Sudden fat around stomach - normal at 25?
December 12, 2006 4:37 AM   Subscribe

At 25 (6Ft, 68KG), I suddenly developed a fat stomach that now goes a bit over my belt. This happened suddenly over 3 months, so fast that it feels all wierd, like it is not my body. I know that many guys have big stomachs, so I'm not sure if my case is normal or not. That's my question - did you develop fat around the stomach suddenly, or did it come gradually?

I recently started asthma medication (Ventolin), and this started shortly afterwards. Digging around on the web, it seems like this medicine can cause muscles to relax, and I'm very worried that this is why I've developed the larger stomach. Is this reasonable, or not? I'm embarassed to go the doctor to complain about a bigger stomach, and she would says that it's perfectly normal.

I'd lose weight, but at 68KG, losing more weight will make me way underweight.

And speaking of excercise, I ride a lot of bicycle, and occasionally lift weights.

So - any advice?
posted by markesh to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about Ventolin, so I can't really comment on that—but my first thought is that maybe you had a hormone level or metabolism change. The medication could be acting in a hormone-like manner or changing your metabolism in some way. I know that when I (female) turned 18, I had a sudden burst of hormones that left my skin more oily and more readily sweaty than before, combined with a change in metabolism that in and of itself pushed my stomach and hips out a bit (over a year before anything like the "freshman 15" settled in). A lot of guys keep developing their bodies in weird ways through their 20s—so maybe it's the meds, and maybe it's just your body, er, developing.
posted by limeonaire at 4:57 AM on December 12, 2006

Not to be paranoid, but it could be a tumor. Go ask a doctor.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:09 AM on December 12, 2006

It might be the medicine, or something hormonal, but it might just be normal. Until I was 25, I could eat and drink any kind of shit, in any amount, and not gain weight. Then suddenly I gained a lot of weight over the course of a year and I had to pay a little more attention to what I ate. Mostly it was a question of only eating 3 meals a day, but it was hard to get used to not being indestructible anymore.

Then a similar thing happened again when I was 37, and suddenly I had to pay attention to not eating any crap, ever. It's not that hard in the end, it's just your body reminding you that you have to take care of it.
posted by fuzz at 5:14 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Are you sure it's fat?

It might some kind of gut distension problem; perhaps you're having a reaction to something you eat? IBS is another possibility: bloating / gut distension is one of the symptoms.
posted by pharm at 5:16 AM on December 12, 2006

welcome to your mid 20's! casual discussion w/ my friends indicates that, yeah, we all woke up one day and found our metabolisms had moved out and gone uptown to live with saucy 22-year-olds. no warning, sudden departure, ignored our calls, etc.

i've also heard that the hormone that is responsible for chest hair is the same one behind male pattern baldness, which would explain why my hairline has been migrating from my forehead to my nipples.

get comfy, the party's just starting!
posted by sonofslim at 5:22 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Unless you just started to eat 3 times as much fatty or high caloric foods, it shouldn't happen. Obviously something is wrong, see your dr.
posted by JJ86 at 5:51 AM on December 12, 2006

Yeh, welcome to the mid-20s. Happened to many, many people I know, right about 24/25/26 -- poof, hello belly.
posted by bonaldi at 5:57 AM on December 12, 2006

I'm not a doctor but I am an asthmatic - the effects of Ventolin are not ones that could cause you to gain a belly - Ventolin *is* a muscle relaxant, but only a short-term one. If you take too large a dose of Ventolin (say, for example, if you're young and asthmatic and think it's fun to pretend to be a dragon by blowing your inhaled spray out and you take about 20 doses in an hour) you'll start to shake a bit and feel a bit odd and unwell but it wears off quite quickly.

Salbutamol (the chemical marketed as Ventolin) is a modified version of adrenaline and most of the side effects are similar to the effects of adrenaline - racing pulse, dry mouth, general restlessness - there are very few long term ones (osteoporosis, some pituitary issues, allegedly psychosis) but none that I've ever heard of are likely to cause your lower abdomen to get larger.

Sorry I can't be much help on why you have developed a gut, but I'd be pretty sure that Ventolin is very unlikely to be the reason - however, I am not a doctor.
posted by koshmar at 6:06 AM on December 12, 2006

There's a good chance nothing is wrong. At about 25, my metabolism changed such that I couldn't hang with the 22 year olds at the bar anymore shot for shot, and became that old guy nursing his beer instead of that party guy daring people to do shots. On top of that, I had to start *exercising* for the first time in my life because suddenly my 32-waistline jeans didn't fit anymore, and I resembled Homer Simpson when I turned sideways to a mirror.

Tumor? Something's wrong, see your doctor? Yeah, that's the kind of medical advice you get around MeFi. Holy crap. It's called a milwaukie blister, and most guys get them.

The solution is cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. After a month of doing interval training on a stationary recumbant bike at the rec center, I'm back down closer to fighting weight. I now work out four times a day and my tummy is approaching flat again, even though I haven't made any serious changes to my diet.
posted by SpecialK at 6:07 AM on December 12, 2006

Uh, that was four days a week, not four times a day.
posted by SpecialK at 6:07 AM on December 12, 2006

Please call your doctor or pharmacist. You only weigh 150 lbs and are 6 feet tall. You're only 25, and this happened suddenly. This is not middle-aged spread. This is likely due to a drug you're taking - either the albuterol or something else you're managing your asthma with.

The people who are saying this are normal are flat out wrong. I'm saying this as a 3rd yr pharmacy student who spends a lot of every day looking at medication problems. If it doesn't feel like your body, then maybe it's fluid, not fat. At any rate, do not be embarassed, call the doc now. This is what you have a doctor for.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:31 AM on December 12, 2006

Indeed, it doesn't sound like a mid-20's weight gain problem, unless you've also managed to greatly reduce your exercise at the same time that you started taking this medication. I did, indeed, gain a bit of a belly starting in my mid-20's, but it corresponded to noticeable (15-20 pounds) weight gain. If you've gained this gut without any weight gain, I would talk to your doctor. Even if it isn't anything to worry about, you ARE worrying about it, and your doctor is the best person to ease those fears.
posted by antifuse at 7:05 AM on December 12, 2006

I'm a tall, skinny guy who was in the same boat at the same age. (Though I had only the tiniest of pudges -- nobody but me was likely to notice.) I started doing sit-ups and decided that I should start eating like a normal human being, having long been able to eat anything that I wanted without any repercussions. I recommend doing the same.
posted by waldo at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2006

this happened to me a couple years ago too. i was a skinny guy (5' 11", 160 lbs) on my arms and legs and chest, but my belly poked out like i was preggers. i freaked out becuase it happened seemingly overnight, went to the doctor, who told me i was just getting fat there. everyone gains fat in different areas of their body. i finally got real sick of it this summer and went on a weight training program and got on the bike. turned the fat on my gut into muscle on my arms and legs. i'm still 160 pounds but now i dont have that gut and i feel healthier.
posted by kneelconqueso at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2006

This does seem odd given your age, weight and the rapidity with which it came on. I would definitely see your doctor. In the meantime how about some crunches or other ab workout?

Another thing, are you feeling bloated or have you had a lot of gas lately? That could be pushing some fat that was already accumulating over the belt. Are you drinking a lot? The skinny body, big belly look often comes fromm excessive alcohol consumption.
posted by caddis at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2006

crunches/ab workouts dont really do much. it might help strengthen and tighten-up the abs and core muscles which will help you naturally 'suck it in' but when you can't target fat burning. cardio with supplemental weight training are the way to go.
posted by kneelconqueso at 7:31 AM on December 12, 2006

I'm in the midst of cramming for finals so I don't have time to do proper research - ask your doc bc this is just off the top of my head - beta-2 agonists might cause heart failure in some people, which means that the heart fails to pump the blood all they way around the body well enough - body compensates by retaining fluid, in order to increase pressure in the pipes - some of the increased fluid leaks out into the gut area. This is called ascites. Please everybody don't do the mefi pile-on - like I said, no time to do proper research, so it's virtually certain there are errors in what I wrote above.

Anyway - some things to google to see if this sounds like what it may be - beta-2 agonist, heart failure, ascites.

Again - ask the doc - that's what they are there for. Beer bellies don't develop in 3 months in skinny 20somethings. It's too much of a coincidence that this happened at the same time as the ventolin.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:53 AM on December 12, 2006

Feel free to email me too - i am curious to see what this turns out to be.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:54 AM on December 12, 2006

It does sound paranoid to say 'tumor', but a friend of mine presented exactly this way at 14. Her family teased her about getting fat over summer, she exercised more, ate less, eventually went to the doctor and got a massive cyst removed from her abdomen. So - could be just getting fat, could be something else. All signs point to 'see a doctor'.
posted by jacalata at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2006

selfmedicating, what you say is interesting, because I was reading about potassium deficiency with people who take ventolin and the accompanying drug that comes with it. I've got a very particular diet (mostly meat and carbs, no fat, no butter, no milk products, hardly any vegetables, no sweet stuff at all apart from coke). Additionally, I am the type of guy that does not need to eat, I can stay a week without eating.

I did not change my excercise habits at all either, actually, at the time, I started riding bicycle to school, as the ventolin finally allowed me to do sports. And I'm not a heavy drinker in any way.

I remember reading that pottasium deficiency can cause heart problems, could my diet + ashma drug be causing K deficiency, that is causing heart problems?
posted by markesh at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2006

Okay, you guys scared me now. Is it possible that I have Ascites from some other source, and the asthma is a side effect of this?

I used to be asthmatic till I was about 15, and it went away till middle of this year, when I suddenly redeveloped it. This is when I got ventolin, and within the space of 3 months, I noticed the stomach thing.

Could it be that the stomach thing started before, and caused pressure on my lungs, which then caused the asthma to come again?
posted by markesh at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2006

Don't try to "play doctor" and guess what disease you have. Just set up an appointment and tell the doctor your symptoms. The internet can sometimes scare you more than necessary when you try to figure out what you have.

To SpecialK, 25 y/o guys do not get beer bellies unless they have a combination of many bad habits. I never started to gain weight around hips until I was in my late 30's and that is because of bad habits which accumulated over several years. If you have been drinking enough beer to get a beer belly in 3 months, your liver might not be in good shape and you have other problems.
posted by JJ86 at 9:20 AM on December 12, 2006

Before you get too paranoid, you know the most likely cause is too many calories and not enough activity. Just to be safe and because of the way in which this came on you should see your doctor. I wouldn't obsess too much in the interim.
posted by caddis at 9:24 AM on December 12, 2006

Another asthmatic chiming in. No clue on your belly, but the Ventolin/Albuterol is for asthma attacks. If you're taking it regularly (like daily), you should instead look into a preventative like Azmacort, Flovent or Advair. Those latter drugs prevent the wheezing, so you can then lay off the Ventolin.
posted by Rash at 10:16 AM on December 12, 2006

Does the Ventolin have steroids? {I dont remember if that one is steroidal or not}

Are you on Flovent? {that does have steroids}

Steroids can cause serious weight gain including a large stomach.

Google Cushings and steroids..
posted by Budge at 12:57 PM on December 12, 2006

Ventolin is not a steroid, but flovent and asmacort are corticosteroids - and Budge and Rash are both right - those are good preventatives and belly fat is a typical side effect. You said something about "the medication that comes with" Ventolin - did you mean a 2nd med, or just what comes out of the inhaler? If you got 2 inhalers the other one is probably a corticosteroid.

Also, on the subject of ascites - it's a symptom, much like swollen feet. It's fluid buildup in the gut region. It could come from a lot of things, including malnutrition, heart problems, liver problems. Don't freak out -- in medicine, common things happen commonly, and it is NOT common for healthy 25 yr olds to have serious problems. So you are probably fine.

Your original question said you were embarassed to talk to the doc about belly fat. I wouldn't be - just find out what is causing it. If it's just regular fat, then you can exercise. If it's related to your medication then you can change it. If you're using your inhaler every day then you should be seeing the doc anyway because you need an additional med like flovent.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2006

"To SpecialK, 25 y/o guys do not get beer bellies unless they have a combination of many bad habits. I never started to gain weight around hips until I was in my late 30's and that is because of bad habits which accumulated over several years. If you have been drinking enough beer to get a beer belly in 3 months, your liver might not be in good shape and you have other problems."

Yeah, yeah we do. By bad habits in the post-college (no longer exercising regularly now that we all have desk jobs) group you probably mean "Get up, walk twenty or thirty steps out to the car to go to work, park, walk into office, grab coke from the fridge, sit down at desk. At lunch, get up and go eat a cheeseburger with your coworkers. At night, get in the car, drive home, pull into your driveway, and walk the ten or fifteen steps it'll take to grab something out of the freezer and pop it in the nuke, grab a brewski or a soda, and plop down on the couch for some quality time with the telly."

Total consumption of caloric content is probably 1,000, and that's being generous and assuming some walking around during the day.
Total caloric content of food eaten during the day probably approaches 3,000 or so.

That'll give you a beer gut in no time, not even counting the hormonal changes that happen to men in their mid twenties that cause them to start packing on weight instead of burning it off. With this kind of eating/exercise habits and working overtime at my sedentary job, I went from a 32 waist to a 34 waist from October 1 through Thanksgiving, and I'm 5'10" and 150 lbs. After starting to exercise again, I'm back down to 32 in two weeks and scrubbing that beer belly off rapidly.
posted by SpecialK at 3:15 PM on December 12, 2006

go see a doctor. i know two skinny people who rather suddenly developed potbellies- in both cases they were caused by abdominal tumours.

of course i also know 100+ skinny people who grew potbellies due to being 25 and drinking beer, so take me with a grain of salt.

but seeing a doctor will make you feel better, and if you're one of the people who gets a gut just because of age and inactivity, it's pretty easy to fix it. remember that it doesn't take hard work to stay relatively fit- it just takes consistency.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2006

what twistofrhyme said, UNLESS you are taking a steroid drug. In that case the weight gain is likely going to stick around and may be caused by water retention. Anything you take to cut down on water retention may be unsafe in conjunction with the steroid.

If you are taking steroids, you may just have to live with it. Talk to your doctor before you self-medicate for it.
posted by watsondog at 8:29 AM on December 13, 2006

Aww crap, I am taking a steroid. My asthma medication came as two pieces - Ventolin and Cortisone. But I stopped taking it when the spray finished, and that was about 4 months ago. No difference.

Anything I can do to reverse the effect?
posted by markesh at 6:33 AM on December 14, 2006

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