Food intolerances, ‘Leaky’ Gut, and Weight Gain

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Do you suspect that you react to certain foods? Are these the ones you would find it hard to stop eating? Or do you have a range of symptoms, but it is hard to pin down what’s triggering them? If so, you might have a food intolerance. Food intolerances can be harder to identify than allergies because the reaction is often delayed.

You may crave the food you are intolerant to, which makes it hard to eliminate. If you have a food intolerance, your gut lining is likely to be too permeable a condition often known as ‘leaky’ gut, which can lead to inflammation and weight gain.

Polly’s story

Polly seemed to tolerate a small amount of wheat, but if she had it too often, her stomach would bloat and feel uncomfortable. Her favorite foods were toast and pasta. She felt really deprived when she tried to cut them out.

Especially when her husband and kids tucked into them without any problem. She often woke up feeling a bit tired and fuzzy-headed, so would look forward to her morning coffee and toast. On workdays, she particularly needed it to cheer herself up. She used to love her part-time job, working as an administrative assistant at a local charity.

Her colleagues were great, and she really believed in charity. However, about a year ago, a new boss came in and changed everything, even what had been working well. Not only had this caused an administrative nightmare, but it had also turned a supportive working environment into a blame culture, where no one felt valued.

Polly hadn’t realized quite how significantly the pounds were mounting up until the awful moment when the zip on her party dress wouldn’t do up. Then it sunk in.

Even though she had recently swapped to wheat-free pasta, Polly was still eating more wheat than she realized. Her tiredness and fuzzy-headedness may in part have been due to this food intolerance. Polly hadn’t realized that food intolerances were linked to a ‘leaky’ gut.

Nor did she suspect that chronic stress can affect the integrity of your gut lining. She was also drinking several coffees a day, and coffee can be a gut irritant. Polly had a number of other niggling symptoms, including occasional headaches and increased anxiety, that she had chalked up to being run down.

The stress certainly didn’t help, but these symptoms can be signs of food intolerances. Realizing that her symptoms, including her weight gain, were linked gave Polly the motivation to cut out the wheat. For her, this really made a difference.

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What is food intolerance and what causes it?

Food intolerance is not the same as an allergy. A food allergy is an immediate and extreme reaction to the food, which can be life-threatening. If you have a food intolerance, you may not react for hours or even days. Symptoms can be diverse and seemingly unrelated.

They can range from bloating and digestive problems to mood swings, tiredness, or even eczema, or wheezing. You may find it hard to think straight or experience aches and pains. Because your gut lining is likely to be overly permeable, food particles that have not been completely digested can pass through it into your blood.

Your body, seeing these as foreign invaders, triggers an immune reaction, releasing antibodies. This leads to your food-intolerance symptoms.

A leaky gut can be caused by a number of factors many being diet-related. Processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and a low-fiber diet can all affect the integrity of your gut lining, as can chronic stress and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut bacteria), low immune function and inflammation can also cause your gut to become ‘leaky’.

Food intolerances, ‘Leaky’ Gut, and Weight Gain
Food intolerances, ‘Leaky’ Gut, and Weight Gain

Read Also About Food Inflammation

How food intolerances affect your weight?

Food intolerances can lead to weight gain in two ways. One is through cravings, the other through increased inflammation.

Food cravings

If you are intolerant to a food, you may crave it. This is because some food particles, that have not been completely digested, contain substances that have an opioid effect on your body. Opioids can make you feel euphoric. You may initially feel better after eating the food, but need to keep consuming it to get this ‘high’. As a result, you can end up overeating and gain weight.

Inflammation

When you eat foods to which you are intolerant, your body releases inflammatory substances. And as you know from the previous article, if you persistently have low levels of inflammation, you are more likely to gain weight.

Remember, food intolerances are linked to increased gut permeability, and ‘leaky gut’ is a major source of inflammation. If you have a ‘leaky gut’, you are more likely to be overweight. If your gut is ‘leaky’, you are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

This is because inflammatory chemicals affect your body’s response to insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. (For more on insulin resistance).

Quick questionnaire Are food intolerances contributing to your weight?

If you answer Yes to three or more questions, then a food intolerance may be making it harder for you to lose weight.

Are there foods you eat every day? (Think about what is in the food you eat for example, wheat is in bread, pasta, cakes, many breakfast cereals, etc.)

  1. Do you crave particular foods?
  2. Do you know you have a reaction to certain foods?
  3. Are there any foods you would find hard to give up?
  4. Do you have mood swings, feel irritable, or have anxiety or depression?
  5. Do you have bloating or digestive problems or suffer from water retention?
  6. Do you often feel fatigued, get headaches, feel dizzy or find it hard to think straight?
  7. Do you have achy joints, joint pain, or sore muscles?
  8. Do you get earaches or infections? Or does your head get bunged up and full of mucus?
  9. Do you have sinus problems?
  10. Do you have eczema or get rashes?
  11. Do you suffer from wheezing or have itchy or swollen eyes?
  12. Do you suffer from a number of different health issues that appear unrelated?

Key things you have learned in this article

  • Food intolerances can be caused by your gut lining becoming more permeable than it should be. This is often known as ‘leaky gut. ‘Leaky gut’ can be caused by chronic stress, diet and some medications. 
  • When you eat foods, you are intolerant to, your body releases inflammatory substances. If you persistently have low levels of inflammation, you are more likely to gain weight.
  • You may crave foods you are intolerant to.

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Food intolerances, ‘Leaky’ Gut, and Weight Gain

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