5 Oct 2018
Has your doctor told you that the key to losing weight is eating less and exercising more? Have you tried following that advice, but to no avail?
Weight loss is complicated, and it is not as easy as calories in and calories out. Don’t get me wrong; what we eat absolutely does matter, but for some of us, it matters in ways we might not consider.
Let’s say you are eating a healthy diet: little added sugar, no processed foods, sensible portions, and few grains. You get moderate exercise, but the scale isn’t budging. As a health coach, if someone came to me with this situation, I would say that we have to look deeper. Something else is going on inside your body. There are several possibilities: one being undiagnosed food sensitivities, which we will focus on here.
But I don’t have any food allergies, you say. A food allergy is not the same as a food sensitivity. A food sensitivity, or intolerance, is a milder immune reaction (than from a food allergy) that may not be immediately recognizable.
In the simplest terms, think of the digestive tract as a long tube running through you. In a healthy person, the only things that get through the digestive tract and into the body are nutrients released from fully digested foods. In people who have a permeable lining of their intestinal tract (leaky gut), partially undigested food molecules get through (into the body) and trigger an immune response to what the body considers a foreign invader. This could manifest as migraines, rash, irritable bowel syndrome, mental fogginess, depression, joint pain, bloating, and so much more. Eating something to which you are sensitive, say gluten or dairy, can cause leaky gut. Eating a diet lacking in important nutrients can also lead to leaky gut and open the door to food sensitivities.
How does this relate to losing weight?
When we eat something to which we are sensitive, our intestinal lining becomes inflamed, which is the beginning of leaky gut syndrome. The more we eat a problematic food, the bigger the inflammatory response. Also, the more we eat this particular food, the worse the intestinal permeability, as other molecules get through and cause even more sensitivities.
This is very stressful on the body and wreaks havoc.
The body will release cortisol as a reaction. Highly stressed people, no matter whether the stress is internal or external, will have trouble losing weight, as the body is primed to hold on to weight under stressful conditions. This is a throwback to ancient times: when the body slowed down the digestive process so we would be able to survive dangerous situations. In those days, the stress was short-lived. Now, many of us have stressful jobs and family situations, as well as undiagnosed food sensitivities, resulting in a chronic condition.
Systemic inflammation also leads to insulin resistance, which is the pre-cursor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that tells the body to store fat. Once we have more fat than the liver can handle, the fat goes into the blood stream and can build up in other parts of the body. Remember, plenty of foods are inflammatory (one of the biggest being sugar), not just those to which we may be sensitive.
It is very common to have undiagnosed food sensitivities. The good news is that food sensitivities and the problems they cause are not permanent. Even an autoimmune response is reversible. An elimination diet (removing gluten, dairy and other foods) can help you figure this out. However, some of us are sensitive to less common food culprits, and these are best discovered through functional testing that looks at hundreds of foods and common additives.
Perhaps a new approach to your overall diet, taking into account food sensitivities, will make the difference you’ve been looking for.