Dissecting Food Sensitivity Testing
By Kebbie Stine, MNT
Testing for food sensitivities is a buzz worthy topic right now. So what are food sensitivities and why should you test for them?
First let’s talk about the difference between a food allergy and food sensitivity. A true food allergy involves an immune response to proteins and occurs immediately. These reactions can be potentially life threatening and often require immediate medical attention. Reactions to food allergies can include flushing, wheezing, itchy skin, vomiting, throat tightening or even anaphylaxis.
Food sensitivities involve antibodies (proteins produced by the immune system to stop invaders) and are much more common. These are delayed responses, meaning reactions can take hours or even days to show and are much more subtle than food allergies. Symptoms of food sensitivities can include fatigue, headaches, brain fog, joint pain, digestive upset, or skin issues like rashes, acne, or eczema.
Most food sensitivity tests look for three different antibodies:
IgE antibodies are associated with food allergies and are generally tested by an Allergist using a skin prick method. An IgE reaction is immediate therefore the interaction of the food on the skin will release a chemical response that is visible. The most common foods associated with IgE reactions are peanuts, shellfish, eggs, dairy and wheat.
IgA antibodies are found in mucosal areas such as the digestive tract, respiratory tract, reproductive tract and skin. These antibodies can also be found in saliva, tears and breast milk. IgA antibodies increase in response to inflammation and are tested via blood sample. IgA can be responsible for symptoms such as digestive upset, chronic sinus conditions and skin disorders.
IgG antibodies circulate in the bloodstream and are the most abundant antibody. IgG reactions are associated with foods that are consumed often. With high IgG reactions it is believed that intestinal permeability (leaky gut) allows molecules from food to enter the bloodstream and be tagged by the immune system as harmful invaders. This can stimulate an inflammatory response and create symptoms like headaches, brain fog, joint pain, irritability, anxiety, depression, etc. IgG antibodies are tested via blood sample.
Food sensitivity tests can offer a good baseline to get to the root cause of many health complaints, but they do not offer a diagnosis. These tests give us a snapshot of what is happening in the body right now, meaning they are often not reproducible. The immune system is constantly changing and when you eliminate a food for a specific amount of time IgA and IgG reactions will change.
Another option for identifying food sensitivities is an elimination diet. An elimination diet consists of eliminating foods that are common triggers for sensitivity or intolerance for three to six weeks; these generally include gluten, dairy, corn, soy, nuts and eggs. After the specified amount of time, each food is reintroduced one at a time to check for reactions.
If you are experiencing symptoms like fatigue, headaches, brain fog, joint pain, GI upset, or skin issues like rashes, acne, or eczema it is very likely a food sensitivity is the culprit. How do you decide which route to go to figure it out?
Why to do a test:
You do not have the time or inclination to go through an elimination diet.
You like to see data that a lab result can provide.
You have a small child that you feel would be too difficult to try an elimination diet with.
You are struggling with a current or past eating disorder that a restrictive diet could trigger.
Why to do an elimination diet:
The test is a financial burden.
You have the time and inclination to go through the process of the diet.
You have an autoimmune or similar disorder that needs more thorough investigation than the test can provide.
You need the instant relief that removing inflammatory foods could give you.
At Washington Park Chiropractic we offer food sensitivity testing through US Biotek Labs. You will take home a convenient kit that includes a finger prick and blood sample card that you mail directly to the lab. We test 96 commonly eaten foods (dairy, meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables and miscellaneous) for IgA and IgG reactions. You will then meet with our nutritionist to go over your results and create a plan moving forward.
If you decide an elimination diet is the right path for you our nutritionist can guide you step by step through a diet tailored to your symptoms.
Kebbie Stine is a Master Nutrition Therapist in the Denver area. She practices nutrition therapy at Washington Park Chiropractic and is the owner of Whole Choice Nutrition Therapy. Contact Kebbie at email@example.com