Delicious Living Blog

Food intolerance and weight gain: connected?

If you react to certain foods, you may have a food intolerance or sensitivity. How does that connect to weight management? And how do you sleuth out which foods may be causing issues?

I recently received this catchy infographic from YorkTest Laboratories, which sells kits for “food intolerance testing, allergy tests, and food sensitivity testing.” 

Given that weight loss and food sensitivities are such hot topics these days, I was intrigued; it seems intuitive that when the digestive system is fighting something, it’s not going to process nutrients effectively. And I suppose this could lead to weight gain, especially from bloating. In my own experience, completely cutting out carbs and sugar has led me to feel a lot better—and to lose 10 pounds.

But I also think the infographic might be oversimplifying the issues. So I turned to my colleague Michelle Zerbib, who has a Masters in nutrition from Bastyr University and is a part of our supersharp Standards Department, which reviews every product that appears at our Natural Product Expo trade shows and every advertisement that appears in our publications.

Legit, I asked?

Here’s Michelle’s reply:

It has been my position that allergy testing for foods may not be as effective as an elimination diet in identifying which foods are truly causing gastrointestinal discomforts, tiredness, weight gain, headaches, as proposed in the graphic. That’s because blood tests may give too many positives for antibodies when no symptoms are actually being experienced, in turn making it appear that all those foods identified with antibodies should not be eaten.

Too many dietary changes at once are overwhelming for most people. With the help of a nutrition practitioner, people can determine if they are having reactions to anything by not eating certain foods for a few weeks, reintroducing them back into the diet, and looking for any signs/symptoms … no blood test needed. Most people do not physically react (with the noted symptoms here) to the majority of foods for which they may actually have antibodies. More often, the cause is food intolerance, a result of some dysfunctioning metabolic process that then triggers other reactions into a cascade that ends in bloating, weight gain, headache, tiredness, etc. Many blood/urine tests exist to determine metabolic discrepancies.

True food allergies that trigger immune-system response generally create the more serious reactions like tongue swelling, respiratory difficulty, tingling sensations, anaphylactic shock, acute/severe gastrointestinal upset, chronic/acute joint pain, chronic painful dermatitis like eczema and psoriasis, and often a combination.

I’m going to assert that a very high percentage of people who take that FirstStep Test ($9.99UK) for the IgG antibodies are going to test positive for something—several may even test positive with IgG or IgE antibodies for a large number of foods—so the next test(s) for the more substantial cost ($250UK) can be recommended to them. Hopefully, these kinds of blood tests to specifically indentify food allergies have gotten much more precise in the past several years. My issue with them is that they can only tell you that your body has created the antibodies (IgG and/or IgE) to certain foods; they are not truly indicative of the foods that are actually causing the discomforts.

The North American population is all about immediate gratification – this test fits that. To really identify dietary culprits of one’s bodily discomforts, a full, supervised elimination diet is much more effective. It can take as little as 3 weeks (for one or two types of foods), but for best results, generally requires about 6 weeks (longer if more foods are to be tested).

I’d recommend YorkTest Labs to anyone who is experiencing the more serious reactions mentioned above (or a combination) or prolonged gastrointestinal episodes to rule out true food allergies, and to anyone who just wants to know more intimately, on an immunological level, how their body is responding to the foods they eat. The results can provide a great launching pad for improving one’s dietary habits with an instant list of foods that may be contributing to their discomforts.

Have you been tested for food allergies or intolerances? What was your experience? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook.

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