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The risk of having a big belly

Four in 10 British women now have a waist measurement over 88cm, according to research by market-research firm Mintel. And our country’s statistics are just as disturbing, with 70% of South African women over the age of 35 being overweight or obese.

  • Overindulgence is the most common cause of a large belly, but bloating is another reason for expansion. If irritable bowel syndrome is at the root of it, a low-fibre diet can help, says gastroen- terologist Professor Peter Whorwell.
  • When accompanied by anaemia and weight loss, bloating could be a sign of coeliac disease, which, if left untreated, increases the risk of bowel cancer.
  • A distended belly that steadily increases in size also needs urgent medical attention once pregnancy and overeating have been ruled out, says professor Sean Kehoe, President of the British Gynaecological Cancer Society, who is helping to publicise the symptoms of ovarian cancer. ‘If you have persistent bloating, feel full after a small meal and have abdominal pain, ask your doctor for a blood test to check,’ he says.
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