play a huge part in obesity, including the dangerous belly fat.

Embracing a healthy eating plan can help prevent belly fat from developing, and fat burning foods like nuts, eggs, lean meat, peppers, leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains.

How hormones are linked to Belly Fat.

Extra belly fat can indicate an imbalance in the following hormones:

· Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone which is essential to survival. It is produced in the adrenal glands and dictates how energy is used, control of blood pressure, and promotes the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It also helps the body mount a response to stressful situations. Undue stress results in an over-production in response to the stress, which leads to cravings for sugary, fatty comfort foods. Glucose has been dumped in our bloodstream, allowing our muscles to use this extra glucose as fuel to "run away from the danger our body perceives it is in" When this glucose is not burned off, it is stored on the body as fat, especially around the abdomen.

· Oestrogen

Too much oestrogen is a major cause of belly fat, and studies have shown that affects both men and women. Excess abdominal fat in men increases the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen, and as the oestrogen levels rise, the belly fat increases.

This gives rise to a vicious circle as testosterone levels drop lower than normal, leading to increased stress, increased cortisol production, more cravings, and more belly fat.

PCOS and Belly Fat

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is one of the most common hormonal problems for women of childbearing years. The hormonal chaos that it causes encourages belly fat weight gain as PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition -- called insulin resistance -- can cause insulin and sugar -- glucose -- to build up in the bloodstream.

High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens. High androgen levels lead to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods and weight gain. Because the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen.

Factors that contribute to belly fat include:

  • Fluctuations in hormones

  • Insulin resistance

  • Decreased muscle mass

Fortunately, an specific diet along with lifestyle changes can improve hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS to stop and reverse your growing belly.

Hashimoto's and Belly Fat

Hashimotos is a autoimmune thyroid condition that leads to a destruction of the thyroid gland. There are a whole host of signs and symptoms related to this disease, one of the biggest factors that causes the most distress is weight gain.. Losing weight and keeping it off is harder for patients who have Hashimoto's.

A combination of slow metabolism, high inflammation from immune dysregulation, sex hormone imbalances, neural inflammation, all lead to an increase in not only visceral fat, but all over body fat.

The Dangers of Belly Fat

Researchers at the American Diabetes Association revealed that visceral fat is just not there in an inactive state. It, in fact, produces toxins, among which are chemicals called cytokines, which increase your risk of heart disease. The cytokines also make the system less sensitive to insulin, which could lead to the development of diabetes.

Studies at the Massachusetts General Hospital reported that visceral, or belly fat, is one of five components of a metabolic syndrome which increases the risk of the following conditions:

· Stroke and heart disease.

· Brain problems such as depression and dementia.

· High blood pressure and possible hardening of the arteries.

· Promotes the development of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.

· Leads to poor blood sugar control which can lead to diabetes.

· Causes inflammation in the body which increases the chances of falling prey to diseases.

· The inflammation may also aggravate arthritis, and lead to other bone problems.

Tips to Combat Belly Fat

  • · Get your stress levels as low as possible. Stress may lead to a spike in blood sugar, which promotes insulin resistance.

  • · Get more exercise. Exercise is crucial to help combat belly fat, so commit to regular exercise to reduce the size of your midriff. Walking, yoga and swimming are the best ways to ease into an exercise routine. Cortisol output is not high in these activities, (when high, cortisol increases belly fat).

  • · Cut out refined, acidic foods. The extra acid in your system which cannot be metabolised will be deposited in your fat cells.

  • · Cut down eating saturated fats which are found in fatty red meats, bacon sausages, processed meats, and cheeses. Opt for lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken, and fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and hake which are rich in omega 3.

  • · Eat some good fats, because research has shown that not all fats are bad, and by adding some good fats to your diet, helps the body burn bad fat. Some foods containing healthy fats include avocado, olives, walnuts, and fatty fish.

  • · Drink less alcohol which is high in calories and sugar, and leads to fat gain, often shows in the middle and waist area.


Harvard Medical School – Massachusetts General Hospital.

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