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Weight Loss

Nutrition Pro: Hidden Food Sensitivities May Stall Weight Loss — This Gut Healing Diet Can Help

JJ Virgin: "The difference is quick and remarkable!"


Want to enjoy more energy, pain-free joints, sounder sleep, rapidly disappearing flab and radiant overall health? “Then start by giving your gut a little spring cleaning!” suggests nutrition pro JJ Virgin, who has spent 25 years helping women repair their GI tract to trigger head-to-toe transformations. Turns out, food sensitivities are making us chronically inflamed, slashing the odds we’ll be able to shed stubborn pounds. Luckily, Virgin’s gut healing diet can quickly turn your health around. Read on to learn how two women revitalized their health with a gut healing diet and how you, too, can benefit.

Why food sensitivities trigger poor health

Most of us are eating at least one food our systems can’t tolerate well, leading to chronic inflammation in the delicate digestive lining. “Inflamed tissues release chemicals that suppress metabolism and just about every aspect of health,” explains Virgin. Thankfully, with her gut healing diet, you can pinpoint culprits and speed-heal damage. “Your belly can be noticeably flatter in three days — and weight loss and health improvements continue to snowball after that,” she says. “I had one gal whose friends literally thought she had plastic surgery. The difference is quick and remarkable!”

But how do we develop food sensitivities in the first place? Experts say there are many reasons. For example, a microscopic particle of cheese may escape the intestine, and we develop antibodies that attack any time we eat dairy. We might also simply struggle to break down certain proteins, such as the gluten in wheat, as our digestive enzymes naturally weaken with age, notes Happy Gut author Vincent Pedre, MD. Virgin adds that each of us can develop an intolerance at any time; symptoms include tummy upset, congestion, skin trouble, fatigue, achiness and weight gain.

Related: Your Tiredness + Brain Fog May Be Caused By An Underlying Food Sensitivity — Here, The Best At-Home Tests To Find Out

What do you do on a gut healing diet?

To narrow down which foods may be a problem for you, Virgin recommends temporarily skipping gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts and refined/artificial sweeteners. “I’ve found these are the ingredients women are most likely to have an issue with, so you pull them all out initially,” she explains. “The key is to rest your GI tract, ideally for three to four weeks, then test foods one at a time. You can add back any that don’t cause symptoms.” (Click through to learn how to tell the difference between a food allergy and intolerance.)

While resting your GI tract, build meals around anything wholesome, especially anti-inflammatory options like fiber-rich produce, omega-3–rich fish and good fats. If you’re looking for a simple shortcut, “I’m a big fan of shakes once or twice a day because they let you sneak in flax, kale, coconut milk and other anti-inflammatory ingredients you might not otherwise eat,” shares Virgin. Bonus: The blender breaks everything down, so your digestive system has less work to do.

For that same reason, Virgin has you let at least 12 hours elapse between dinner one day and breakfast the next. “It gives your GI tract a break, so it’s much easier for your body to heal any damage.” (Click through for doctors’ recommendations for the best foods for gut health and gut-friendly sweeteners.)

How a gut healing diet boosts weight loss

Anytime part of us is irritated or inflamed, the body draws fluid to the area as a buffer against further injury. “If your GI tract is inflamed, you hold fluid around your belly,” says Virgin. “You lose this ‘water weight’ as inflammation subsides.”

Growing research also shows that belly fat and gut issues are closely linked. Women with an inflamed gut carry 56% more belly fat than those with a healthy gut, per a study in the journal Obesity. One reason: Inflamed tissues “talk” to the immune system by releasing compounds called cytokines; trouble is, too many cytokines interfere with insulin, making it hard for the hormone to get blood sugar into cells to be burned for energy. “Instead, most sugar ends up as belly fat,” reveals Virgin. On top of that, because insulin isn’t doing its job well, we make extra — and excess insulin blocks stored fat from being burned. (Click through for gut health tips that improve digestion.)

Luckily, “healing your gut reverses the problem,” says Virgin. In fact, there’s evidence you’ll burn fat faster. Also, as inflammation dies down, everything functions better. Notes Virgin, “People stick with my way of eating because it makes them feel so great!”

Related: Why Better Gut Health Equals Better Mental Health — and the Best Ways to Improve Both, According to Experts

Gut healing diet before & after: Leslie Mayorga, 61

Before and after photos of Leslie Mayorga who lost 125 lbs with a healthy gut diet
Before and AfterChristopher Carder

Living on grab-and-go junk as she helped care for her disabled granddaughter, Leslie Mayorga’s weight crept up to 250 pounds. She struggled to get around, and her acid reflux became severe. “Tests showed my esophagus had eroded away,” recalls the retired nurse, 60. “All the sugar I ate was inflammatory, but I knew it was more than that.”

So Leslie put herself on an elimination diet, replacing inflammatory foods with soothing veggies, fruit, beans and even plant-based burgers. She also finished dinner early, allowing her system to rest overnight. Without limiting portions, Leslie lost 20 pounds the first month. Within 12 weeks, she could sleep comfortably and her reflux meds were cut in half. “I’m most proud that I’m strong enough to carry my 42-pound granddaughter,” says Leslie, who shed 125 pounds in a year. “That’s life-changing!”

Gut healing diet success story: Kellie Bigelow, 57

By the time Kellie Bigelow’s naturopath daughter told her about The Virgin Diet, she was being hospitalized several times a year due to diverticulitis, an inflammatory gut condition. “I’d read so many diet books, but this one seemed written just for me,” recalls the Michigan grandmother, 57. She soon traded her usual milk, bread and eggs for healing shakes, sweet potato muffins and grass-fed burgers. Her belly pain eased—and the scale plunged. “I was down a size every couple of weeks. It was really motivating after my whole life of being heavy.” Down a fast 65 pounds, Kellie’s gut seems healed. Her diabetes reversed too. “JJ Virgin saved my life,” she says. “I’ll eat like this forever. I haven’t felt this good since my early 20s!”

Gut healing diet meal ideas

To use Virgin’s approach, skip gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts and refined/artificial sweeteners. Eat in a 12-hour window most days (such as 7 am to 7 pm). Sip 1 to 2 smoothies daily and enjoy 1 to 2 meals that emphasize wholesome, healing ingredients like the examples below. Find more ideas at As always, get your doctor’s okay to try any new dietary strategy.

Shake in a bowl: Blitz 1 scoop pea protein powder, 2 Tbs. flaxseed, 1 cup frozen berries, 1 cup coconut milk and 1 optional cup frozen kale

Salmon and veggies: Bake or sauté salmon and veggies with olive oil and your favorite seasonings; optional guacamole for dipping

Detox chicken dinner: Drizzle roast chicken, quinoa, and assorted veggies with olive oil vinaigrette; top with optional toasted nuts/seeds

Bonus recipe: Funfetti smoothie

Two glasses of funfetti smoothie as part of a gut healing diet

Bone-broth protein powder from is great in this drink. Makes one serving.


  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
  • Powdered stevia to taste
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • 1 Tbs. coconut butter
  • 1 Tbs. almond butter
  • 10 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs. ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
  • All-natural rainbow sprinkles


  1. Scoop solids from top of coconut milk into bowl. Add sweetener; beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  2. In blender, blitz 5 ice cubes and all remaining ingredients except sprinkles.
  3. Pour in glass; top with whipped coconut cream and sprinkles.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more ways to heal your gut and lose weight, check out these stories:

Aloe Vera Juice: Top Doc Reveals How It Heals a Gut Glitch to Make Weight Loss Effortless

Benefits of Kombucha for Women: The Delicious Sparkling Tea Can Heal Your Gut and Speed Weight Loss

Chia Seeds Promote Weight Loss, Lower Blood Sugar, and a Healthy Gut

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