Can Your Food Sensitivities Stop You from Losing Weight?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all know that weight loss can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Whether it’s the stress eating, the cravings, the hormonal imbalance, or any of a hundred other things, there are countless potential roadblocks that can keep you from progressing and achieving your goal.

But can eating foods that your body has a sensitivity to be a contributing factor to slowing down your weight loss efforts? The answer, as you would expect, is a resounding… maybe. Here’s what the experts are saying.

What constitutes a food sensitivity?

There are allergies, intolerances, and food sensitivities, and they’re all different things that are often used interchangeably. However, they don’t mean the same thing, and there are key differences between them.

Food allergies result in an immune system reaction. If you’re allergic to a specific food, your immune system will create immunoglobulin E antibodies (lgE) as a response to consuming that food. The symptoms of food allergies may vary. They can range from itching, burning, and swelling all the way to anaphylaxis (a full-body reaction that requires immediate medical attention.)

Food intolerances are usually related to the GI system. They happen when the body has a difficult time digesting a specific type of food. One of the most common examples of this is lactose intolerance – it happens when someone lacks a specific digestive enzyme necessary to digest lactose. These cause digestive symptoms and aren’t usually related to a widespread immune response.

Food sensitivities are largely understudied when compared to intolerances and allergies. They’re similar to allergies in the sense that they’re reactions mediated by the immune system that happen in response to particular nutrients. Symptoms of sensitivities can vary and change, meaning reactions aren’t guaranteed to happen in the same way.

One day they could cause a stomach ache, the next day they could produce eczema, and the next day they could result in joint pain. That’s what makes them so tricky to really pin down and understand.

Some of the most common substances that are usually involved in food sensitivities include the well-known FODMAPS. Dairy, gluten, sulfites, caffeine, amines, fructose, all of those. More often than not, food sensitivities contribute to chronic inflammatory symptoms such as psoriasis, migraines, eczema, acid reflux, and more. It can even be common for people with food sensitivities to experience these on a regular basis.

So how do food sensitivities impact our weight loss efforts, and what can we do about it?

Let’s get one thing straight – if you’re having a difficult time losing weight, but you’re not really experiencing any other symptoms, it’s safe to say food sensitivities may not be your problem. There are no published scientific studies that come to the conclusion that food sensitivities cause weight gain.

However, if you experience GI problems, eczema, or any other inflammatory issues along with added weight-loss resistance, then it might be smart to look into food sensitivities as a potential contributing factor.

There are a couple of ways in which food sensitivities might contribute to having a difficult time losing weight.

  • The first, and most obvious, is the link between inflammation and weight gain. Some experts treating these types of cases say that once the underlying inflammation from a specific food sensitivity is handled, weight loss becomes easier. When someone is in an overall healthier state, they can easily settle into a healthier weight without having to resort to weight-loss strategies.
  • The second is related to the general discomfort and bloating caused by food sensitivities. They can make it difficult for us to get any exercise and they can even mimic weight gain.

With that being said, if you start restricting the foods you eat because you’re not really sure what food is causing the symptoms, you might end up eating even more processed foods, leading to more calories, more bloating, and a vicious cycle of weight gain.

So what can we do about it?

First and foremost, get help from an expert.

Don’t self-diagnose and start treating yourself as if you have a problem. Get the advice of a medical professional. Bloating, eczema, weight gain, and inflammation can be caused by countless medical issues. Your diet may not be the culprit.

You can also consider an elimination diet.

Elimination diets are key to getting to the bottom of food sensitivities. As long as they’re done right. Comprehensive elimination diets allow foods to be removed and strategically reintroduced to identify the order of problem-causing foods. But this also requires you to get help from an expert as elimination diets are very tricky to implement on your own.

And no, food sensitivity testing (probably) isn’t the answer.

There are no current methods for food sensitivity testing that are widely accepted. Food sensitivity tests usually examine the body for the presence of lgG, not lgE, which is used in typical allergy tests. These types of tests can be expensive and they don’t really identify sensitivities that reliably. So whatever you do, if you think food sensitivities are the root cause of your inability to lose weight, consult an expert first before you make any decisions.

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