Inflammation is a major component of life that helps us deal with things such as infections, injuries, or allergies. In all instances, our body is trying to fight off what it sees as a foreign invader. In some instances, like arthritis, our body mistakenly identifies our own cells as foreign. On the one hand this inflammation is necessary to help us heal and recover. On the other hand, when our immune system reacts to ourselves or becomes overactive it can lead to further issues and chronic diseases. One of these issues is weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
How Does Inflammation Cause Weight Gain?
Inflammation is your bodies’ response to something it sees as dangerous. When we are exposed to something our body sees as foreign, as in the case of venom from a bee sting, our immune system sees this invasion as dangerous and mounts a response. This response leads to an increase in circulation at the site of the sting, engorging our tissue with blood carrying our immune cells, the white blood cells, to detain and rid the body of the venom. There is also a release of histamine that promotes an increase in fluid retention in the area. This whole process is a type of reaction known as Type 1 hypersensitivity reaction or an acute allergy. Sometimes we will see such strong Type 1 reactions that lead to an emergency situation called anaphylaxis. These are our nut allergies and seafood allergies. In this case, the antibody involved is IgE.
There is another type of immune reaction that is less extreme in symptomology and affects us at a slower speed known as Type 3 or IgG antibody mediated response. This response can occur hours to days after the initial introduction of the foreign invader. Food sensitivities are an example of this type of reaction and may lead to vague symptoms of brain fog, bloating after eating or variable stool consistency, fatigue, flares in skin issues or body aches and pains and many more. All too often, it is also connected to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. With an increase in inflammation, there is an increase in water retention so, some of the excess weight you may be carrying may also be fluid.
Systemic inflammation leads to an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol is an important hormone involved in helping our bodies regulate and lower inflammation as well as regulating our blood sugar levels, stress response, and management of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. When chronic inflammation occurs, the body ends up with chronically high levels of cortisol causing increased fat storage, increased hunger, higher blood sugar levels that over time causes decreased insulin sensitivity. All of which promote weight gain and difficulty shedding the pounds.
How Do We Get Food Sensitivities?
Our gut is one of our major barriers to the outside world. It is made up of both beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and cells that link together in a tight network to prevent the contents of our digestion from crossing into our body. Our digestive system harbors a large portion of our immune system. Unfortunately, it can be injured from taking certain medications, GI infections, flora imbalances, the types of food we eat and lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol. When the flora and cells are injured, this barrier becomes weak allowing larger partially digested food particles to pass through. Since these food particles are not something our immune system recognizes it treats them as foreign. Over time, with repeated exposure, a food sensitivity is created and constant low-grade inflammation occurs.
What Can You Do?
There are lab tests that can be done with your Naturopathic doctor to help you determine the level of inflammation in your body and what food allergies you may have. Once these foods have been identified, they can be pulled out of the diet to allow the body to heal and recover. Getting a wide range of nutrients during this time is important to continue decreasing inflammation and healing any digestive tract damage. For this reason, sometimes supplementation is a necessary addition to your plan to ensure that you get all the right vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, omega 3’s and herbal support in your overall weight loss process.
Many times, dealing with food allergies can help in recovering from many other illnesses and disorders as well, such as autoimmune diseases, digestive complaints like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, blood pressure, infertility, skin disorders like psoriasis, anxiety, sleep issues and even fatigue. So, if you’ve struggled with weight gain or have difficulty losing weight, it may be time to look into food sensitivities. Who knows what other benefits you may find along the way.
Dr. Stephanie Mallory, N.D. is the current Colon Hydrotherapist at the Center for Natural Medicine in Watertown, CT. Dr. Mallory graduated from the University of Bridgeport with her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and is currently finishing a dual masters in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology. For more information please call 860-945-1004 or visit our website: centerfornaturalmedicine.net.