Bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn. Fatigue. Aches and pains. Could any of these symptoms be from something you’re eating?
Identifying food allergens and sensitivities can be tricky. Many times, these symptoms lead people to their medical doctor or to a specialist such as an Allergist or Immunologist who run the typical Skin prick test or blood work evaluating for food allergens.
Unfortunately, the results of these tests often do not correlate with the patient’s complaints. This is because, if indeed the culprit is a food, these tests are a limited snapshot of only one or two types of immune reactions.
The Skin scratch (Pin-Prick or Patch) test measures IgE antibody response. IgE antibodies produce immediate and powerful histamine type reactions in the body also known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms can vary in severity from mild hives or hay fever to tongue or throat swelling and blocked airways.
Most patients know when they have this type of reaction because it occurs within minutes to a couple of hours after eating the offending food or being exposed to an allergen such as bee venom from a sting.
While an IgE response is powerful, IgE antibodies are the least abundant in the body. IgG antibodies, on the other hand, are the most abundant. Representing 75% of human antibodies, an IgG food response can produce a multitude of symptoms from gut issues to fatigue to brain fog and everything in-between. The challenge is that it can take 24-72 hours to produce those symptoms after the first exposure to the problem food. So, in other words, if you ate eggs on Monday and felt fine, but Wednesday morning you woke up with abdominal cramps or constipation (or insert any symptom here), then you would not be able to make a clear correlation to the eggs you ate on Monday.
To make matters even more complicated, the immune system can also produce other types of reactions such as a T-cell response that can also cause food reactions and are not measured by IgG, IgE, IgA or IgM immunoglobulins.
And, perhaps most importantly, an overgrowth of bacteria, fungi or other infections in your gut can create a host of food reactions and symptoms that may be indistinguishable from an IgG or T-cell response.
Therefore, if you are experiencing any symptoms, it is ideal to first be screened for intestinal Dysbiosis, also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky Gut is a condition in which the intestinal lining of your gut becomes inflamed and develops small holes that leach inflammatory proteins from food, bacteria and other potential harmful agents into the blood stream. (Stay tuned for my Kicking Candida and Leaky Gut blog)
Finally, the most complex food reactions are gluten sensitivity and casein (or dairy) sensitivity. Both gluten and dairy are very long chain amino acids that need to be evaluated in a completely different light than most other foods because of the complexity of their molecular structure. Since the subject of gluten is so multi-faceted, it is worthy of its own blog series, which I will be launching next week…so stay tuned!
In my practice, I have found it very useful to run specific IgG testing, T-cell response testing, in-depth gluten and dairy analysis, and Leaky Gut screening to understand the source of your symptoms.
I also use Food Allergy Elimination Diets, especially when all this testing becomes unaffordable.
If you suspect you have a food sensitivity but don’t know which foods are causing the problem, and want to try one type of Food Allergy Elimination Diet at home, here’s what to do:
Remove these top 10 food allergens from your diet for 30 days:
Wheat and Gluten-Containing Grains
(this includes wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and conventional oats)
Dairy (Dairy = milk that comes from any type of animal.
This does not include foods like almond or coconut milk)
Beef (particularly commercial beef that is not grass-fed)
After 30 days, IF AND ONLY IF symptoms have improved, then re-introduce one food back into your diet at a time. Each food should be eaten at least twice on one re-introduction day. Then, wait 3 full days to see if you experience any symptoms (usually the symptoms are the same that you experienced in the past).
If you experience a symptom to that food, then you will need to continue to avoid that food. Wait until that symptom resolves before re-introducing the next food on the list.
If no symptoms have improved from the 30-Day Elimination diet, chances are you have Leaky Gut or a food allergen not on the top 10 food allergen list.