Food sensitivity and allergy testing is common, especially among the naturopathic community. A hearty, healthy gut (which I define as the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus) is a cornerstone to health and should always be a part of a complete health assessment and or treatment plan in my opinion.
Healing your gut can make impressive strides in gut associated complaints but also a foray into other systemic problems, like migraines, joint pain etc. Here’s how and here’s why testing can be advantageous in developing a stellar treatment plan.
Testing for food allergies or food sensitivities requires sampling your blood against various foods to see how they react and how badly. Essentially we are looking for immunoglobulins (Ig’s), aka antibodies, that your body creates against various foods.
Immunoglobulins / antibodies are created from your immune system. They are something your body has identified as a threat (antigen) and as such has created specialized artillery (aka immunoglobulins) to remember it and dismantle it each time it recognizes it. This “dismantling” can result in, swelling, inflammation, diarrhea, constipation, hives, anaphylaxis etc. If we think of different artillery as being different immunoglobulins, let’s define 3 principle ones: IgE, IgG and IgA
Let’s call this one the “bomb”. This is the immunoglobulin responsible for allergies. Reactions associated with IgE in the body result within minutes of exposure. Effects usually occur mostly in the airway, skin and intestines. The only way to capture these guys is through recent exposure to the allergen and a blood draw.
Lets call these “armored tanks”. Its’ effects can take up to 5 days to manifest making elucidation of the antigen (what the body doesn’t like) difficult. Reactions associated with this are referred to as sensitivities and not allergies (that’s only IgE). They still bring with it the inflammation and cascade of dismantling effects that can results in inflammation and irritation in the gut and body. IgG are also older so long term exposure or irritation to an allergen may yield a corresponding IgG. IgG are in larger amounts in the blood and so a relatively small amount of blood is required for an IgG and only a blood spot (finger prick test) is required.
Let’s call these the “bow and arrows”. It, like IgG is also considered a sensitivity and not an allergy. These are antibodies generated mostly in mucosal areas of the body like the gut and result when there is irritation to these linings. They are generally the first line of defense against antigens. There are relatively little amounts of IgA in the body so testing requires a blood draw. Research is less robust on determinants of these antibodies in yielding symptomatic changes.
So why get tested?
Again, stellar gut health is a huge foundation to overall health. Roughly 70-80% of our immune system resides in our gut and since the body is all connected, inflammation and sensitivities in the gut can go throughout the body. So in cases where gut health needs to be restored or other seemingly non gut related conditions such as listed below, testing may be of benefit.
- Skin condition like eczema
- Gas / Bloating
Interpretation of the results and implementation and or changes to current diet / supplementation is best done under the guidance of a holistic treatment plan. Your health care provider should assess results in accordance with quantity of reactions and types of reactions to fully elucidate a comprehensive plan for you. Results from such changes can yield remarkable changes in health. Talk to your health care provider to if this might be good for you.
Dr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health. She blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.
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