Food allergies have long been recognized as a significant health concern, affecting individuals worldwide. This article explores the complex link between food allergies, food intolerance and changes in body weight, delving into the scientific details that explain this relationship.
Food allergies themselves do not typically cause weight gain. In fact, they usually do the opposite. When someone with a food allergy consumes the allergenic food, their immune system reacts by triggering various symptoms, such as digestive issues, hives, difficulty breathing, or even anaphylaxis in severe cases. These symptoms are caused by the immune system’s response to the allergen, not by the food itself.
Let’s first understand the scientific facts related to allergies and weight gain.
Food allergy immune responses involve a complex sequence:
1. Recognition of Allergen:
– Mast cells and basophils, equipped with specific receptors, identify allergenic proteins, recognizing them as potential threats.
2. Release of Inflammatory Mediators:
– Immune cells release histamine and cytokines upon allergen recognition, triggering itching, swelling, and increased mucus production.
3. Activation of Immune Cells:
-T cells and B cells are activated, releasing cytokines that intensify the immune response and set off a cascade of events.
4. Inflammatory Cascade:
– The released mediators initiate an inflammatory cascade, impacting nearby cells and tissues, causing redness, swelling, and irritation.
5. Systemic Effects:
– Severe cases can lead to systemic reactions, affecting multiple organs and causing more intense symptoms like difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis.
6. Memory Response:
– The immune system “remembers” the allergen, leading to an amplified response upon subsequent exposure, contributing to the chronic nature of food allergies.
Allergic reactions may lead to increased water retention and temporary weight fluctuations. Sometimes, chronic inflammation can contribute to metabolic changes and weight gain over time. Over time, these changes can contribute to the development of metabolic disorders, emphasizing the importance of addressing food allergies in a comprehensive manner.
However, it does not typically result in immediate weight gain in a person. Thus, the impact of allergies extends beyond immediate reactions to long-term health consequences.
Food intolerance and Weight Gain
Now, let’s delve into another condition known as food intolerance, which may result in an increase in body weight.
Food intolerance is different from a food allergy and involves difficulty digesting certain foods.
Examples of Food Intolerance contributing to Weight Gain are as follows:
One common example is lactose intolerance, which occurs when a person lacks the enzyme lactase necessary to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. When a person with lactose intolerance consumes lactose-containing foods, they may experience digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. These symptoms can disrupt the normal digestion and absorption of nutrients, potentially leading to weight gain.
When you consume something your body is intolerant to, it can trigger inflammation in your digestive tract, often manifesting symptoms similar to those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Persistent inflammation has the potential to influence weight gain. The body responds to curb inflammation by naturally producing cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone originating from the adrenal glands situated above the kidneys. However, while cortisol reduces inflammation, it also elevates insulin levels, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. The increased production of insulin, aimed at regulating blood sugar, can eventually result in insulin resistance.
Excess insulin and blood sugar in the bloodstream prompt the body to store this surplus sugar. Although some sugar can be stored in the liver and muscles, once these storage spaces are full, the body starts accumulating the excess sugar as fat, contributing to weight gain. Insulin resistance disrupts the body’s ability to metabolise ingested foods, ultimately leading to weight gain. These alterations encourage the body to store fat instead of efficiently processing calories. Consequently, unidentified intolerances and sensitivities causing persistent inflammation may contribute to gradual and unexplained weight gain over time.
Additionally, Some individuals may experience cravings and overeat certain foods they are intolerant to, leading to weight gain indirectly. This is because when the body has difficulty digesting certain foods, it may trigger cravings for those foods, leading to excessive consumption and potential weight gain.