Diana Kelly Levey

Are Food Allergies Making You Gain Weight?

May 15, 2017 | Categories:

The rumor: Food allergies can cause weight gain.

Your boss, who says he’s “allergic” to gluten, has been losing weight since going gluten-free. Your friend just found out she’s lactose-intolerant (which isn’t a food allergy — but more on that in a bit), and she’s been shedding pounds after kicking dairy out of her diet.

And wasn’t that rail-thin guy you dated in high school allergic to (and always avoiding) peanuts?
So: Is there a connection between food allergies/intolerances and weight gain? Can being unknowingly allergic to a certain kind of food cause you to pack on the pounds? Dee Sandquist, former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, gave us the skinny.

The verdict: Food allergies don’t cause weight gain

“I’m not aware (of) specific foods (that) cause weight gain if you’re allergic to them,” says Sandquist. “However, if you’re eating food that you’re sensitive to, it could lead to bloating and stomach discomfort — and you’re less likely to exercise if you’re not feeling well.”
According to Sandquist, a true food allergy is an adverse immune response to food, and tends to happen fairly quickly after you eat something (from a few minutes to an hour).
Typical signs include a runny nose, itchy skin, a rash or hives, tingling or swelling of the tongue or lips, a tightness in the throat, a hoarse voice, wheezing, coughing, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea or even anaphylaxis (a whole-body allergic reaction that may cause death).

The most common food allergies are to proteins in cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts. For people with food allergies, even a tiny amount of the food can trigger an immune response.

Food sensitivities and intolerances are not allergies. They occur when the digestive system can’t properly break down food. They’re much more common and difficult to diagnose than food allergies. People have trouble attributing what they’re eating to a certain symptom because the symptom might not occur for a few days.
Intolerances are often confused with allergies because of the similarities in symptoms, but they’re not the same. Symptoms of intolerance may include diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting, but not hives, airway swelling or anaphylaxis.

Sandquist says that intolerances can also cause cravings, tiredness, bloating and even headaches a few days later. “I recommend logging what you eat and tracking your symptoms over time,” she says. “That way, the next time you experience some of these symptoms, you can look back and see what you had to eat.”

If you’re sensitive to a certain food, you may be able to eat a little bit of it. If you consume too much, it’ll trigger a physical response — but not weight gain.
And as for the food sensitivity/intolerance weight-loss connection? Not necessarily true either — and, yes, that includes gluten.

In fact, Sandquist warns that many gluten-free products have more calories and fat than their gluten-containing counterparts. S,o if you’re just trading your snacks and sweets for gluten-free processed versions of those foods, don’t expect to be slipping into a smaller size anytime soon.


(This article originally appeared on Upwave.com and CNN.com in February 2014.)

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