There has been a lot of controversy over food intolerance over the last few years and the distinction between true food allergies and food intolerance is still a very blurred line for many.
Food Intolerance symptoms can be bloating, tiredness, constipation, diarrhoea, IBS, Eczema, arthritis, headaches and migraines, palpitations, mood swings and attention problems.
On visiting your Doctor and saying that you think you may have a food intolerance he may tell you that the best way forward is to carry out a exclusion diet where if you leave out the offending foods and your symptoms go away then you have nailed it. If pressured the Doctor may send you for allergy testing. This is usually a history of your symptoms followed by a skin prick test for the substances suspected as causing problems plus non food ones like grasses and pollens plus a control to show that you have a strong histamine response. This test is relying on a IgE immune response which would occur almost immediately with the release of inflammatory chemicals like histamine and leucotrene and can result in raised blisters, itching and even breathing difficulties or collapse. This is an allergic reaction. Food allergies are a reaction to food proteins and can be described as IgE -mediated (immediate) and non-IgE-mediated (delayed reactions).
Delayed immune reactions to food and antigens are mediated by IgG, IgA and IgM and can take several hours or days to produce a response in the body. Celiac Disease is a non-IgE related response. Other food intolerance tests like York Laboratories, IgG RAST /ELISA and Food Detective rely on IgG immunoglobulin and a blood sample is necessary. They do not cause a histamine reaction. Recent research from the National University Hospital in Singapore has shown that the IgG response may even be protective against the development of a more severe IgE food allergy. These tests have been ignored by mainstream doctors for many years but have proved increasingly popular by patients who don’t feel they are getting to the root of their health problems. It is true that they may not show up all your intolerances as the tests are based on raw foods but we have known for 30+ years that people can react much more to processed foods. Processing food by heating and oxidisation changes the protein. If a person is reacting to tomato ketchup he may not show an immune response to tomato and therefore the patients problem would go undetected.
An article from The National Centre for Biotechnology Information in 2009 concluded that the determination of food allergy, intolerance and sensitivity would be improved by testing IgE, IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies against both raw and processed food antigens. Antibodies from modified food may cause disruption in degenerative and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, joint inflammation, neuro-degeneration and neuro-autoimmunity.
This is exactly what the Functional medicine community has been saying for a few years now – delayed Food sensitivity is associated with a multitude of chronic disorders, such as MS, Autism, RA, fibromyalgia, IBS, Crohn’s disease, Dementia and hundreds of other conditions that affect about 40% of the population.
My son has an Autoimmune condition that affects his eyes, his digestive tract, his skin and his joints. He had eczema from about 11 years old but when he had severe gastroenteritis and couldn’t eat for 5 days his skin cleared up completely. On pointing this out to the Doctor we asked if we could have an allergy test done. While waiting for the appointment we tried an Elimination diet and filled in a detailed food diary. He definitely reacted to Dairy and soya and an improvement was seen but this is a difficult diet to do, especially when the reaction can come hours or days later. The offending proteins can also come in ways other than food, like in medicines (even the capsules that contain them), toiletries etc. When he had the skin prick IgE tests they came up negative and he also showed a very low histamine response so they said he was unlikely to be allergic to anything. We introduced more foods but remained off dairy but he was still getting quite severe inflammation. A year on we both tried the Clean Gut Diet by Alejandro Junger, MD and started taking Probiotics and all symptoms went away within days. We also lost over 14lbs each without ever being hungry and we had much more energy. We realised that gluten was also a problem and eliminated that. We substituted Almond milk for cows milk we found great tasting bars that had only fruit and cashew nuts and we even added back in wine and gluten free beer and we still felt good and maintained our weight.
Then gradually my son’s eczema started to come back and he had occasional flare ups of arthritis. Our only options seemed to be to go back onto the full Elimination diet or pay for a Food Intolerance test. We bought the Food Detective from bodykind and the results were very helpful and made sense. Luckily it didn’t throw up a whole new lot of foods to avoid but apart from Cow’s milk and gluten it showed a response to almonds and cashews. This is hardly surprising as these were foods that he had hardly ever consumed in the past but was now eating nearly every day. We have left them off and his inflammation is already reduced after just 3 days. We will leave them off for about 3 months and then eat them less frequently and see how he goes but the test was definitely the quickest way and we saw results very quickly – evidence based medicine!
I would recommend this Food Intolerance test to anyone who thinks they can cope with collecting a small amount of blood from a finger prick and following the instructions to the letter. The test costs £65/$110/85 euros and takes about 40 mins to do with the results at the end of the test. It tests for the IgG reaction to 59 different foods and there is a video on the bodykind site that shows you exactly what to do. There is also a booklet that tells you how to interpret the results and how to proceed with dietary changes.