Allergies and Intolerances
The subject of food allergies and intolerances can be very confusing. There is some disagreement about what is an allergy and what is an intolerance. We choose to look at it this way:
- A true food allergy is an Immunoglobulin E-mediated (IgE) reaction that ocurs within a few minutes to a few hours after ingesting a particular food and can be quite severe. Reactions are caused by an allergen-specific IgE antibody in the blood which causes your immune system to react abnormally when exposed to one or more specific foods. Common IgE food reactions are to nuts, eggs and milk.
- The immune system will react abnormally when allergen-specific IgG antibodies are present in the blood. These allergies (that are often called intolerances) are less severe and may occur hours or days later. Because the reaction is delayed it can be hard to spot or diagnose. There may be multiple IgG reactions and removing these reactive foods, or rotating them in the diet, may resolve symptoms such as digestive problems, fatigue, headaches and skin issues.
- IgA antibodies may be present in the blood related to specific foods. Because an immunoglobulin is involved you could call these reactions an allergy. More than likely they will be termed an intolerance. Reactions are generally relatively mild and testing may show raised levels when the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is damaged or inflamed. Individuals with digestive and bowel problems may benefit from IgA testing.
- Then there is true intolerance. This is when there is a reaction to a natural food chemical. Commonly known food chemicals include amines, glutamates, salicylates, polyols, oxalates. Reactions can be very varied and range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include aches and pains, generally feeling low and unwell, unexplained fatigue, moodiness, digestive and bowel issues, hives and skin problems, headaches and more.
- There are also intolerances to food additives, colours and preservatives.
- Digestive problems can sometimes look like a food allergy or food intolerance. Symptoms such a gastrointestinal pain, loose bowels, bloating and nausea can be due to bacterial imbalances, enzyme deficiencies, poor levels of stomach acid, parasitic infections and more complex issues. Resolving these imbalances may negate symptoms.
- And some clarity about Coeliac disease. It gets confused with a wheat allergy or with gluten intolerance. It is not an allergy. It is an autoimmune disease.
- Finally you may find intolerances referred to as sensitivities. Usually these words are being used interchangeably.
Testing for Food Allergies
We use a range of different allergy panels:
- General foods IgG allergy panel (96, 104 or 208 foods)
- General foods IgA allergy panel (96, 104 or 208 foods)
- IgE allergy panel (27 foods or referral to your GP)
- Combination panels (eg IgE and IgG, or IgA and IgG)
- Vegetarian and Asian food panels
- We favour blood draw for all these tests and give you a form to go to your local blood collection centre
- Results take about 2 weeks.
Intolerance to Natural Food Chemicals
There are no laboratory tests for natural food chemicals and there are many food chemicals and combinations of food chemicals. It can be tricky to work out what is going on, which food chemicals are affecting you and what foods to eat or avoid.
We take a structured approach. Some chemicals are associated with certain conditions or sets of symptoms. So by assessing symptoms we can create a short list. Further, certain diets and programs (some well known, like the Feingold Diet) are used in response to a set of criteria and we factor that in to our assessment. Also, we find our clients often have a 'gut feeling' about certain food chemicals when we show them Food Lists. They may recognise patterns and groups of foods that they already know cause problems.
We will give our clients one or more Food Lists to work with (foods to eat and foods to avoid). Sometimes we have to try a number of Lists. Frequently we have to fine-tune the foods being eaten especially if a client is working with food chemicals and allergies.
Also see Testing.