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Food Allergy Fact vs. Fiction

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Immunity is one of the most elegant, but complex, body systems to comprehend. While allergies and associated conditions may be on the rise, the quest for cures demands that we better understand allergies in relation to immunity.

Environmental changes and genetics are presumed to be at the root of the rise, but science is far from naming a culprit. Unfortunately, many people are misinformed and perform improper testing methods for food allergies that lead to overly restrictive diets, malnutrition and, ironically, risk of exposure to actual food allergens from misdiagnosis. 

We must sort fact from fiction, define allergy versus sensitivity and discern valid from invalid testing methods. By doing so, we limit unnecessary and potentially harmful dietary restrictions and exposures. 

Definitions of Food Allergy, Sensitivity and Intolerance

What is a food allergy? 

• A disease where replicable allergic reaction is endured from contact with certain food proteins due to an overreaction of the immune system that can be life threatening.

• Common symptoms of food allergies:

  • Itchy rash
  • Stuffy, itchy or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy and teary eyes
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing
  • Chest/throat tightness
  • Troubled breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Anaphylaxis

What is a food intolerance and sensitivity? 

• A non-life threatening problem digesting food, thought to be isolated to the digestive tract – not involving the immune system – that is sometimes caused by a lack of certain digestive enzyme production. For example, in the case of lactose intolerance – the individual’s digestive system does not produce enough lactase. 

• Common symptoms of food sensitivity and intolerance:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea

Valid Food Allergy Testing Methods

Suspected food allergies should be evaluated by a qualified medical professional, ideally a board-certified allergist. Allergists will take a detailed medical history and employ, observe and monitor the following proven testing methods for diagnosing food allergies.

• *Skin prick test*

• *Blood test*

• Oral food challenges

• Trial elimination diet 

*Skin prick testing can be inaccurate if the individual is taking antihistamine medication. However, blood testing can be accurate when taking antihistamines. 

While a negative test result is highly accurate, there is a 50-60 percent chance of receiving a false positive and is therefore not definitively diagnostic. 

The true gold standard is to take a skin or blood test and undergo a double-blind oral food challenge under an allergist’s supervision.  

For more information on food allergy, intolerance and sensitivity testing methods visit www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/diagnosis-testing/blood-tests 

Invalid Food Allergy/Sensitivities Testing Methods 

It should be noted that currently there are no existing tests for food sensitivities. However, there are no laws inhibiting the public sector from manufacturing and selling inaccurate testing methods for food sensitivities, intolerance or allergies. In some cases the laboratory methods may be valid, but the results themselves have not been proven to have any association with allergic disease, food sensitivity or intolerance. 

Below is a list of the most common unproven diagnostic testing for food allergies or sensitivities:

• The ALCAT test

• Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing)

• Cytotoxity testing 

• Provocation-Neutralization testing

• Electodermal test (vega testing)

• Nambrudipad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) or Natual Elimination of Allergy treatment (NEAT)

• IgG/IgG4 testing

• Hair analysis

• Pulse testing

• LEAP (MRT) testing

 

For more information on invalid food allergy and sensitivity testing methods visit:

https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/diagnosis-testing/unproven-diagnostic-tests 

https://www.jaci-inpractice.org/article/S2213-2198(17)30704-3/fulltext 

 

Article provided by Gillian White, RDN, LD, CNSC, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.