What Causes A Pot Belly?

Obesity is a major cause of pot bellies. As mentioned before, body fat can be stored in a variety of places, one of which is the abdomen area.

If you feel your stomach and it feels round or bloated, then you probably have a pot belly. It can be hard to tell whether or not you have solid abdominal muscle due to this fat layer.

Many people lose weight and tone their bodies by working out exclusively in the upper body and arms while staying relatively inactive below the waist. While this can help you look more fit and toned overall, it does not always catch subtle abdominal fat.

Surprisingly, people can be obese but have little to no abdominal fat. Conversely, there are people who are obese because they accumulate fat in their abdomen. Both cases show that abdominal obesity is not necessarily due to gender nor genetics, but rather lifestyle factors.



While diet and lifestyle can play a large part in how your belly looks, genetics also plays a role. If your parents had large bellies, you are more likely to as well.

This may be because you inherit certain dietary habits or hormone levels from your parents. As mentioned before, hormones can play a role in fat storage.

People with higher levels of the hormone insulin may have an easier time gaining weight around the middle than people with lower levels. This is because insulin helps convert glucose (sugar) into fat, which is stored in the body.

Unfortunately, losing weight may be more difficult for people with lower insulin levels. They may need to focus on other strategies like exercise to lose weight instead of just dieting.



As we get older, our body composition changes. As we spend years eating and living, our body fat changes. As we exercise and diet, our body shape changes.

As we age, our hormone levels change. As a result, our metabolism slows down, which makes it harder to lose weight. This is why weight loss becomes more difficult with age.

Aging also brings hormonal changes that affect the way you accumulate body fat. For example, growth hormone production drops off, which makes it harder to break down body fat.

Other hormones such as insulin resistance play a role in belly fat accumulation as well. Insulin resistance is when the body doesn’t respond properly to the hormone insulin. This leads to too much glucose remaining in the blood instead of being absorbed into other cells and tissues where it’s used for energy.

Gut infections


Gut infections or bacteria can cause a pot belly. These include small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), dysbiosis, and chronic inflammation.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is when there are more bacteria in the small intestine than in the colon. This allows excess glucose to enter the bloodstream, which can lead to obesity.

Dysbiosis is a disorder where the normal balance of gut bacteria is disrupted. There are too few of one kind of bacteria or too many of another. This can cause weight gain due to difficulty breaking down nutrients.

Chronic inflammation is when cells in the gut are constantly inflamed. This slows down digestive processes and can lead to weight gain.

Any of these issues can be caused by diet, genetics, or lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol. All of these can be addressed in treatment by healthcare providers.

Liver conditions


Although your liver does a lot of important work, most people know very little about this vital organ. Among other things, your liver processes glucose (or sugar) and regulates your body’s metabolism.

If your liver is damaged, toxins can seep into your blood stream, causing a variety of problems. One of these is a pot belly caused by fat storage.

Diabetic patients are at higher risk of developing issues with their liver and metabolic regulation. This is why diabetes is a strong risk factor for developing fatty livers and weight gain.

If you or someone you know has diabetes or signs of a fatty liver, contact your doctor to discuss if further testing and treatment is necessary.

Thyroid issues


A common cause of a pot belly is an issue with the thyroid gland. The thyroid regulates body metabolism, and therefore, can affect weight loss due to this function.

Thyroid issues can be hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism means the gland is not producing enough hormones, and hyperthyroidism means the opposite-the gland is producing too many hormones.

Those who are hypothyroid may experience weight gain, fatigue, cold sensitivity, and depressed mood. Those with hyperthyroidism may experience the opposite effects-they may experience weight loss and mood swings.

Those who are experiencing these symptoms should consult a doctor to be tested for thyroid issues. A doctor can also test the urine to see if there is an imbalance in hormones. Treatment varies depending on the issue found by the doctor.

Hormone issues


While most people associate pot bellies with eating too much and not enough exercise, there are other factors that can cause a bulging belly.

Hormonal issues can lead to weight gain around the stomach area. And since this is an increasingly common issue, especially among women, it’s worth mentioning here.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that affects the hormones estrogen and progesterone. It can cause irregular periods, weight gain, and acne.

Menopause can also lead to weight gain around the abdomen due to changes in hormone levels. This is because fat tends to be stored in different areas of the body depending on the hormone profile of that area. If hormones are out of balance, then this may change where fat is stored.

Both PCOS and menopause can be treated by doctors and healthcare providers. It is important to talk to someone if you are experiencing symptoms of either of these conditions.

Weight gain


Weight gain can cause a pot belly. As mentioned before, being overweight or obese can cause increased abdominal fat deposits, but weight gain can also cause this.

If you are in a weight gain phase, monitor your waist size to make sure it is not increasing. If it is, try to cut down your calories to ensure you are getting enough nutrients while reducing fat storage.

You can also do more exercise to burn off fat stores while maintaining a healthy weight. Mixing up your activities is key here- you will not only get more fit, but you will find it easier to lose weight as you will have varied ways of burning off calories.

Remember that no matter how hard you work out, if your diet is not good, you will not see improvements in your body shape. Check into what type of nutrition you need and get checked by a doctor if needed.

Lack of exercise


Lack of exercise is one of the biggest causes of a pot belly. People who are less active tend to have more health risks and issues as a result.

Not only can lack of exercise cause health issues, it can also increase your waistline. Those who are less active tend to have more weight gain as well.

Exercise is one of the best ways to tone your body and reduce fat storage. When you exercise, you use up your stored glucose and fat which makes you feel better and healthier.

But not any exercise will do- you need to exercise vigorously to see results. For example, if you just walk around your neighborhood, you won’t rid yourself of much fat or increase your metabolism. You need to walk fast enough to make you sweat!

General advice: try to get at least thirty minutes of moderate activity every day.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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