Are Foods Causing Your Symptoms? Understanding Testing Options

Adverse food reactions are very common. If you have health concerns, this article will help you examine whether food might be a cause or contributing factor.

What are Adverse Food Reactions?

Adverse food reactions can be broadly classified into 2 categories:

  1. Sensitivity or Intolerance
    1. Time delayed reaction that occurs within hours to days of exposure
    2. Often IgG antibody mediated
    3. Can sometimes be caused by other factors such as histamine, enzyme deficiencies, infections, “leaky gut” and other often fixable issues.
  2. Allergy
    1. Immediate reaction that occurs within minutes to hours of exposure
    2. IgE antibody mediated response
    3. Often needs immediate treatment (i.e. epi pen)

What are IgG and IgE Antibodies?

Antibodies are a protein on the white blood cell (WBC) that helps the WBC know where and what to attack.  You can make an antibody to any substance.  It is important to know the difference between fast (IgE) and delayed (IgG) when discussing testing options.

Symptoms of Food Sensitivities (IgG Mediated antibodies and other types of delayed reactions)

Food sensitivity symptoms are typically delayed onset reactions;  symptoms can occur sometimes hours or even days after exposure.  Symptoms may persist for days after exposure. IgG antibody testing can be useful to diagnose.

  • General: fatigue, insomnia, food cravings, obesity, water retention
  • Infections: frequent colds, urinary tract infections, sore throats, ear infections, yeast infections
  • Respiratory: chronic nasal congestion, recurrent colds, sinus infections, postnasal drip, fluid in the ears, Meniere’s syndrome, tinnitus, snoring, canker sores, asthma
  • Gastrointestinal: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, gallbladder disease, bloating, gas, heartburn, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, hemorrhoids
  • Cardiovascular: high blood pressure, arrhythmia, angina, palpitations
  • Dermatologic: acne, eczema, psoriasis, canker sores, hives, unexplained itching
  • Rheumatologic: generalized inflammation, joint pain, muscle aches, fibromyalgia type pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Neurologic: migraines and other headaches, numbness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, memory issues, brain fog
  • Mental/Emotional: anxiety, irritability, nervousness, depression
  • Autoimmune conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s, Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s, etc
  • Miscellaneous: frequent urination or burning, teeth grinding, bedwetting, infantile colic, ADHD or hyperactivity, cranky behavior in children, chronic fatigue

Symptoms of Food Allergies (IgE Mediated Antibodies)

  • Gastrointestinal tract:  nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach-pain/cramping
  • Respiratory tract: swelling of the airways to the lungs, tightness in the chest or shortness of breath; and /or wheezing, swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth, anaphylaxis, reduced airflow in the nasal passageways, runny, stuffy nose, dry, staccato cough, itching or tightness in the throat, extra mucus production
  • Skin: itchy rash or hives, swelling, itching in the ears or mouth
  • Eyes: watery, swollen, itchy eyes

Diagnosing Adverse Food Reactions

Testing Method Benefits Limitations
Elimination Reintroduction Diet

The most common potentially reactive foods are removed from the diet all at once for 1 – 3 weeks, then systematically reintroduced to determine which foods are problematic

Highly accurate if done correctly.

No fee.

Can be done as part of a cleanse or weight loss program

Can help identify which foods cause which type of symptoms

Hard to do correctly (requires self-discipline, attention to detail, limited diet)

Only picks up common foods

Can take several weeks to complete.

Most effectively done under the supervision of a trained practitioner to avoid mistakes.

Not appropriate for testing IgE allergies due to possible severity of reactions

IgG Blood Test

Food sensitivity or intolerance, delayed reaction antibody test

Easier than the elimination diet

Tests 96 different foods (more if desired)

Can be combined with IgE testing

Only picks up IgG mediated reactions, will miss IgE reactions and intolerances caused by other factors

Results need confirmation with a Formal Elimination Reintroduction Diet

Fee.  Blood draw or finger prick.

IgE Blood Test

Immediate reaction antibody test for true food allergies

Safe way to screen for potentially dangerous reactions Misses delayed (IgG) reactions

Fee.  Blood draw.

Carroll Food Intolerance Test

 

Evaluates food that is not well metabolized by the body Fee.  Finger prick.
Skin Testing

Performed at allergy clinics

May be useful for environmental allergens and/or immediate food reactions. Not useful for delayed food reactions.

Scratching, or injecting allergens under the skin

Neuromuscular Sensitivity Testing (NST)

The testing component of NAET.  Utilizes kinesiology (muscle testing) to determine the body’s response to different substances. 

Highly accurate when performed by a trained practitioner

Easy and non-invasive

Done in office

Can also be used to diagnose other sensitivities – airborne and chemical

Only test up to 15 – 20 foods at one time, requires multiple visits

Fee

Conditions that May Cause or Contribute to Symptoms and Adverse Food Reactions

Many factors go into the development of and recovery from food sensitivities.  By healing the gut and addressing underlying conditions, there is more possibility of tolerating foods.

  1. Deficient stomach acid or pancreatic enzymes
  2. Leaky Gut
  3. Dysbiosis – lack of good bacteria, pathogenic microorganisms including yeast
  4. SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  5. Celiac Disease
  6. Helicobacter pylori infection
  7. Gallbladder disease
  8. Prostaglandin mediated responses – inflammatory foods
  9. Blood Type
  10. Epigenetics – the modification of your gene expression

How Do I Learn More?

To set up a free 10-minute consult with a BNH Clinic provider to help determine if food allergy or intolerance testing is right for you, please call our office at 208-338-0405.