Food Sensitivity Tests – Facts and Fiction!

Hi friends, its DocChristine here, the
brain doctor who KNOWS how you feel. Lately, food sensitivity tests have been
in the news. They are portrayed as being harmful to clients and their families.
Your own doctor may have said the same to you. You wonder what’s it all about?
Here’s what’s fact and fiction from my experience and training as a German
trained and licensed allergist. I will answer the top five questions we need to
know. 1. What is the difference between a true food allergy and a food
sensitivity? 2. How can we test for an allergy or food sensitivity? 3. Is
it scientifically proven or not? – and 4. Can a food sensitivity test be
dangerous? and and last: Can a food sensitivity test be helpful? So here are
the answers: Answer to question 1.: What is the difference between a true food
allergy and a food sensitivity? Now there are different types of allergies and
some are still not well researched or understood. The two main types are: immediate type allergies , the true allergies, and the delayed type allergies. And these are
very different, let me tell you. Immediate type allergies are IgE mediated which
means immunoglobulin E is responsible. This is a certain protein produced by
our immune system. This type of allergy leads to an immediate reaction within 30
minutes or less of ingestion or even touching or smelling of the offending
food. Typically we see swelling of lips, tongue or throat, itching hives on the
skin, breathing difficulties or even an immediately
life-threatening anaphylactic shock, where you lose consciousness. This
allergy type usually gets tested with a skin test like a prick test, scratch
test or needle test, or a blood test which tests the IgE antibody levels in your
blood. Since the reaction is often immediate, it mostly is easy to determine
the allergen this way. Affected people always have to carry an EpiPen because
it can be otherwise life-threatening Now, the second major type of allergies are delayed type allergies. There are different kinds of those. The most
well-known are the sensitivities, sometimes also called intolerances, but
that’s a different thing than sensitivities. If you look at the delayed-type sensitivities, they are IgG mediated . IgG stands for immunoglobulin G, another protein produced by our immune system. The reaction – if any – doesn’t occur until
12 to 72 hours after you take in the offending food. Delayed type
sensitivities are said by many people to cause a subclinical, like a festering,
reaction leading to inflammation and possibly contributing to mysterious
diseases like autoimmunity and other chronic illnesses. Now here’s the answer to question 2.: How can we test for the delayed type allergy or food sensitivity?
Now there are different tests for these delayed type food reactions. Some are
much less proven, like the muscle test where you hold the food or even just
think about the food, and the testing person tries to figure out whether this
food makes your muscles weaker, or a test about some kind of
energy with some kind of mysterious frequency computers, holding vials with
the food or food extract in your hand. Do they never work? It depends. These tests are highly subjective and are based on the testing person’s experience and
their best guess. Then there are the blood tests either as a finger prick or
blood draw from a vein. These blood tests tests for the levels of the IgG, the
Immunoglobulin G antibodies, which are supposed to be responsible for those
food sensitivities. Skin patch tests are sometimes – although rarely – done because they rarely deliver a measurable result and are inconvenient. They have to
be read several times within the seventy- two-hour window. Now he is the answer to
question number 3: Is food sensitivity is scientifically proven or
not? Well in the typical sense it certainly is not. Science has brought us
a long way in finding single causes of illness and finding single treatments.
Standard for science is a controlled double-blind study where neither the
researcher nor the patient knows whether they are getting the real thing or a
“sham” thing or treatment, something like a placebo or sugar pill. This tests for
the difference between the belief of the patient which can be very powerful and
the actual effect of the drug or other agent they are testing. Now I don’t want
to discount Science’s merits at all. The scientific method has brought us so many
improvements in our life and health like antibiotic treatments, anesthesia
allowing life-saving surgeries, certain life preserving vaccinations, life-saving
treatments and medications like insulin. But the more complex the causes and
solutions for a condition, the less feasible is it, though, to apply these
studies. Do we need new ways to study complex and chronic issues? Absolutely! Is there a good and proven way to do so? Not yet! Now for practical and ethical reasons a double-blind study is not possible to prove a food sensitivity. It would
involve using fake tests, where neither the practitioner not the client knows if
the test is real or not and either suffering the consequences of following
a diet that can be potentially harmful, or not following a diet that may be
helpful. And causality is hard to prove, if at all possible. So conventional
science does not count in case studies since they go by averages. By definition most people are not average but do fall within a range
between two standard deviations of average. But people are all individuals!
This kind of average study makes sense to prove or disprove a hypothesis on
something that is not very individual like if a drug works or not. Now here’s the answer to question 4.: Can a food sensitivity test be dangerous?
Absolutely yes! – Now not the testing itself but the way the results are
communicated and applied can very well have dangerous and unintended
consequences. Like with most tests, there are false positive results, which means
that the test shows a reaction even though there’s really none; and false
negative results, which means the test came back negative although there is a
reaction. And this means that just doing the test and telling the client or
patient to avoid all foods that come back positive is not appropriate and can
lead to dangerous malnutrition, especially if applied to a growing child
by a well-meaning mom. I have had clients tell me that after a practitioner told
them that they were allergic to foods like dairy or gluten, which everyone seems to tell you nowadays, and a few more, she had no idea what to
eat anymore! People may develop an anxiety around food and compulsively
watch what they eat and their reactions to an extent that equals an eating
disorder, which is very unfortunate and can lead to serious health issues worse
than the one that originally led to the test. Now here is the answer to question
number 5, the last question: Can a food sensitivity test be helpful? In my opinion
Absolutely Yes! – The only correct way though, to work with such a test is to
meticulously correlate it with a symptom and food diary and the history
of the clients and then follow up after elimination of the suspected foods with
the necessary supports to access alternative nutritional options.
This can mean, besides detailed explanations and discussions, giving the
client meal plans, shopping lists and recipes to follow, to ensure that they get a wholesome nutrition; adding appropriate supplements, if necessary, and then a
follow-up or maintenance phase. All this involves a considerable
involves a considerable investment of time. money and work by both the involved client and the family, as well as the practitioner, and that’s why it’s often
not done. I found, if done in the right way with the right clients and by
continually educating clients about the risk and cautions applicable to a food
sensitivity test it can be extremely helpful to narrow down a complex disease issue and eliminate possibly offending foods. If correctly correlated with the history,
symptoms and food diary, a food sensitivity test can enormously shorten the time
to find out what – if any – foods are contributing to a certain illness.
Compare this with elimination diets, that are tedious to follow, may lead to worse
malnutrition, and often do not lead to tangible results because they fail to
eliminate one or more reactive food. In my practice, in the context of my
rigorous turnaround assessment, I’ve seen excellent results and improvements by
applying this kind of a food sensitivity test to an individual clients history. I’ve seen excellent results and
improvement in many chronic inflammatory conditions like chronic bowel disease.
Now, is it always appropriate? No! Now here’s the takeaway: If done correctly – in the context of a detailed assessment – an IgG food sensitivity test can be very
helpful to shorten the time to find offending foods. I have seen amazing
improvements in client’s quality of life after applying the principles
mentioned earlier. In no case should the test just be given to the patient and
said: Now don’t eat that anymore… This one is harmful! So in any case, there
needs to be a follow-up and maintenance phase with periodically reintroducing
and challenging certain potentially offending foods, to see and evaluate if
they still need to be eliminated. Often, especially, if a “leaky gut”, which is
another not scientifically proven “diagnosis”, if that is healed, the
previously offending foods can be reintroduced. Sometimes only in a
rotation diet manner, sometimes not at all. It’s difficult, so if you need help
deciding what’s right for you, let me know in the comments below or message me and we’ll get it sorted out. Take Care! I’m DocChristine, bye bye..

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