There are a lot of people who are eating foods they are allergic to and they don’t even realize it. Over 90 percent of people are often eating something that is causing harm to their body. Because there is so much misunderstanding around food allergies, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Let’s clear up some of the misinformation by starting with our list of 7 things most people don’t know about food allergies and testing.
1. Food “Sensitivities” Are Food Allergies
A food allergy is a hypersensitivity to food, whether it is an IgE response or the lesser known IgG response. Most people are familiar with the IgE food allergies that can result in anaphylaxis. These IgE allergies represent the response of only 1 percent of the immune system. Many individuals have food allergies they don’t know about because there is another often overlooked immune response, and that’s the IgG allergy that accounts for 70 percent of your immune system’s response.
These food allergies are often overlooked because they aren’t tested for and because the response is often delayed. Clinical trials have shown that removing foods that cause an IgG response can reduce migraines and headaches. (1, 2) Studies have also shown that eliminating foods from the diet that cause an IgG response can improve symptoms of IBS. (3, 4, 5) These food allergies cause inflammation that can also leave with you a variety of symptoms like acne, eczema, fatigue, bloating, anxiety, and many digestive issues.
These food allergies can also lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a common factor in illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and many others.
Understanding food allergies and intolerances:
- An IgE food allergy reaction is immediate and often severe, such as an anaphylactic reaction.
- An IgG food allergy reaction is often delayed and therefore hard to diagnose. It can cause a variety of symptoms and lead to chronic inflammation if not diagnosed. These are often mistakenly called “food sensitivities.”
- Food intolerances aren’t identified by food allergy tests. Intolerances are when the body can’t properly digest the food. For example, lactose intolerance is when an individual lacks the enzyme to break down lactose. You can still have an intolerance even if the food isn’t on your allergy test.
2. Not All Food Allergy Tests Are Created Equal
Testing is so important because you can’t avoid a toxic food if you don’t know it’s toxic to you. So you want to get these tests right! Just because you have had your food allergies tested doesn’t mean they have been properly tested. As we know, many don’t test for the IgG response as it is not considered a standard of care. They just test for the IgE response which, as we mentioned earlier, only tests for 1 percent of the immune response. That’s why it’s important to also test for IgG.
Not all IgG tests are equal either. An IgG response is actually split out into four classes and most IgG tests, or “food sensitivity” tests, only test for one. To get accurate results, we recommend a food allergy test that tests all four classes and gets duplicatable results. If you have already been tested, you should still follow those results but it is recommended that you retest or discuss your test with a proficient provider. It’s important to look at the science behind the tests when there are so many options out there.
3. Food Allergies with a Low Reactive Score Should Still Be Avoided
When you get your test results there will be a range of scores (+1 to +4) next to the reactive foods. You might think that if you only have a +1, that food is okay in comparison to a +4, but that’s not the case. That score measures the level of antibodies in your blood serum.
When your body finds something that doesn’t belong there, it develops antibodies in response to that exposure. Those antibodies are then in your blood to go out and look for those foreign invaders, or antigens. A lower reactive score just means there are fewer antibodies, not that there is a lower reaction to the antigens. You will still have a reaction, but it might just be a longer delay because there are fewer antibodies looking for that antigen.
4. You Can Be Allergic to Something You’ve Never Eaten
Many patients are surprised to see foods they have never eaten on their food allergy test results. It’s common for them to ask, “why am I allergic to this food I’ve never had?” The body is responding to the protein in the food. Do you know anyone allergic to dogs or cats? Do you assume they have eaten a dog or cat? No! Consider yourself lucky that you don’t eat that food on your list. It won’t be as hard to give up as chocolate or coffee!
5. Get Tested If You Are Experiencing Unexplained Symptoms
Do you have unexplained symptoms without a known cause? Food allergies cause inflammation that can lead to a variety of symptoms. They can be hard to track because of the delayed response, so a headache you are experiencing now could be from something you ate three days earlier. That makes getting to the bottom of your food allergies very difficult. The easiest way to make sure that you are eliminating the correct foods and get relief to your symptoms is to take a food allergy test.
6. Get Tested Even If You Don’t Feel Sick
Even if you don’t feel sick, you may still have inflammation that is lowering your quality of life. Just because there are no obvious symptoms doesn’t mean you are necessarily living your best life. Inflammation may have come on slowly from a healthy food you eat regularly, like lettuce. If you are allergic to lettuce but have a salad everyday, it could be decreasing your energy level or making you feel less than great so consistently that it becomes your new normal.
7. Not All Allergies Are Forever
Don’t get discouraged if you see a long list of foods you are allergic to. When you retest a year later, some of those foods might not be on the list. Your food allergies change because your immune systems changes. Your immune system is always adapting to your environment and what you put in it. It is recommended that you take an allergy test yearly to see what foods your body is reacting to. If you follow your list and heal your body, you might find that some of those foods come off of your list. In the meantime check out some of our allergy-friendly recipes and the best app for cooking with allergies.
We’re Here to Help!
Nine out of ten people are unknowingly eating foods that cause them harm. You can get to the bottom of your unexplained symptoms and what has caused your food allergies by getting properly tested and finding a provider that can help. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can guide you on your journey to restored health!
For more information check out Dr. Patrick Flynn’s video on food allergies.