Contributor: Christine Spiroch, PhD, PA-C, Integrative Medicine Specialist
In Integrative Medicine consults, we frequently see patients who want to be evaluated for food allergies. Their symptoms often involve the gastrointestinal (digestive) system. However, immune, musculoskeletal and respiratory symptoms are also common.
If the symptoms are predominantly gastrointestinal, we may recommend analysis of stool or urine samples in addition to blood tests. Stool and urine testing can help to identify three problems:
- Maldigestion (problems with digestion)
- Malabsorption (problems with nutrient absorption by the intestines)
- Overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the intestines
Urine testing can help to identify an important condition known as “leaky gut syndrome.” Damage to the intestinal wall in leaky gut syndrome leads to increased absorption of toxins. Leaky gut is a common cause of many food allergies.
Bacterial overgrowth and/or leaky gut can cause food allergies to appear more serious than they really are. In other words, what you assume to be a food allergy may actually indicate a problem with digestion, or bacteria or yeast overgrowth.
Two kinds of reactions to food
There are two types of food allergy reactions: immediate and delayed.
- Immediate reactions. Immediate allergic reactions involve IgE (immunoglobulin E), an important immune antibody. Immediate reactions are commonly seen in foods such as peanuts, shellfish and strawberries. The onset of symptoms after contact or ingestion usually occurs within seconds or hours. Skin-prick testing or RAST (radioallergosorbent) blood testing are commonly used by allergists. Integrative Medicine evaluations involve a different type of blood testing.
- Delayed reactions. Another type of food allergy involving delayed reaction is a bit more controversial. IgG (immunoglobulin G) food reactions occur within hours, or as late as four days, after exposure. These delayed reactions are typically seen in foods such as gluten (wheat), dairy and soy.
Testing reveals the source of the problem
Food allergy testing usually involves the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) blood test to identify antibodies to proteins in gluten (gliadins) and dairy (casein). Blood testing can also identify genetic markers for celiac disease, also called autoimmune gluten sensitivity.
The Center for Integrative Medicine sometimes uses kinesiology, or muscle testing, to help identify food reactions.
Blood test results are a starting point and guide to identifying — and then eliminating — foods that are potentially “toxic” to a body.
Because food allergy testing may be costly, an elimination diet may be recommended for some people instead. This serves the purpose of finding out which foods trigger symptoms.
To make an appointment for food allergy testing at the Center for Integrative Medicine, please call 216.986.HEAL (4325).