Food Allergy, Weight and Health

Susan was typical of many of my patients. She ate pretty well, watching her intake of calories and fats, but she could not budge the weight around her middle. She had been on a variety of diets, they worked to some degree, but the weight always came back. Even though she counted her calories, something was holding her back.

That something was poor adaptation to the foods in her diet. Unknown to her, she had multiple food allergies to which her body responded with increased cortisol, the main stress hormone. The cortisol increased the visceral abdominal fat which made further weight loss impossible. Poor adaptation also occurred from her lack of fiber rich foods, flavonoid rich foods (darkly colored vegetables and fruits such as cherries, berries, broccoli, kale, chard) and skipping meals to keep her caloric intake down. All of these patterns increased cortisol and stopped the weight loss.

Susan read my book, The Adaptation Diet, followed the program to a tee, identified her food allergies, added in the right foods and turned around not only her weight, but her energy level and sense of well-being. It is possible to stop weight gain in its tracks with a few simple dietary changes as outlined in The Adaptation Diet.

Studies show that up to one of every two Americans could have some food allergy or intolerance. There are two types of food allergy: immediate and delayed. Immediate food allergy involves symptoms such as hives, breathing problems and bowel symptoms occurring within a few minutes of ingesting a food. Typically, this is limited to certain foods such as shellfish, peanuts, strawberries and tree nuts like Brazil nuts. The mechanism of immediate food allergy, which can be life threatening, is release of histamine triggered by IgE antibodies. These allergies are fixed, meaning they don’t change much over a lifetime.

A much more common form of food allergy and intolerance is delayed hypersensitivity where symptoms might not occur for up to 24 hours after ingesting a food. Symptoms can include fatigue, digestive problems, headaches, joint pain, muscle pain, urinary problems, skin rash and nasal congestion and asthma. The most common food triggers are wheat, dairy, sugar, beef, soy, tomatoes, citrus and corn. Many people have developed masking where frequent use of an allergic food prevents the person from seeing the connection between the food and symptoms. These allergies are mediated by IgG antibodies and often do not include major histamine release.

If your physician is not able to order the proper blood or skin tests, one way to identify if foods are contributing to symptoms and unwanted weight is to do an avoidance and challenge diet. Simply avoid the most food triggers, wheat, dairy, corn, soy, tomatoes, beef and sugar for at least a week then reintroduce them one per day. This approach is detailed in The Adaptation Diet as well as information on rotation diets and reducing cortisol to enhance weight loss.