The inability to lose weight as well as the inability to gain weight are frequently two sides of the same coin. 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 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 isn’t being assimilated.
This problem is further exacerbated if you have symptoms such as diarrhea, which is another sign that your body isn’t processing nutrients well (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 don’t have any problems with their desire to eat or to keep food down. They can’t get help, because no one believes them. Worse yet, other people even go so far as to say they wish they had the same problem.
As you can imagine, people with this issue are trying to gain weight. Frequently this means that they are eating lots of bread products, baked goods, and processed foods, which of course are full of food allergens. They may also be using popular commercial weight gain products. And what do those products usually contain? A hefty dose of common food allergens.
A perfect 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 should not be ingesting. Many patients describe feeling worse when they try to use Ensure.
Another major aspect of 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.
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.