Testing for Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
In a previous article, I provided a description of the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. In this article I will discuss testing options for both. In brief, a food allergy is a sudden onset of symptoms following the consumption of an intolerable food substance. The reaction can sometimes be life threatening. A food sensitivity is a reaction to a food substance, is usually not immediately life threatening in nature, and is not seen until hours or even days after eating the intolerable food.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the differences between food allergies and food sensitivities, how do you determine whether your child has an allergy or sensitivity? There are blood tests that can be done to detect both. When a parent goes to their mainstream medical doctor and expresses a concern about a possible food allergy, the doctor will often run a food allergy test only. This is because many people still do not have a good understanding of the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity. The following explains the difference between two types of tests that can be used to determine food allergy or food sensitivity.
- Food Allergy Testing: An IgE test is used to determine whether a person has food allergies. It tests for food allergies only, not food sensitivities. What I commonly see in my practice is that parents tell me their child has been tested for food sensitivity, and nothing showed up; when in reality the child has only had a food allergy test run. An IgE test does not test for food sensitivities that are often present without a food allergy. Having the allergy testing done is not bad, but it just doesn’t give us the whole picture. This is where food sensitivity testing becomes useful.
- Food Sensitivity Testing: An IgG test is used for food sensitivities. This blood panel can tell you which items your child is sensitive to, and the level of sensitivity. Another way to test for food sensitivities is by using an elimination diet. With an elimination diet, the child does not eat a particular food for a period of 3 -4 days; and then they are given a small amount of that food, and watched for the next several hours and into the next day to see if there is any type of reaction (bowel issues, behavior, rash, irritation, etc.). A food elimination diet can be very effective, but can take a longer period of time. It can also be a bit tricky to determine exactly what the child has reacted to, especially if the child has several sensitivities. Some parents opt to do the IgG blood panel for speed and convenience.
The bottom line is that if you have had food allergy testing done, and your child does not show allergies, but you feel food is causing distress, you need to go further and check for sensitivities. Whether you decide to do the IgG test or begin eliminating foods from your child’s diet is up to you; but taking away the foods to which your child is sensitive will make a huge difference in how your child feels.