Is a Food Sensitivity Causing Your Weight Loss Resistance?
Updated: May 25
Losing those last 10 to 20 pounds can be the hardest part of one's weight loss journey. And sometimes people struggle to lose any weight despite adhering to "diet and exercise".
As a nutritionist, I do not feel the majority of these types of cases are due to a lack of will power. Rather, imbalances in body chemistry are a primary cause. Causes of weight loss resistance can include food sensitivities, as well as gut and hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and nutrient deficiencies.
Regarding food sensitivities, it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact ones. This is because a different type of immune reaction is invoked by the food that is not as powerful as a true food allergy.
But before we learn more about food sensitivities, it is important to realize the difference between food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances. A true food allergy can cause an immediate immune system reaction to the food in the form of swelling, hives, trouble breathing, etc. These can be very dangerous, and the food should be completely avoided and care placed under a qualified medical or health care professional.
An example of classic food intolerance that many people have is an intolerance to dairy. Specifically, people have a deficiency in their ability to digest the milk sugar lactose, which can then cause gas and bloating upon consumption of dairy based products. Note that the immune system is not responding when someone has a food intolerance.
Food sensitivities, on the other hand, tend to be subtle. Since a different and less potent type of immune response is being invoked by the food, symptoms such as rashes, IBS flare ups, headaches, etc. caused by a food sensitivity may not show up right away, but rather hours to days later. The most common food sensitivities people have are to wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, and soy.
Know that it is possible to reduce your degree of food sensitivities and to be able to eat even dairy and wheat again. However, it will take some work and time to heal your body, specifically your gut, to a point where the inflammation is significantly lower in your body (A lot of inflammation in the body comes from gut imbalances, or "dysbiosis").
So what are the causes of food sensitivity and how can one reduce them? From a nutritional perspective, they are:
Low Microbiome Diversity. The more diverse you microbiome is, the more oral tolerance to foods you will likely have. A diverse diet of plant foods generates more microbiome diversity. Aim for consumption of at least 20 different plant foods (such as different vegetable, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains) per week.
Leaky Gut. Often a lack of dietary fiber and polyphenols, as well as eating too many processed foods will contribute to leaky gut. Initially, it is important to remove problem foods since food antigens like from gluten and dairy can cause leaky gut by breaking down "tight junctions" (these hold intestinal cells together) almost right away. After removing the triggering foods, it can take around 4 weeks to heal the gut, and often even longer (up to 6 months). Everyone is different.
Immune System Imbalance. Some examples are the activity of T-regulatory cells, dendritic cells, and secretory IgA. But it is the T-regulatory cells that are probably the most important. Proper nutrition play a very important role, but so does lifestyle. The release of opioids by the body helps to support T-regulatory cells. Think laughing, being in good relationships, and some exercise.
The testing for food sensitivities is controversial. Whether it is a conventional skin prick test from an immunologist or an IgG food sensitivity test via a blood draw, results will often conflict or not correlate with the symptoms one has from the food.
One possible explanation for the controversy could be due to cooked foods versus raw foods. Proteins of foods will change when cooked. An example is eggs. Someone may not be allergic to raw eggs, but they could actually be more sensitive to cooked eggs.
However, most food sensitivity panels only check for raw foods. It is possible that certain foods could become more reactive to certain individuals when cooked.
Combinations of foods may cause a greater reaction than the individual components. Think pizza. Some people I have met can tolerate dairy or wheat when eaten on their own. But after that slice of pizza, watch out!
This is why initially, I recommend avoiding the most common foods that cause inflammation for people which are gluten, dairy, and eggs.
Besides reducing inflammation in the body, some ways to improve food sensitivities are to take digestive enzymes and betaine HCL* with meals and also to avoid consuming foods containing colorings or dyes.
How can taking digestive enzymes with meals reduce food reactivity? In general, foods can be more reactive if they are not digested properly. Correspondingly, the reactivity (antigenicity) of food decreases if the amino acid sequence of the food proteins are broken down into individual amino acids (Antibodies cannot attach to individual amino acids).
Additionally, food colorings can impair digestion. The digestion of proteins may be impaired since the food coloring molecules attach to the proteins on the food, inhibiting their digestion. Therefore, food colorings should be avoided by those suffering from lots of food sensitivities.
Note that Betaine HCL can be a fantastic supplement for those with hypochlorhydria, i.e. low stomach acid. It can improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating with meals. In general, those with a lower stomach acid and reduced digestive enzyme production tend to be the elder population. Supplements like digestive enzymes plus betaine HCL or apple cider vinegar with meals will likely help improve digestion and heartburn, etc.
However, please use caution if you currently have or have had a history of gastric ulcers. Until they are fully healed, betaine may make them worse. Additionally, younger people tend to have excessive stomach acid issues, and therefore taking a supplement like betaine HCL or some apple cider vinegar may make conditions like heartburn worse.
I encourage anybody who wants to learn more to contact me here. Also, my Detox program and Gut Healing protocols can be very helpful at correcting food sensitivities, losing stubborn weight, and more.