Food allergies are more prevalent now than ever before. Although we do not know why that is, there are many theories such as increased pesticide and herbicide use, exposure to heavy metals and other toxins in the environment, genetically modified foods, poor diets, and the increased use of antibiotics. All of these can change the microbiome (bacterial environment in the digestive tract) causing unnecessary immune reactions to food.
Immediate food allergies, caused by an allergic response by the immune system to produce antibodies called IgE (immunoglobulin E), is the most recognized. This reaction occurs mainly in the throat, lungs, and skin. This response is readily apparent. For example, when someone has an IgE allergy to peanuts, within a few minutes hives can appear along with throat swelling and difficulty breathing. This is an emergency situation, and most people who have this reaction avoid the offending food and carry a life-saving epipen. However, fewer people are aware of delayed food allergies that can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days later to present mild to moderate symptoms.
Delayed food allergies can present in a myriad of ways from skin rashes such as eczema, sinus congestion, fatigue, gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, palpitations, or joint pain. Detection can be difficult because it may be a food often consumed or symptoms are insidious. In this type of delayed reaction, the immune system produces the antibody IgG (immunoglobulin G). When using a reputable lab to test for IgG food allergies, I have seen people receive tremendous benefits by avoiding their IgG reactive foods; enjoying vibrant energy, restful sleep, clear skin, and digestive ease.
However, there are limitations to the food allergy testing. The given number of individual foods a person eats when exposed to a multi-cultural urban setting is diverse. In addition, processed foods well exceed the foodstuff and chemicals that are readily tested. Testing is limited to usually less than 100 regularly consumed and allergenic foods. So, it is possible that reactions can still happen even after avoiding reactive foods because the offending food was not on the test. Secondly, food intolerance is not the same immune-mediated reaction, and therefore, the food allergy test does not identify an intolerance. And third, steroid use, which is commonly used topically, can decrease the immune reaction and thereby lower the accuracy of the results.
Are there other options besides testing? Yes, the elimination diet is the best method for detecting food allergies. As difficult as it may be, removing possible allergenic foods from the diet can be a rewarding process. Eating a whole foods diet of vegetables (and some fruit) are the mainstay of an elimination diet, which is the focus of any healthy diet. This may be a enormous lifestyle change for some, but in the long run can improve overall health, savings (primarily in health costs), and well-being.
In my practice, I advocate for the method that best works for the individual. It may be difficult for working parents with limited time to plan and implement the elimination diet. However, the diet can be modified, and testing can be a suitable alternative.