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Food Sensitivity: The Surprising Reason You’re Gaining Weight

By Steven V. Joyal, MD, VP of Medical & Scientific Affairs at Life Extension. Life Extension has been a pioneer in funding and reporting the latest anti-aging research and integrative health therapies while offering superior-quality dietary supplements to consumers.

Feeling bloated? Gaining weight but don’t know why? Food sensitivity might be the cause. Chronic, low-level inflammation due to food sensitivity is a little-appreciated contributing factor for unwanted weight gain, along with other health conditions like fatigue, fluid retention, headache, and skin conditions.

Before we review how sensitivity to certain foods can make weight loss difficult, we need to understand the difference between food sensitivity and food allergy.

Classic food allergy occurs when certain foods trigger the immune system to release large amounts of the chemical histamine. When large amounts of histamine flood the body, a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis can occur. This potentially fatal condition causes the throat to swell, potentially cutting off the air supply to the lungs.

Sensitivity to certain foods in our diet is different from classic food allergy. As opposed to the immediate surge in histamine release in classic food allergy, sensitivity to certain foods can contribute to a delayed reaction which results in chronic, low-level activation of the immune system. In response, inflammatory substances are produced at the level of the intestinal wall. These inflammatory factors generate free radicals that interact at the local level of the gut wall, enabling intestinal molecules to pass through the wall and into the bloodstream. These molecules can then cause further low-level inflammation at the tissue level, with fluid retention as a common sign. In fact, fluid retention and the difficulty to lose weight despite dieting are often-overlooked signs of chronic, low-level immune system activation and associated inflammation due to undiagnosed food sensitivity.

Clearly, identifying and avoiding sensitive foods from your diet can play an important role in your weight management plan. Consideration of food allergy or sensitivity is a critical component of any comprehensive approach to good health. Check with your doctor and consider taking a blood test, either through your doctor’s office or via an over-the-counter test from Life Extension, to determine your sensitivity to certain foods.

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June 26th, 2011

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