Posted by Dr. Della Parker on January 14, 2016
Understanding Food Intolerance Testing
I know that when you are struggling to identify foods that are causing annoying symptoms it can be difficult to understand all the madness of allergy testing, blood testing, skin testing, intolerance testing etc. These tests can be expensive and often leave you with very little useful information. Just like anything, doctors have differing understanding as well as opinions on this topic. So today I provide you with my understanding, and my opinion. I see a lot of patients and I get a lot of people better (brag, brag) so that’s why you should listen up!
Food Allergy Blood Tests
In a nutshell, these tests are evaluating your immune system’s response to food. Now, people that have a true food allergy, think shell fish or peanut. They eat it and Boom! Throat is closing, welts forming, it’s a pretty immediate response. While we could go in depth with terms you may have heard such as, IgG or IgE, I am just going to keep this simple! Here is what I see when patients bring in there food allergy test results;
#1 They have a list of 50 random foods that they reacted to. Well that is awesome, and super useful! People are supposed to avoid a myriad of foods from gluten, to plums, to almonds, to lettuce… Foods that they have never noticed an allergy or any response to before. I see this commonly in patients that have a hyper vigilant immune system. They are reacting to everything! This is not really the fault of the food, it is the fault of their gut health. Either way, avoiding 50 random foods is not a reality for most people. And even when they do manage to cut these foods out, they see little improvement in their health.
#2 The results show they react to zero foods. More great and useful information right? Apparently nothing is reacting but you still feel like crap! This is usually due to immune suppression. Because let me tell you, most people, especially those that are experiencing symptoms are having some level of leaky gut that should trigger some level of immune reaction.
Either scenario sucks. You spent money and received no useful information to help you feel better.
Allergy Skin Testing
This is a big pet peeve of mine! Does it even sound logical to test the external barrier of your body for what is happening in a completely different environment on the inside of you body? This test is great to identify environmental allergens. Dusts, pollens, grass things that are effecting you respiratory tract. The results of food testing from a skin test are completely invalid and a waste of time in my opinion. There, I said it! The results just don’t correlate to how your gut is responding. So eliminating these foods rarely translates to improved symptoms.
Food Intolerance Testing
Now we’re talking! So you’re not having an anaphylactic reaction. Your body is just getting irritated. This is what most people are experiencing with food and what is likely contributing to their symptoms. So what is food intolerance testing? We are testing for foods that your body lacks the enzymes to break down. If you eat a food that your body cannot properly break down, that food goes through your digestive tract in an unabsorbable form. This not only inhibits the absorption of whatever nutrients it was meant to supply, but it also bounces around creating inflammation in your gut. Generally that inflammation is not felt immediately. It can take days or weeks for that inflammation to translate into whatever symptom you are experiencing. The inflammation will go to where ever your body has designated a weakness. Be it experienced as a headache, eczema, back pain, you name it. The problem is, when you eat this food, you don’t experience a symptom for several days. Now you try to pin your symptoms on whatever you ate yesterday. This is why food intolerances can be hard to identify and why the testing is so valuable.
Do food intolerances have to be avoided forever?
Yes and no. In my experience there are two types of intolerances.
#1 you don’t make ANY enzymes to break down this food! We see this when we try to reintroduce a food a couple months later. These people know immediately that their body cannot handle that particular food. Symptoms reappear immediately. These foods should be eliminated from the diet altogether.
#2 you just don’t make ENOUGH of the enzyme to break down the high volume of this food you are eating. I see this when we attempt reintroduction and the patient seems to be doing ok with it. They experience no return of symptoms until they indulge and eat too much of the food in question. These foods can be eaten sparingly in the diet. Each patient will have to find their own sweet spot for the amount they can handle.
When to test for food intolerances?
We know that inflammation is the start to all chronic diseases and contributes to nearly all symptomology. If we can identify the foods that are contributing to inflammation and eliminate them, we can get you feeling better that much faster. Many times the food intolerance is the cause of the symptom. It is also very commonly aggravating a preexisting condition. Either way, by identifying these foods, you are able to make a more informed decision about what you put into your body. You can knowingly reduce inflammation that can not only improve the state of your current health but also prevent negative long term health consequence. I know ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power!! And knowledge keeps you living a longer healthier life!
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