05 Sep

Food Allergies and Obesity

Hives, rash, swelling and even anaphylactic shock. Food allergies can range in severity from mild intolerance to a life threatening reaction.
But did you know that food allergies may also play a role in weight gain?
If you’ve gained weight while also experiencing symptoms of food allergies there could be a connection between the two.

Your doctor can help determine if your symptoms are the result of allergic reaction or a food sensitivity, and also recommend an allergy management plan that works for you. Read on to learn about the relationship between food allergies and weight gain.

Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity

Food allergies and food sensitivities are often lumped together when it comes to the symptoms experienced after eating certain foods. However, there are critical differences between the two.

If you’ve felt discomfort, bloating or lethargy after eating a particular food, then you may be experiencing sensitivity to a certain food.

Food sensitivities occur when the body is unable to digest certain compounds, especially proteins found in items like milk, eggs, wheat or soy. Once your body ingests these foods, you experience those uncomfortable symptoms.

A food allergy, on the other hand, is an immunologic response. When you eat something to which you are allergic, your immune system negatively responds to the allergen. Since it’s your immune system’s job to protect the body, your immune system tries to fight the allergen by unleashing natural biochemicals that cause the allergic reaction(s) you experience.

These reactions vary, but may include hives, rash, swelling or anaphylactic shock.

Food sensitivities tend to show symptoms later than food allergies. For example, if you eat or drink something to which you have a food sensitivity, you may not notice symptoms for up to 24-72 hours. With a food allergy, a reaction may be immediate.

How Do Food Allergies Relate to Weight Gain?

Food allergies and sensitivities can have a ripple effect when it comes to weight gain. While the allergy or sensitivity you experience does not directly cause your body to put on extra pounds, the reactions you experience may indirectly lead to weight gain.

If you experience a food sensitivity, and feel lethargic, your daily activity level and motivation may decrease dramatically, leading to higher numbers on the scale.

For allergy sufferers, inflammation may be to blame for weight gain. Inflammation is one of the reactions that occurs when the immune system is triggered by food allergies.

Chronic inflammation is caused by several diseases and conditions, including insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain. Insulin regulates the body’s ability to metabolize the food we eat. When the body becomes insulin resistant it isn’t able to properly metabolize foods. This inability is associated with increased weight gain especially around the lower abdomen. This is why eating a healthy diet is essential to disease prevention.

Left untreated, food sensitivities and allergies may also lead to weight gain because you’re unable to continue the same level of daily fitness.

Manage Allergies and Weight Gain Symptoms

It is critical to visit your primary care provider if you suspect you may have a food allergy. Your doctor can recommend treatment and testing to determine the source of your symptoms.
If your symptoms are not severe, your doctor may recommend keeping a log of all the foods you eat, noting any that cause symptoms.

If the cause of your allergic response is easily identified, you might try an elimination diet. In an elimination diet, you will completely cut out the trigger food from your diet. This can jumpstart successful weight loss for many people, but can be difficult if the food causing your symptoms is one you love or is something you eat frequently.
Focusing on the healthy, nutritious foods you can have rather than the few foods you can’t have due to allergies also helps you commit to healthier eating overall.

When your symptoms persist despite these initial treatment methods, your doctor will refer you to a specialist for further testing. You may see an allergist, who can pinpoint specific allergies through blood tests or allergy skin testing.

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