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9 Surprising Facts About Your Stomach

When it comes to the tummy, experts say myths abound. How much do you really know about your stomach?

4. Myth or Fact: Exercises like sit-ups or abdominal crunches can reduce the size of your stomach.

Answer: Myth. "No exercise can change the size of an organ, but it can help burn the layers of fat that can accumulate on the outside of your body. Plus it can help tighten the muscles in the abdomen, the area of the body lying just south of the diaphragm, that houses the stomach and many other internal organs," says Moyad.

Interestingly, the part of your "belly fat" that can do you the most harm may actually be the fat you don't see. It resides in the "omentum," a kind of internal sheet that lies over and around your internal organs.

"People who are very overweight often have a lot of fat between their organs internally. In fact, in some instances, the liver can become so packed with fat you can develop a form of hepatitis, and in extreme cases, it can stop functioning altogether," says Levy. The good news: A healthy eating plan can not only help you shed the weight you can see, but also the internal fat layers you don't see.

5. Myth or Fact: Foods that contain insoluble fiber (which does not dissolve in water) cause less gas and bloating than foods with soluble fiber (which does dissolve in water).

Answer: Fact. According to Moyad, most folks are astounded to discover that what they perceived as a "gentler" form of fiber -- the soluble kind found in foods like oat bran, beans, peas, and citrus fruits -- can actually cause more gas and bloating than insoluble fiber, found in foods like whole-wheat bread, wheat cereals, cabbage, beets, and carrots. "It is true," says Moyad. "And the reason is that gas and bloating result from intestinal flora that is needed to digest soluble fiber." Since insoluble fiber is not digested at all -- it goes right through you -- there is no interaction with intestinal flora; consequently, no gas is formed.

One caveat to keep in mind: While insoluble fiber won't give you gas, it can increase the frequency and size of bowel movements.

6. Myth or Fact: One way to reduce acid reflux is to lose as little as 2 to 3 pounds.

Answer: Fact. "The less acid that flows back up into your esophagus, the fewer problems you will have clearing it. And believe it or not, losing just 2 pounds of weight from the abdominal area can make a difference -- and pregnancy is about the best example of this," says Moyad. As the baby grows and pushes against the internal organs, heartburn increases; but once the baby is born and the pressure is relieved, the heartburn is, too. "In much the same way, losing even a little bit of belly fat can provide similar relief.

The really good news: Moyad says most people lose weight in the belly area first, so you should see some positive results on your heartburn within a few weeks after starting a weight loss plan.

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