My chiropractor offered me food allergy & intolerance testing, is this accurate?
Food allergies and intolerances can be troubling, and it’s natural to want to find answers through testing.
Food allergies involve the immune system, and lead to an allergic reaction — a response from the immune system in which chemicals are released in the body. This may lead to symptoms such as difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat or hoarseness, coughing, vomiting, abdominal pain, a rash or hives, swelling, or a drop in blood pressure.
Food allergy reactions
Food allergy reactions can progressively become more serious, with the risk of the next reaction being life-threatening. Eating a microscopic amount of the food, or sometimes even touching or inhaling it, could lead to anaphylaxis. People with food allergies must therefore avoid the problem food(s) entirely and carry emergency injectable epinephrine (epi-pens).
If you think you have food allergies, a good place to start is the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA). They are clear regarding the fact that:
“Accurate diagnosis of allergies requires an examination of a person’s clinical history, including symptoms that may be caused by allergies, by a qualified medical practitioner, combined with proven, evidence-based and reliable allergy testing to confirm the diagnosis. Test results alone may not always be relevant.”
Unfortunately, there are many unproven, non evidence-based allergy ‘tests’ and ‘treatments’ provided by unorthodox/alternative practitioners. There is currently no stringent government regulation of these methods, which include Vega (electro-diagnostic), bioresonance, cytotoxic, Bryan’s or Alcat tests, hair analysis, VoiceBio, kinesiology, allergy elimination and Immunoglobulin G (IgG) to foods.
In Australia, proven, evidence-based allergy tests are:
- Skin prick tests and blood tests that measure allergen specific antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), which should always be considered alongside the clinical history.
- Food or drug allergen challenges – being given the food or drug thought to have caused the reaction), which should always be medically supervised using published, consistent protocols, to confirm or exclude food or drug allergies.
Food intolerances are more common than true allergic reactions to food, particularly for adults. Unlike food allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system and do not cause severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
Food intolerance can be caused by chemicals that are found naturally in foods or by chemicals that are added to foods. The only accurate way to find the foods responsible for food intolerance is to follow an elimination diet and challenge procedure carefully supervised by an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).
Symptoms of food intolerance
There are many different symptoms of food intolerance, and some do overlap with food allergy responses. These may include hives (or rashes) and/or swellings, headaches and migraine, stomach and/or bowel upsets, sinus and/or breathing problems.
People who have food intolerances react to chemicals which either occur naturally in food or are added to foods during processing. Different people will tolerate different amounts of chemicals and larger amounts cause stronger symptoms. The amount of the chemical which causes symptoms is called the ‘dose threshold’. Some people have a high dose threshold to all food chemicals and may never have symptoms after eating foods. Some people have a low dose threshold to food chemicals and can have unpleasant symptoms after eating foods containing a particular chemical. This type of problem is very similar to the way that some people have side effects to certain medications.
More than one type of chemical may cause symptoms so a person may react to many different types of foods. Some foods contain the same chemicals and a person can react after eating a variety of foods that contain the same chemical. This is because the chemical slowly builds up in the body until the dose threshold is reached. It also explains why the same food does not cause symptoms every time it is eaten.
Food intolerances often run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Sometimes food intolerance only affects a person after a sudden change in diet or after an illness.
Dietitians can help in this area by:
- Helping you identify foods to avoid and meal substitutes which address your food allergies
- Prevention of nutritional deficiencies & ongoing optimal nutrition
- Promotion of optimal growth in infancy and childhood
- Guiding you through a personalised elimination diet and challenge procedure to investigate food chemical intolerance to find the chemicals responsible for symptoms.
- Adapting your favourite recipes to ensure they meet your nutritional and health needs
- Providing you with new recipes which cater to your individual food allergies or intolerances
- Suggesting a range of suitable cookbooks and other resources which suit your needs
- Educating on eating out, safe food preparation and cross-contamination risks