For many people, a flat stomach is part of their desired body ideal. If in doubt, help with shapewear and even nutritional supplements. But is a bulging stomach really a health problem or just a purely aesthetic one?
For Rubens, round, soft bodies were the epitome of sensuality. In the 1990s, however, “less is more” and models like Kate Moss embodied the appropriate heroin chic. And now it’s the Kardashian-Jenner clan that has been setting new beauty standards for some time now – lots of femininity, big breasts, big butts and a flat stomach.
In order to shape the body into the desired hourglass format, they even wear corsets again. Specially designed shapewear does the rest. Social media feeds are now overflowing with products that are supposed to help against the unwanted bulging of the stomach. The so-called bloated stomach is increasingly being cited as the natural enemy of a flat stomach, and countless products want to put an end to it. In most cases this is not necessary at all.
“I don’t think humans are meant to have a flat stomach,” The Guardian quotes Duane Mellor, nutritionist and lecturer at Aston University in Birmingham. People come in all shapes and sizes and with all types of abdominal bulges. It is normal that the body reacts after eating food, for example the stomach bulges. Flatulence is not the same as the devil’s work and needs to be addressed. To a certain extent, they are part of the natural digestive process. Flatulence can also be an indication that the intestinal microbes are doing a good job. “A little bit of flatulence is probably a good sign that the bacteria in the colon are fermenting and producing chemicals that are good for the gut and keep it healthy,” says Mellor.
The idea of always having a flat stomach is nonsense
A bloated stomach is an accumulation of gas in the digestive tract, which can lead to, among other things, pain, abdominal cramps, a feeling of fullness and rumbling and bubbling in the stomach. Since it is spherical when it is very pronounced, the bloated belly can sometimes look confusingly similar to a pregnant belly. The list of causes of meteorism, as bloated stomach is also called, is long. Hormones can play a role, food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome, disturbed intestinal flora, stress, but also eating too quickly which results in swallowing too much air and much more. The most common reason is diet. Foods such as onions, kohlrabi, cauliflower, lentils and soybeans are considered to be particularly flatulent.
People tend to feel more wind in their stomachs when they change their diet, for example when they switch to healthy, fiber-rich food. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health were able to find out in a study that the combination of high-fiber foods and plant protein sources such as legumes and nuts greatly increased the likelihood of developing flatulence.
This can be unpleasant, especially in public, but it is not in itself detrimental to your health. Noel Müller, who took part in the study, said that it could be that the protein-rich diet in the study led to more flatulence “because it had a particularly positive effect on the intestinal flora and contributed to the development of a particularly large number of useful intestinal bacteria.”
However, there are also bloated stomachs that occur without flatulence. These are considered particularly painful. In these cases, the air that cannot escape presses against the intestinal walls. Clockwise abdominal massages or a hot water bottle can provide some relief for the usually hard, bloated stomach by stimulating intestinal movement. Gastrointestinal teas with ingredients such as fennel or caraway or a (digestive) walk can also help. Normally, symptoms of meteorism go away on their own.
Not every bloated stomach indicates a health problem
In short: not every bulge in the stomach, not every fart, hides a disease of the digestive tract. A bloated feeling, flatulence and acid belching can be unpleasant, but in most cases they are not dangerous. These are mostly normal digestive processes. Even though remedies for stomach bloating are increasingly being advertised and dietary supplements etc. suggest a certain necessity, in most cases they are unnecessary. Especially if you expect to always have a flat stomach.
People who constantly struggle with excessive gas production, which may even be accompanied by abnormal bowel movements, should be careful. In such cases, it should be examined by a doctor. If the pain is extremely severe and the bloated stomach is hard, the cause could also be an intestinal obstruction, which needs to be treated quickly.
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I’m Caroline, a journalist and author for 24 Hours Worlds. I specialize in health-related news and stories, bringing real-world impact to readers across the globe. With my experience in journalism and writing in both print and online formats, I strive to provide reliable information that resonates with audiences from all walks of life.