Chronic digestive issues such as rashes, itching, and coughing can be caused by food allergies or food sensitivities. If you are wondering if food allergy testing is appropriate for you or if it is just a scam, read on.
DIFFERENT ANTIBODIES, DIFFERENT REACTIONS
When conducting food allergy testing, there are two main things to look at. IgE and IgG are antibodies. IgE antibodies translate to immediate reactions. These are the ones where your body has an overt or drastic response to a food. This includes difficulty breathing, throat swelling, and chest pain. These are the reactions where you might need medication or an EpiPen.
IgG antibodies induce a delayed reaction. This type of reaction can happen 24 to 72 hours after you eat a particular food. This is tricky because a lot of times we don’t know what is actually causing our symptoms.
I like to think of food allergy testing as a way to detect the extent of our leaky gut and what our immune system is currently reacting to. I would say that a lot of the allergies that come back as IgG are not true allergies. You might get this result on a variety of foods that are most common in your diet. If your results show a lot of low-level sensitivities, this indicates a very leaky gut.
ALL TESTS ARE NOT EQUAL
There are a few varieties of food allergy testing. The first type is a blood test. A company called Alcat is the gold standard of functional medicine food allergy testing. This test shows what the white blood cells do when they’re exposed to certain foods. If the white blood cells are more active when exposed to peanuts, for example, we’re going to call this an allergic type of reaction. Reactions are discussed in terms of gradations between low, moderate, and severe. If white blood cells indicate a severe reaction to a particular food, I’m going to suggest avoiding that food. Removing a food from the diet does not have to be permanent. I would suggest taking it out for a year and then reintroducing it to see what the body does.
SENSITIVITY VS. ALLERGY
In the cases of the food allergy testing that I do in my office, I often think of these as food sensitivity testing rather than allergy testing. Many people use “allergy” and “sensitivity” interchangeably, which can be confusing. Different tests can indicate different severities of sensitivity or allergy that you might be experiencing.
The other type of food sensitivity testing is called agglutination testing. This is the test where blood is drawn and sent to a lab. The lab will combine droplets of food with the blood samples and see if the blood coagulates. Blood coagulation is considered a reaction. These agglutination tests are great for determining food sensitivity.
The blood spot test is commonly used for kids or for adults that don’t like blood draws. The skin is poked with a lancet and blood spots are dropped onto a card. The card is then used to test for food sensitivities. This test is much like the agglutination test, but it is much more reliable for indicating food sensitivities and the extent of someone’s leaky gut rather than full-blown allergies. I prefer to use the white blood cell testing because I see it as more accurate.
Conventional allergists use a skin prick test. I recommend this test if you experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing and throat swelling which could be caused by food allergies. This test shows a reaction on the skin level that indicates a food allergy whereas the agglutination, blood spot test, and white blood cell test is more along the lines of food sensitivity.
MANAGING SENSITIVITIES AND ALLERGIES
Once we’ve determined what you’re sensitive to, the next step is to manage the food sensitivities and suspected allergens. Oftentimes I instruct patients with severe reactions to avoid reactive foods for at least a year. After that time, we will slowly reintroduce the foods. We do this one food at a time and carefully watch the body’s reaction for 72 hours. If nothing happens in that time period, then you can eat a little bit more of that specific food and see how you do. This process applies for reintroducing all other foods as well.
If you have a low-level reaction to foods, I recommend rotating the consumption of those foods. Many Americans eat the same foods day in and day out. That is not the best way to eat, especially if you have any kind of sensitivities. If you have low-level reactions with a certain food, eat that particular food every 3 to 4 days. If you’re experiencing some mild to moderate reactions, I recommend taking that food out for about 3 months before reintroducing it. This will calm the immune system’s reaction so that the body will not be as hypersensitive.
Something that I commonly see in food sensitivity test results is that people have an allergy or sensitivity to almost every grain and bean out there. This translates to a lectin sensitivity. The way that we should eat beans and grains is by pressure cooking or sprouting them to reduce the lectin content. Lectins are meant to protect the plant and ensure its survival. When we eat the plant, lectins irritate our digestive system.
Another way to aid in digestion is to make sure we are chewing our food at least 20 times before swallowing. It is common for many of us to rush through eating and not consider that something as basic as chewing should require our attention. Many of us lack hydrochloric acid, otherwise known as stomach acid. This can cause constipation which is a big problem.
If you’re having food sensitivities, you need to optimize your digestion and get a digestive enzyme supplement with hydrochloric enzymes to help you out.
I highly recommend doing food sensitivity testing if you have any kind of gut issues. This can help you figure out if there are foods that could be blocking your progress in healing your digestive system. If you have symptoms that could put you in the emergency room like throat swelling, breathing difficulty, or anaphylaxis, start with the skin prick testing and then move into the food sensitivity tests. I recommend the white blood cell testing through Alcat, as it is the most accurate. testing you want to do the most accurate lab out there and agglutination just isn’t as good as the white blood cell testing in my book. The big takeaway from today’s blog: Keep in mind that your digestive system is not all about the reaction, whether it is in the gut or in food sensitivity. It is about functional problems as well. I highly recommend that if you are going to pursue food sensitivity testing you also get a functional medicine doctor or a naturopathic doctor on board to help you with troubleshooting. While food sensitivity tests are great, they are just one piece of the puzzle to figuring out what is going on in your body. Check out my resources on determining if you have a food sensitivity.
This blog post is a summary of my podcast on food sensitivities – if you want to learn more click here to listen to my podcast!