By WIN Contributor: Dr. Laura Imola, Naturopathic Doctor

Food allergies can develop at any time in life.  Over a lifetime of eating certain foods, a lack of variety in the diet or age related digestive changes, a person can develop sensitivities to certain foods. 

The type of food allergy that I’m referring to is very different than an anaphylactic allergy to foods, which is an excessively heightened and unchecked immune response that has very serious consequences.  I’m also not referring to Celiac Disease, which is a specific condition that causes gluten, the protein component of wheat and wheat related grains, to trigger an immune response that leads to damage of the intestinal wall.

The type of food allergy I am referring to can create unpleasant and unfavourable, yet mostly tolerable, symptoms. Common concerns that are linked to food allergies include:

  • Digestive pains
  • Gastritis / Gastric Reflux
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Itchy skin, rashes
  • Chronic cough
  • Post nasal drip
  • Sinus congestion
  • Chronic aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • …or a combination of these symptoms

Over my years of practice, I’ve seen food allergy testing help so many people discover which foods in their diet have become obstacles in their health.  There is often a suspicion that something they’re eating is bothering them, but without the testing, it can be hard to pin down exactly which foods are the culprits.

We hear so much about “wheat” and “dairy” being allergenic foods, however I’ve frequently seen other foods, sometimes even “healthy foods,” be identified as allergenic for patients.  Finding out what foods are allergenic can be a significant piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing a chronic health concern that has not responded to any other treatments.

Allergy testing can be done with an Allergist through the classic “skin prick test” or “scratch test.”  Although this test is very helpful in identifying environmental allergens, like pollen, dust and dander, when it comes to food allergy testing, I find that it has two drawbacks. 

The first drawback to skin testing for food allergens is that patients often find a limited number of foods are tested.  The big offenders are checked, such as wheat, cow milk, egg and peanut but this doesn’t cover the range of food eaten, even in the average diet.  Sometimes extended food allergy skin testing is done, and these can be helpful, but they can also have a drawback.

The second drawback is that the skin allergy test checks for an IgE antibody response to the foods being tested.  However, food allergy can also be triggered by an IgG antibody response.  Testing for just IgE can lead to a “false negative” result with the skin test.  A food could still be allergenic as it could be evoking an immune reaction through a different class of antibodies (e.g. IgG).

There is food allergy testing offered by accredited medical laboratories that can test anywhere between 120-200 foods through a blood sample.  This blood test measures which foods trigger an IgG antibody response.  In addition, this type of test ranks allergenic food from most severe to least.  This helps to identify which foods should be avoided completely and which foods have low allergenicity, and perhaps can be eaten moderately.

I’ve found this test to be tremendously helpful for so many patients who struggle with nagging symptoms, and for those who suspect they’re eating something that’s bothering them.  I also work with the results to design nutrition plans for patients that help them avoid their allergenic foods, while continuing to eat good food that they enjoy.

Although food allergy testing is not covered by OHIP, it is covered by most major insurance plans.  To learn more about this health care option, or to have the test ordered and discover what foods you may be reacting to, feel free to visit with me anytime at WIN Health Solutions and I’d be happy to help.

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