It is normal to feel bloated from time to time – especially after a big meal. It can cause your belly to feel swollen and your pants to feel tight, which can be easily confused with belly fat. But, bloat and belly fat are not the same thing and both need to be treated differently.
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What is Bloat?
Stomach bloating occurs when your belly becomes enlarged with fluid or gas. Bloat is temporary and is often caused by the foods you eat. Some foods can be harder for your stomach to digest, keeping you full longer.
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How to Tell the Difference Between Belly Fat and Bloat
One easy way to tell the difference between bloat and belly fat is to note belly fat does not cause your stomach to expand wildly throughout the course of a day; bloat does. One other way to tell the difference between bloat and belly fat is you can physically grasp belly fat with your hand, you cannot with bloat.
Causes of Stomach Bloat
High fiber foods that might cause this are beans, dairy products, and even some fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Brussels sprout
Overeating or eating too fast can also be triggers.
Bloat could also be a sign of greater, underlying conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Lactose intolerance, or even a wheat allergy. Stomach bloat can also be a result of consuming too much salt on a daily basis, causing your stomach to keep excess water.
Remedies for Stomach Bloat
Sometimes a simple diet change might be all you need. Sticking to foods that are high in protein or complex carbohydrates can help. Drink plenty of water and stay away from carbonated drinks. Making your meals last longer can help keep you from overeating so be sure to try eating slower and chewing your food more.
Another remedy is to try, in place of three meals a day, eating more frequent, smaller meals. This prevents the bloating that typically follows large meals.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Bloat
Sometimes bloat can be more than just a full belly. If you experience a lot of pain, or your bloat does not go away quickly, you might want to take a closer look at your symptoms. You should talk to your doctor if you have the following:
- Painful and frequent heartburn
- Weight loss
- Strong abdominal pain
A visit to your doctor is also recommended if you have not encountered serious bloating in the past or if the unwelcome bloating poorly affects your daily activities.
What Is Belly Fat?
The primary difference between bloating and fat is unlike bloat, belly fat develops over time and is harder to get rid of. Belly fat happens when you are consuming more calories than you are burning off and can be very unhealthy. Belly fat can increase your risk for:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder problems
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Remedies for Belly Fat
While a simple diet change helps get rid of bloat, belly fat takes a bit more work. Try for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Following a healthy diet filled with lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and lots of water can also help shed those pounds. It is important to remember that everyone gains and loses weight differently, so be sure talk to your doctor about what fits best for you.
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The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.