If you’ve got a big belly, it may be causing a lot more problems than just making it difficult to pull that zipper up. In addition to spelling trouble for your heart and contributing to all sorts of chronic illness, it may be affecting you below the belt too.
Deep abdominal fat, or visceral fat, takes up residence around the liver and other vital organs. When that fat is released, some of it goes straight to your liver and into your arteries. It can do some rather serious damage to your blood vessels, which results in reduced blood flow to the heart as well as other important organs, like your genitals.
If you don’t have good circulation, this means that for men, you might have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. But blood flow is important for both men and women in order to enjoy the pleasures of sex.
Associate professor of urology at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Kevin Billups, M.D., further explains how a man’s sex life can be affected due to belly fat. An erection occurs when the blood vessels that lead to the penis dilate, and cause it to fill with blood.
The entire process begins with the inner lining of the vessels, known as the endothelium, through the release of nitric oxide, which is a molecule that signals the surrounding muscles to relax.
To date, experts aren’t exactly sure why, but being obese causes damage to the endothelium. When it doesn’t work like it should, the penis may not get enough blood to produce or sustain an erection.
A 2011 study out of Australia, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that losing just 5 to 10% of body weight over a two-month period was able to improve erectile function, and increase sex drive in obese men with diabetes.
So, now that you know why that big gut is wreaking havoc on your love life, what can you do about it?
Avoid foods that contribute to belly fat and replace them with foods that burn it
Giving up processed foods is one of the best things you can do to get rid of that belly fat. Avoid partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats at all costs, this includes margarine, packaged cookies, crackers and other baked goods as well as refined carbs, sodas and alcohol.
Wheat is also likely contributing to that ab fat, hence the term, “wheat belly,” something you might have heard about. Wheat is known to increase the appetite, raise blood sugar and cause inflammation – all of which contribute to obesity.
Replace those foods that contribute to belly fat with foods that burn it, including lots of organic vegetables – sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, spinach and cucumbers are all known to be particularly helpful. Also aim to eat more monounsaturated fats, found in coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Drink lots of water
Replace those sodas, beer and other beverages with water. If you aren’t drinking enough water, it impairs the liver’s job of fat oxidation, which is why it’s a must for it to be running at its best.
Without enough water, your kidneys, which also remove waste and toxins from the body, can’t function fully, which means the liver is forced to work harder. When that happens, it can’t do its job of properly metabolizing fat. The better hydrated you are, the more efficient your body will be in regard to fat burning as well as muscle building.
Your goal should be to drink about a gallon, or eight 16-ounce glasses of water, per day. If that sounds like way more than you can choke down, consider adding a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange for flavor.
Walk as often as you can
Walking is said to be one of the best exercises for keeping that gut at bay. In addition to taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day, find as many ways as you can to get some extra steps in. Investing in a pedometer or other gadget like the FitBit is a great way to keep track of how many steps you take each day.
Research has shown that walking 10,000 steps in a day will help you burn roughly 500 calories. If you do this every day, even without changing your diet (though you should) you will lose one pound of bodyweight every week. To lose even more belly fat, add in some weight training twice a week to increase muscle mass – which will help speed your metabolism.
You probably already knew that gut was contributing to poor health, but now you have even more motivation to lose it: a satisfying love life.
-The Alternative Daily