In my experience as a natural health professional, I have seen more situations than I can count where someone demonstrates symptoms of food sensitivities but they believe food cannot be the issue because a doctor's test came up negative for those foods. So they continue eating foods that are making them sick, and their health problems worsen without this issue being addressed.
Here's the thing: The allergy testing most docs do (and the only testing most docs do) is for IgE allergies, also known as "true allergy." This the kind of allergy that causes an immediate reaction--hives, puffy eyes, difficulty breathing, etc. This kind of allergy is dependent on activation of mast cells in specific tissues, including the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal, mucosal, and cardiovascular system.1 This is a very important allergy to be tested for and can be life-threatening.
But there's a much more prevalent type of allergy causing a wide array of health problems common today, and that is gut-mediated food sensitivities. These gut-mediated food sensitivities are IgM, IgG, or IgA (not IgE) and are harder to diagnosis without testing because of their delayed reaction.
The delayed immune reaction to food antigens are mediated by IgG, IgA and IgM. Unlike the immediate effects of IgE-mediated allergy, the IgG, IgM and IgA-mediated food allergy and intolerance reactions can take several days to appear.1
Gut-mediated food sensitivities are caused by openings in the intestinal wall's epithelial cells that allow food particles (and things in the environment like pollen) to enter the bloodstream where it triggers the body to launch an antibody response to defend against the invaders (food particles should NOT be in the bloodstream!). This response results in a gut-mediated food sensitivity to whichever foods initiated the attack. It also results in a large amount of inflammation that prevents the intestinal wall from closing, thereby worsening the problem every time that food is consumed.
Over time, this causes autoimmune diseases and many other chronic health problems.
Delayed food sensitivity is associated with a multitude of disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, autism and rheumatoid arthritis, and affects an estimated 40% of the population. Patients presenting with clustered symptoms of migraine, mood swings, fatigue, intestinal upset, joint pain, high blood pressure and attention problems are often found to have delayed immune reaction to food antigens [2,3,28]. Thus, it is vital to offer the medical community a sensitive method for the detection of food allergy and intolerance testing that is scientifically supported.1
Other problems that we are seeing often due to gut-mediated food allergies are:
- Sleep apnea and other obstructive breathing problems
- Chronic runny nose in children
- Frequent sinus infections
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Reflux (especially in infants--click here to read more)
- Recurring ear infections
- Enlarged Adenoids
- Juvenile arthritis
But still, many people go to their doctors with these symptoms and are never tested for gut-mediated food allergies or even told to consider an elimination diet. Instead, they are given harmful medications, endless tests (and not IgM, IgG, or IgA tests), and risky surgeries that don't address the root.
Many people say, "But I've never had issues like this before." Gut-mediated food sensitivities develop over time. Sometimes quickly after a course of antibiotics or round of vaccinations, and sometimes gradually over time with eating processed foods, gluten, being stressed out, etc. with the tight junctions in the intestine being slowly broken down.
In addition to the pages and pages of experience I could detail of my clients' initial health problems related to gut-mediated food sensitivities, I thought I'd share my personal experience with it. This is an example of how it starts. If these things are overlooked, they will progress to many more of the health problems listed above. Because of the wide range of ways gut-mediated food sensitivities manifest themselves, it looks different for everyone. Nonetheless, some will be able to relate to this particular experience.
One of my sons had a gut-mediated sensitivity to eggs. We couldn't afford testing and it took us quite a while to really pinpoint which food it was, but we finally figured it out. Whenever he would eat something with eggs, his behavior was abnormally difficult within a few hours. Within the next 24 hours, he would have a bowel movement that would cause a horrible diaper rash (his digestive transit time was fast as he was otherwise very healthy), very runny nose, and would have difficulty sleeping as he had to breathe through his mouth. This difficulty breathing and runny nose would persist for about three days after consuming foods with eggs.
If we had continued allowing him to eat these foods, and calling these symptoms just common childhood problems, this would have progressed into some of the more serious health problems detailed above.
For some children, it is other things like those health problems listed above--ear infections, swollen tonsils, etc. For adults, it often manifests as migraines, sleep apnea, bowel problems, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and more. The list of ways gut-mediated food sensitivities can manifest themselves is because of the very large amount of systemic inflammation caused by this constant antibody attack. It is important NOT to overlook these things.
While there are a lot of problems with modern-day foods, the foods themselves are not always the cause of the food sensitivity. In order for those food particles to get through the intestinal wall, the intestinal wall has to have been damaged. This damage is increasingly common as it is caused by things like antibiotics (both directly as prescriptions and indirectly in food from animals given antibiotics), vaccines, cesarean sections, and more.
To be fair, testing for IgM, IgG, and IgA food allergies is difficult and not always reliable. For those presenting with symptoms that may indicate gut-mediated food sensitivities, an elimination diet is the most accurate way to determine the exact culprit(s).
Cyrex Laboratories offers various arrays to test for intestinal permeability and gut-mediated food sensitivities. These labs are ordered online and the specimen is drawn through a local laboratory. Cyrex arrays are the preferred gut-mediated tests in the natural healthcare arena.
ALCAT food intolerance tests are commonly used by those seeking to determine which foods are likely causing inflammation in their body. ALCAT labs does not require going to a local lab as they have a blood draw team that comes to the patient. I personally have found these tests to be very confusing and not very accurate, so I don't recommend them.
An elimination diet is incredibly helpful. Starting with the most common culprits (wheat, dairy, corn, soy, eggs) and avoiding them for at least one month, then reintroducing them back in one at a time and watching for delayed response is the method many people choose. However, this type of diet only helps assess the offending foods but does not help heal the intestinal wall.
The GAPS diet, based on the book Gut & Psychology Syndrome and diet by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, not only removes all possible offending foods but also works to repair and seal the intestinal wall to eliminate gut-mediated food sensitivities. I have seen it work very well with many of my clients and friends.
It is difficult, but it is much easier than living with chronic health problems and/or having small children undergo risky surgeries and other medical procedures that never address the root cause.
In breastfed babies, it would be necessary for Mom to remove the offending foods from her diet.
If offending foods are removed but the tight junctions in the intestinal wall are not closed, the body will develop sensitivities to other things in the diet and environment.
Dr. Campbell McBride's book is an invaluable resource for anyone dealing with any of these health conditions triggered by gut-mediated food allergies.
Getting some natural health care through this can be very important. I encourage you to find a local naturopathic practitioner, GAPS practitioner, etc. to help you along this journey.
and feel free to contact me if you'd like to schedule an online consult.
It is my hope and my prayer that this information provides the answers that so many people are looking for and not finding in conventional medical care, and that it helps reduce the amount of mislead treatments that only worsen one's health.
Blessings of good health,
~Sara Jo Poff
Holistic Health Practitioner