Seeing your waist line expand can be frustrating, especially if you are working hard to eat a healthy diet balanced by exercise and healthy lifestyle choices. However, if your stomach is getting bigger, it may not always be from excess calories.
There are other reasons your stomach can be getting bigger especially if it occurs rather suddenly.
Besides fat gain and being pregnant for women, if your stomach is getting bigger it could mean you are retaining water weight, are bloated, hormone changes or maybe your digestive system is getting off kilter.
If you have any pain, discomfort or any other unusual symptoms in your abdomen associated with it getting bigger, always seek immediate medical attention.
Common reasons why your stomach may be getting bigger
Here are some common reasons why your stomach may be getting bigger besides pregnancy and obvious over eating.
Your stomach can really expand if you are bloated. Being bloated basically means you have excess gas or air in your digestive tract. It could be from eating foods that cause gas formation or because you ate something your body is sensitive to.
For example, if someone is lactose intolerant, if they eat lactose they could have bloating as a symptom.
Foods that could cause bloating of the stomach could be: beans, some fruits, some vegetables, whole grains or artificial sweeteners.
If you find yourself feeling bloated, take note of what you have eaten. If you feel bloated again, see if there is any similar foods from when you felt bloated previously. If you are on a low calorie diet, you are probably eating some of these potential bloating foods.
Not everyone experiences bloating, and it could just be an initial reaction to some foods if you normally don’t eat them consistently.
Keep in mind if you are eating many “diet” foods, these often have artificial sweeteners in them. If you are eating some packaged diet food multiple times, the artificial sweeteners could be causing bloating.
Another potential reason for feeling bloated is if you overeat in general or eat too fast. If you are eating fast and feel like your stomach is feeling bigger than normal, try slowing down when you eat.
If you drink beverages through a straw or chew gun, these habits could also increase the amount of air you are swallowing which could increase bloating (1).
2. Water retention
Water retention could simply be from over doing on the sodium intake and could show up as looking like your stomach is bigger. Sodium is one electrolyte in the body that influences how water moves in the body.
People who are sodium sensitive can be especially prone to water retention.
As sodium levels build up in the body, they also draw water with them. Therefore, you may feel extra heavy and maybe even like you’re bloated if you are retaining water. To combat this, cut back on foods high in sodium and eat more foods higher in potassium.
Foods higher in potassium include: potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, apricots, greens, legumes, seafood and yogurt.
You may also not feel like drinking water while you have water retention, but you should still keep up your fluid intake.
3. Eating more refined carbohydrates
Maybe you aren’t eating a lot of extra calories, but your diet quality is changing. It can be easy to let loose on your food choices after a few weeks of making healthy food choices.
Keep in mind, even if your calorie counter says you’re at about the same calories, the type of calories you consume can affect weight gain.
Gaining weight around the mid-section is a concern for increasing risk for many diseases.
Therefore, if your stomach is getting bigger from a gain of fat mass, it’s important you address it.
Increasing intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, like white bread, sweets and chips can promote fat storage.
If your weight loss journey started off with weight loss and now you find your stomach expanding from fat mass, get back on track with your food intake and healthy lifestyle. It could be that extra treats are sneaking into your routine.
4. Hormone changes
Hormonal changes can play a big role on metabolism and where we store fat. Maybe nothing has changed with your diet or exercise, but you find your stomach is getting bigger.
If you are going through menopause or have had a change in hormones, this could contribute to the sudden change in the waist line.
For women, PMS can also influence how your stomach feels. Around your cycle bloating or extra water retention can be normal.
5. Digestive tract malfunctions
Other reasons your stomach may feel bigger is if you are having any problems in your digestive tract (2). For example, if you have a bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, Celiac’s disease or other food intolerances, your stomach could be distended.
If it does not go away within a short period of time, is painful or your stomach is hard, you should seek immediate medical attention. Appendicitis can also cause stomach distension and could lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Excess fluid retention could also be indicative of other serious medical complications, so if you are retaining a lot of water also seek medical attention.
If your stomach is getting bigger from weight gain and excess fat, it is important to lose weight because excess fat around your mid-section can increase risk for many diseases.
If you are over eating or have a high intake of refined carbohydrates, this can promote fat storage.
If you haven’t changed your diet intake or are eating a healthy diet and your stomach is getting bigger, it could be from digestive complications.
It could also be from hormonal changes especially for women if it is PMS or if women are going through menopause.
Bloating and water retention can be temporary from excess sodium, eating too fast or eating gas forming foods. They should resolve shortly, but if the stomach continues to be larger than normal, it may be from a more serious condition.