Gaining weight seems like an easy thing for most people to do, but there are many people who have trouble maintaining or gaining weight. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.
Gaining weight is often about proper digestion. Assuming that there is no obvious illness or disease, then the next step is to make sure that you are properly breaking down the foods that you eat so that you can absorb the nutrients in those foods.
Food allergies and sensitivities, gastrointestinal bacterial infections, yeast and parasites can all interfere with your ability to break down and absorb nutrients properly, and this can result in weight loss and/or difficulty in maintaining or gaining weight.
Having difficulty gaining weight may seem like a good problem to have, but people with this challenge find it very frustrating.
When your body has a poor relationship with food, you may be able to eat all you want, but the food may not be getting absorbed. This problem is further exacerbated if you have symptoms such as diarrhea, which is another sign that your body isn’t processing nutrients well and is by definition a form of malabsorption.
For some people with food allergies or intolerances, the reaction can be so severe that they can’t get enough nutrition to sustain themselves from the food that they eat. This is surprisingly common, and these patients are often blamed for not eating enough or are told that they have an eating disorder. However, many of these patients eat far more than average and do not lack a desire to eat or to keep food down.
As you might imagine, it can be difficult for these patients to get help, because people tend not to believe them when they say that they eat a lot. Worse yet, other people may even go so far as to say they wish they had the same problem.
People who have trouble keeping weight on are often worried that they will lose too much weight. This may mean that they are eating a lots of bread products, baked goods, and processed foods. Unfortunately, these types are even more likely to contain food allergens. They may also be using popular commercial weight gain products, such as protein powders. And what do those products usually contain? A hefty dose of common food allergens, such as dairy and egg.
An example of a popular weight gain product is Ensure. Most Ensure products contain large amounts of dairy, soy, and corn, three things that many people who need to gain weight, but have food allergies, should not be ingesting. Many patients describe feeling worse when they use Ensure, which isn’t too surprising once they realize that they are reactive to the ingredients in Ensure.
Another major aspect of good digestion is the ecosystem within your digestive tract, which is filled with trillions of bacteria. These bacteria play an integral role in digestion. If you don’t have the right kind of bacteria, or if you have yeast (Candida) or parasites, then you won’t digest your food properly. The good news is that all of these things can be tested, including your “good” bacteria.
When we work with patients who are having trouble with their weight, we always evaluate them for food allergies and intolerances as well as for bacteria, yeast, and parasites. Once we figure out the source of their problem, we can find a treatment plan that really works. Patients are amazed at the results. Many people find that they can gain weight just by avoiding the foods that were preventing them from absorbing nutrients.
If you are struggling with a weight issue and your body isn’t responding to the usual solutions, don’t give up. Keep investigating. Be honest with yourself about your diet and your exercise level. Then consider the possibility that something else is getting in the way of you realizing your goals, and let us help you find out what it is.
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Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders, and a nationally recognized speaker on IBS. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio. He was recently named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.