Identifying our family’s ‘food sensitivities’ or ‘intolerances’ seems to be the trend that many are tapping into. For example, one of the more popularized food allergy or sensitivity that has gone very mainstream seems to be our society’s reaction to gluten.
Not only has this trend caused flooding the grocery stores with expensive products that are gluten free, “Gluten-free sales reached more than $2.6 billion by the end of 2010 and are now expected to exceed more than $5 billion by 2015.” (Source: Packaged Facts, 2011)
Because of the buzz of the food allergy business, there are numerous clinics appearing with a gamut of testing procedures that claim to help you identify your body’s reaction to unwanted food substances. But the problem can sometimes be that varied professionals take quite different approaches to tackling this problem.
Unfortunately, that presents a challenge for consumers to truly validate the method of diagnosis and treatment. This presents a hurdle when trying to pinpoint why you or a family member has indigestion, headaches, itchy skin or tiredness when ingesting certain meals.
In order to manage your time and money, asking the practitioner these questions before making an appointment will help you make an informed decision.
1. What is the reaction the body is being tested for?
Noted allergy tests look for the response of IgE and IgG antibodies and how they react to foreign substances in the body. IgE antibodies are primarily associated with the body’s natural allergy response. These antibodies can cause both a mild or severe reaction when B cells in the body attach to the introduced material, causing everything from sneezing, to tight throat, to difficulty breathing. In turn, IgE antibodies act as our long-term resistance to bacterial and viral infections. When offensive food is digested, instead of producing an automatic, more measurable response, the antibodies can produce subtle symptoms to the antigen like: headaches, indigestion or hyperactivity.
2. How is the test being performed?
There are several ways clinicians try to determine what triggers the overzealous antibody response. Though most medical doctors will perform a blood test, patients should be aware that this can prove false positives. “A blood test is done, after that, we can refer them to an Allergist,” stated Castle Rock Pediatrics. Sometimes it is the initial step before an adult or child can be referred to a specialized Medical Allergist.
Allergists will perform a diagnostic test using pin pricks to check body irritants on the skin. This method is most used because of its reliability. During the test, a series of pins are used with a tiny amount of the allergen on the tip are pricked on the skin, to see if irritation occurs. If there is an allergy present, the minor reaction on the skin will happen within 15 minutes, to give a clearer picture of food sensitivity.
There are also popularized ‘alterative’ testing methods being used to diagnose allergies like use of the Vega Machine. The manufacturer claims to diagnose food sensitivities by the use of electromagnetic current and muscle resistance. As vials of common food allergens are placed in a holding rack on the machine, lost muscle tension is measured in an outstretched arm (denoting an allergy), by the clinician.
However, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has advised against Vega use for the diagnosis of allergies and illnesses because the machine has been found to be ineffective. So be aware of testing techniques used by the practitioner you choose.
3. What is the recommended treatment?
Once allergies have been determined by a reputable source, the best thing to do is avoid the foods that cause your body to react badly. If that’s challenging to accomplish, carry an antihistamine for mild reactions and an Epinephrine pen for those with severe or life threatening outcomes. It also helps to let friends and family know about the food allergy to further help avoid accidentally ingesting the culprit. Likewise, wearing a medical bracelet that lists all allergies can be helpful.
Doctors are also trying Immunotherapy (IMP) to help modify allergic reactions. These trials involve introducing a small amount of the unwanted substance to the body regularly, so the body’s immune system is given time to desensitize its response.
Yet determining the body’s minute displays of physical food sensitivity are limited, because nothing is 100%. It helps to know your family history, as allergies tend to run in the same genetic circles. And whatever theory is followed, be weary of practices where the person prescribing supplements and healthcare regimens for your body is not an actual medical doctor.