Can Gluten Sensitivity Make You Not Lose Weight?

If you have reached a plateau in your weight loss or are simply not able to make the scale budge, it is important to take a closer look at your diet and lifestyle. Sometimes, cutting out cheat meals, dealing with emotional eating, stopping snacking throughout the day or increasing your physical activity can help you start losing weight again. In some cases, however, no matter what you do or how hard you try, it simply seems impossible to lose weight. If that is your situation, it may be time to suspect a gluten sensitivity.

A ball of dough sits on a workbench in a dusting of flour. (Image: Dave King/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images)

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity affects 6 percent of the population, which corresponds to about 18 million Americans. Gluten, a constituent found in some grains, especially wheat, barley, oats and rye, is omnipresent in the American diet. Breakfast cereals, breads, pasta, French fries, croutons, sandwiches, crackers, pizza, granola bars, couscous, muffins, cakes and cookies all contain gluten from the wheat flour they are usually prepared with. Soy sauce, marinades and breading as well as ingredients such as gums and seasonings contain gluten in trace amounts. If you are sensitive to gluten, any exposure to it, even from a bread crumb in the peanut butter jar or from cutting your food on a cutting board that was in contact with a gluten-containing food, can cause problems.

Consequences of Gluten Intolerance

A gluten intolerance may cause various health issues, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue and brain fog. It can also lead to autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, vitiligo and lupus, in sensitive people. Sensitivity to gluten can also result in weight gain or an inability to lose weight, notes David. S. Klein, MD, writing for FloridaMD.

Gluten and Leptin Intolerance

Leptin is an important hormone involved in sending a signal of satiety to your brain, indicating to your body that you have eaten enough. Leptin contributes to a healthy body weight by keeping your hunger and satiety in check. However, it was found that overweight and obese people have leptin resistance, which means that although their leptin levels are high, their cells are resistant and do not register the satiety signals. Grains, especially the gluten-containing ones, are thought to contribute to leptin resistance and therefore weight gain and obesity, according to a study by Swedish and Danish researchers published in the December 2005 issue of "BMC Endocrine Disorders."

Losing Weight on a Gluten-Free Diet

The best way to find out whether a gluten-free diet could help you lose weight is to give it a try for a period of 4 to 8 weeks. Start by weighing yourself and measuring your body at strategic places, such as breast, arm, waist, hip and thigh. Eliminate all sources of gluten from your diet. Read the ingredient list carefully and when eating out, ask the waiter how the food is served and prepared to prevent both gluten contamination and cross-contamination. After your gluten-free trial period, you will be able to determine whether a gluten-free diet could help you reach your desired goal weight.

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