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Understanding Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio: A Key Indicator of Gut Health

We are always looking for ways to improve our health but how do you know what to check to tell if there is a problem? Well, one simple yet powerful measurement can provide valuable insights into your overall health, including your gut health: is the waist to hip ratio (WHR).

In this blog we are going to explore the significance of the waist-to-hip ratio, how to measure it correctly, and its connection to gut health

What is the Waist-to-Hip Ratio?

The waist-to-hip ratio is a measurement that compares the circumference of your waist to that of your hips. This measurement known as a “ratio” is considered a more accurate indicator of health risks associated with where your weight is distributed on your body than the well-known measurement called the body mass index (BMI) which is not that sensitive.

The waist-to-hip ratio is a great ratio to use in addition to the (BMI) identifying issues with body composition and potential health risks.

You want to be metabolically healthy. What this means is that your body can act in response to food in a beneficial way that reduces your risk of conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in addition to a healthy gut.

Research from the American Diabetes Association suggested that WHR is more accurate than BMI for predicting the risks of cardiovascular disease and premature death.

A study with more than 15,000 adults showed that a high WHR was linked to an increased risk of early death — even in people with a moderate BMI.

Certain people unfortunately won’t be able to get an accurate measure using WHR, including people who are shorter than 5 feet tall and people who have a BMI of 35 or higher. WHR is also not recommended for use in children.

How to Measure Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio:

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, its really easy all you need to take are two measurements:

I suggest taking your waist hip measurement in the morning, after using the bathroom, ideally in just underwear without additional clothing around your waist and hips.

Waist Measurement:

Hip Measurement:

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio:

Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

For example, if your waist is 80 cm and your hips are 100 cm, your waist-to-hip ratio would be 0.8.

A healthy waist-to-hip ratio is:

For men: below 0.9

For women: below 0.85

A higher ratio indicates more fat stored around your waist, which is associated with a higher risk of health problems.

The Connection Between Waist-to-Hip Ratio and Gut Health Your waist-to-hip ratio is more than just a number; it’s a window into your gut health.

Here’s how:

Visceral Fat: A higher waist-to-hip ratio often indicates more visceral fat – the fat that surrounds your organs, including those in your digestive system. Excess visceral fat can lead to inflammation and disrupt the balance of your gut microbiome.

Inflammation: Abdominal fat is metabolically active and can produce inflammatory substances. This chronic low-grade inflammation can negatively impact your gut health, potentially leading to issues like leaky gut syndrome.

Hormonal Balance: Your waist-to-hip ratio can reflect hormonal imbalances, which can affect gut function. For instance, high cortisol levels (often associated with stress) can lead to increased abdominal fat and disrupt gut health.

Digestive Issues: A higher waist-to-hip ratio is often associated with digestive problems like bloating, constipation, and acid reflux. These issues can be both a cause and a consequence of poor gut health.

Improving Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio and Gut Health If your waist-to-hip ratio is higher than the recommended range, don’t worry.

There are several steps you can take to improve both your ratio and your gut health:

Diet: Focus on balanced, flexible diet rich in fibre, which feeds beneficial gut bacteria. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Exercise: Regular physical activity, especially a combination of cardio and strength training, can help reduce abdominal fat and improve your waist-to-hip ratio.

Stress Management: Chronic stress can lead to increased abdominal fat storage. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises into your routine.

Sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut and managing weight. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.

Hydration: Drinking plenty of water supports digestive health and can help manage weight.

Your waist-to-hip ratio is more than just a number; it’s a valuable indicator of your overall metabolic health, and a good indicator that your gut health may not be optimal.

By understanding and monitoring your waist-to-hip ratio, you can gain insights into potential health risks and take proactive steps to improve your gut health and overall well-being.

Remember, small changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle can lead to significant improvements in your waist-to-hip ratio and, consequently, your gut health.

This blog offers a high-level view and we must consider various factors that can impact waist-hip ratio. These factors include acute illness, surgery, accidents, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, which should be excluded when taking measurements. Additionally, during specific periods such as these, measurements may be inaccurate, and other health parameters including blood tests, temperature, energy levels, mood, and muscle strength should be considered for maintaining optimal health.

Menopause, especially perimenopause, is a time of fluctuating weight due to hormonal changes, which can make waist-hip ratio measurements unpredictable. It’s advisable to continue monitoring every 2 months, even if the trend is not as desired. During this time, it’s important to focus on eating well, getting sufficient sleep, managing stress, and being kind to oneself.

For further information and guidance from a Specialist Registered Dietitian, feel free to contact 121 Dietitian. Gillian Killiner, the Gut Health Dietitian, can provide additional assistance. You can also explore the various personalised consultations offered on our packages page.

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