Monday, March 8, 2010

Lose Wheat - Lose Weight?

I recently came across an article written by Jim LaValle and posted in the LaValle Metabolic Institute Newsletter that I found to be very interesting and potentially life changing.  Now I do not usually take something and repost it verbatim but in this case I found it be very well written and very important to post the whole thing as to not lose any of the valuable information. It may be a little lengthy for a blog post but I urge you to read the whole document.

"The National Institute of Health has launched an all-out initiative to explore any and all possible contributors to weight gain, urging researchers to think outside of the box and explore all paths. For example, insulin resistance is finally being acknowledged as an underlying cause of weight gain. So anything that can induce insulin resistance can potentially lead to weight gain. Recently it was discovered that there are chemicals in the environment that induce insulin resistance, and they have been acknowledged now as potential contributors to weight gain and diabetes.
This is a milestone. For years I have been preaching that environmental chemicals can and are influencing our health - only to have this idea ridiculed and put down by conventional medicine, saying that it has never been proven. Well now it has.

How does this tie in with food allergies? The way that some chemicals cause insulin resistance is that they cause internal inflammation - and that inflammation damages insulin receptors. Food allergies are also a source of internal inflammation. The inflammatory substances put out by our immune cells (as a result of their reactions to foods) can damage our insulin receptors and cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes weight gain.

Another mechanism by which food allergies may contribute to weight gain is that they cause our body to produce more stress hormones, which can also contribute to insulin resistance. In addition the overproduction of stress hormones can negatively influence the production of thyroid hormones. And finally food allergies can cause food cravings, (another factor the NIH urged researchers to explore.)

Keep in mind there are several types of immunoglobulins that react to foods. The ones that are typically tested by physicians who specialize in allergies are called IgE immunoglobulins or antibodies. These are the ones that create histamine and cause red watery eyes, dripping noses, and hives. There is another class of immunoglobulins called IgG. Until recently it was thought that these immunoglobulins were not a problem. But they have now been linked with things like eczema, even in adults.

One study looked at IgG antibodies in children and found that almost 60% of obese children did indeed have much higher levels of IgG antibodies in their system. They also had higher C reactive protein levels, a marker of inflammation. [1] This study is one of the first to raise the idea that IgG food allergies could cause inflammation and contribute to weight gain and other inflammation-related health problems like plaque build up in the arteries, which the obese children in the study already had.

In other words, food allergies including IgG reactions can cause inflammation and that can contribute to weight gain.

So to take it to the next logical step, some researchers decided to see if testing people for allergies and having them follow their allergy diets would lead to weight loss. They used 27 obese patients, half male and half female. The average BMI of the patients was 32. The study subjects were all tested for their allergies and went on a diet that eliminated the foods they were allergic to. After following their diets for 12 weeks, they lost an average of 35 pounds and a good percentage of the weight lost was body fat[2]. BMI's also came down significantly. So the results were extremely promising.

Listen, medical news like this can take years to trickle down into medical education and therefore into medical practice, but there is absolutely no reason you can't start to look into this issue for yourself. If you have trouble with your weight, I highly encourage you to explore whether food allergies may be playing a role, especially if you have any of the other conditions that can be related to food allergies, like hay fever, sleep apnea, irritable bowel, or eczema.

There are two ways to evaluate whether you have food allergies. You can either get tested through a lab or you can try to test it out yourself by doing an elimination of the common allergenic foods (See list below.) and reintroducing them one at a time and watching for symptoms, like headache or weight gain. If you want to try an elimination diet rather than getting tested, most registered dietitians would be able to help you with that. If you want to have testing done, most integrative medicine practitioners have a lab they work with to test allergies in their patients. We currently use two labs for food allergy testing Alletess and Immunolabs. If you would like to get tested, you can contact our office or refer to either of these company's websites to find a practitioner in your area. If you prefer to work with an M.D. find one who tests not just for IgE but also for IgG reactions. Depending on how many foods you are allergic to, the diets can be pretty challenging to do; once again I highly recommend seeking out a registered dietitian, who can help you plan some menus.

To make sure that you don't just develop new food allergies, it is also important to work with a practitioner who can outline a program to rebalance gut flora and rebuild intestinal tissue.

As many of you know, I have been specializing for years in helping people evaluate any and all areas that could be contributing to their weight problems. I have done this because I am tired of people being told their weight gain is simply a matter of calories in and calories burned, and because I feel very sorry for people who feel like failures because they can't lose weight. There are many hidden causes of weight gain, and food allergies are one of them.

The bottom line - if weight loss has been difficult for you, food allergies are just another area to evaluate and see if they might be an issue for you. I have had numerous patients for whom allergies played a role in their weight, and they are so happy when they find that by simply eliminating certain foods they can finally lose weight, and have a much easier time keeping it off."

[1] Wilders-Trusching, M. et al. Anti-food antibodies in obese children. Exp Clin Endocrin Diab 2008;116:241-45.

[2] Akmal, M. et al. The effect of ALCAT test diet therapy for food sensitivity in patient's with obesity. Middle East J of Fam Med 7(3), 2009.
The top 8 food allergens accounting for 90% of all food allergies are:

1. Wheat
2. Cow's milk
3. Peanuts
4. Tree nuts
5. Eggs
6. Soybeans
7. Seafood
8. Shellfish

For more information on Dr. Cullen and his practice, please visit his website at