Food intolerances, food sensitivities, and food allergies are three distinct types of reactions that can occur after consuming certain foods. Food allergies are the most severe type of reaction, occurring when the immune system mistakenly identifies a food as harmful and produces an immediate response, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms can range from difficulty breathing and swelling to anaphylaxis. Food intolerances, on the other hand, involve difficulty digesting certain foods, which can lead to symptoms such as loose stools, excessive gas and bloating.. Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance are examples of common food intolerances. Food sensitivities are a type of delayed reaction that can cause symptoms such as headaches, skin rash, or joint pain, and are not always well understood. Identifying the specific food that triggers a reaction is essential to managing food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies, and avoiding potential complications.
Food Allergy Test
When the immune system mistakes a food ingredient as foreign, it can trigger an immune response known as a food allergy. This immune-mediated reaction produces antibodies, specifically IgE antibodies, which can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to potentially life-threatening. These symptoms may include abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, hives, tingling in the mouth, swelling of the lips, and diarrhea. In some cases, a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can occur, causing breathing difficulties and dangerously low blood pressure, which can be life-threatening. Genetic factors can play a role in the development of food allergies, affecting a small percentage of the population (1 to 2%) and necessitating lifelong avoidance of the offending food.
Food allergies are commonly detected by measuring the presence of antibodies in the blood, using a blood test. However, testing for delayed non-IgE-mediated food allergies can be more challenging, as these types of allergies are not always detected through currently available tests. As a result, diagnosis of these types of allergies often relies on thorough patient history, elimination diets, and in some cases, food challenge tests under medical supervision.
Food Sensitivity Testing
It’s important to note that most reactions to problematic foods are typically caused by a food sensitivity rather than a true food allergy. From an immune perspective, different antibodies (such as IgG, IgA, and IgM) are produced, and while there is still an element of an immune response, symptoms tend to appear more slowly than in a true allergy. The challenge with food sensitivities is that symptoms can take up to 48 hours to appear after eating an offending food, making it difficult to identify the specific culprit. Although food sensitivity testing is available and typically measured through antibodies in a blood test, there is no gold standard to confirm its reliability.
In such cases, an elimination diet of common offending foods can be a useful approach and we see a lot more success doing this with our patients in the clinic. The added benefit here is that its free.
Food Intolerance Test
Food intolerance is different from food sensitivity in that it does not involve an immune response and does not result in the production of antibodies. Instead, food intolerance typically leads to digestive issues, such as gas, bloating, heartburn, or vomiting. There is a threshold that each individual’s body can tolerate, and once exceeded, symptoms begin to appear. The most common intolerances are to gluten and dairy, with thresholds varying between individuals. Enzymes, such as lactase, can be taken to aid digestion of the offending food.
If you are experiencing food allergies or sensitivities, the Dublin Centre for Functional Medicine offers expert practitioners who can provide food intolerance and allergy testing, as well as personalized treatment options and looking at what caused the food intolerances in the first place such as Candida or SIBO.
How Are The Tests Performed
The tests are sent to your home and are done through a pin prick and don’t need a phlebotomists