Do you occasionally come out in rashes, sometimes get random headaches, or have bloating, constipation or other tummy problems? You might be suffering from a food allergy or intolerance. To help diagnose and treat those who may be suffering, I’m now offering allergy and intolerance testing in Leeds.
What is an allergy?
Allergies usually occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a stimulus called an allergen.
The body’s immune system has developed over millennia into a complex system of defence that helps us fight the allergens that bring disease and illness, but in some people, parts of the immune system can go a little haywire and attack things that it should really ignore.
This can include things in the air such as pollen (for those who suffer from hay fever), or certain foods such as particular proteins in eggs.
In extreme cases, the immune system can even attack the person in which it resides’ body – these are autoimmune conditions such as Type One Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or IBD – Inflammatory Bowel Disease (which is a different condition to IBS – Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome).
What’s the difference between allergy and intolerance?
Unfortunately, the definitions change a little bit, depending on whether the immune system is involved or not and depending on the speed of the reaction.
The classic ‘allergy’ (irrespective of whether the antigen is from food or elsewhere) is one that brings on an immediate reaction. These are where some of the big guns in the immune system known as IgE antibodies are fired up and produce the immediate histamine response we’re familiar with that can lead to itchy eyes, swollen tongues, runny noses and even anaphylaxis.
Coming into contact with an allergen may also produce another immune response, this time using some of the lesser soldiers of the immune system known as IgG antibodies. The reactions these cause tend to be more subtle: headaches, bloating, muscle aches or a fuzzy mind. Technically, these are also allergies (as they involve the immune system), but as the response is less violent than an IgE reaction, these conditions tend be labelled ‘intolerances’.
Other food sensitivities also occur where the immune system does not play a role in a reaction. These can be down to psychological reactions to food, or reactions to enzyme deficits.
Someone who is lactose intolerant for instance is not producing an immune reaction when they drink milk, rather they are lacking the enzyme that helps the body break down and digest lactose properly.
There are a few other types of allergy – but the above are the main contenders.
Can’t I just buy one of the online tests?
Sure you can, and I’ve also a few magic beans to sell you.
There are a plethora of self-test companies out there offering supposed intolerance testing at relatively low cost (around £60) and claiming to be able to highlight intolerance to hundreds of antigens. Almost all the ones I’ve found use bioresonance hair testing – a debatable technique that has little scientific backing.
Here’s what the NHS has to say about them:
“The use of commercial allergy-testing kits isn’t recommended. These tests are often of a lower standard than those provided by the NHS or accredited private clinics, and are generally considered to be unreliable. Allergy tests should be interpreted by a qualified professional who has detailed knowledge of your symptoms and medical history.” (www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/diagnosis/)
So what do you use?
I use tests by some of the best labs there are:
Biolab – a medical referral laboratory specialising in nutritional and environmental medicine and based in West London.
Lorisian – an intolerance specialist lab based in York.
Cambridge Nutritional Sciences – a provider of diagnostic products for use in hospitals, clinics and labs in more than 100 countries.
Genova Diagnostics – a global specialty clinical laboratory with a UK office in Surrey
What tests can you do?
The definitive test for proving a suspected allergy is a ‘food challenge’ where people eat the suspect food in multiple doses in a hospital environment to determine the results. This can be both impractical, can take time from first contact with a GP to results, and carries some risk to the patient.
By measuring levels of IgE and IgG antibodies in a blood test, an increased likelihood of allergy or intolerance can be predicted and used as a basis for an elimination diet.
Some of the main tests I can offer include:
IgE Food Allergy An IgE allergy screen for 20 common food allergens (crab, cod fish, carrot, apple, potato, tomato, celery, peach, walnut, peanut, hazelnut, almond, soybean, rye, wheat, sesame, casein, milk, egg white, egg yolk)
IgE Inhalant Allergy An IgE allergy screen for some 30 common inhalent allergens (English plantain, ash, Lamb’s quarters, alternaria, ragweed, olive, oak, beech, birch, cypress, London plane, candida, aspergillus, latex, cockroach mix, Kentucky bluegrass, Timothy grass, orchard grass, Bermuda grass, wheat pollen, rye, dog, horse, cat, biomia tropicalis, American house mite, European house mite)
IgG Food Allergy A variety of IgG food intolerance tests ranging from 40 to more than 200 foods. Vegetarian, vegan and herbs and spices versions are also available.
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