Have you ever suspected your symptoms are the result of a hidden food sensitivity? Maybe you suffer from IBS, bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain, migraines, fatigue, eczema, acne, or joint pain? It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a food sensitivity, because we are constantly consuming a variety of foods or foods with a variety of ingredients. Here are three ways to get to the root cause of your symptoms:
1. Comprehensive elimination diet
If you think the name of this diet sounds like a whole lot of no fun, you’re absolutely right! You’re eliminating a lot of foods… and they’re the good ones. Gone are the days of pizza, ice cream, and beer…but only for a limited time (maybe). The elimination diet works by eliminating the most common food sensitivities for up to 3 months. This diet needs to be adhered to strictly, as cheating consistently won’t provide the information you’re looking for. Once you’ve eliminated the most common foods for up to 3 months, you then go through the process of reintroduction. Each food is systematically reintroduced into the diet, and a return of symptoms is observed and recorded. For example, on day one a food that was previously eliminated (let’s go with apple) is consumed a few times throughout the day. You then watch and record whether the apple brought about an acute reaction. This reaction could vary depending on the person, but may include and is not limited to indigestion, loose stools, abdominal pain, fatigue, or a headache. Because you have controlled for all of the other foods in your diet, a reaction such as this suggests it could be caused by the food consumed. After day one of reintroduction, you now wait for a potential delayed response. This means you wait 2-3 days after the apple was reintroduced to see if delayed symptoms pop up (for example: joint paint, eczema, fatigue, headache, constipation etc.). If an acute or delayed reaction is observed, that food is left out of the diet. If the food causes neither an acute or delayed reaction, it is kept in the diet, and the next food is tested.
Examples of eliminated foods:
Apples, citrus, dairy, eggs, wheat, corn, pork, shellfish, soy, nuts, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, alcohol, coffee, white sugar, honey, maple syrup, ketchup, teriyaki sauce.
Examples of compliant foods:
Berries, brown rice, oats, organic turkey/chicken, fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, olive oil, coconut oil, green tea, dates, all spices.
2. IgG serum testing
IgG FST (food sensitivity testing) is a great option for people who are not interested in the fuss of the elimination diet, but are willing to spend the money to test (~$265-$420). The IgG test is a serum blood test testing the immune response to the 120 most common food sensitives (or 200 if you opt for the most comprehensive panel). This is a great test for honing in on what your most reactive foods are based on the immune response. In an IgG reaction, the IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food antigen and create an antibody-antigen complex. These complexes are normally removed by special immune cells called macrophages. However, if these complexes are present in large numbers and the reactive food is still being consumed, the macrophages can’t keep up with the demand, and food antigen-antibody complexes begin to accumulate. These complexes are deposited in body tissues and release inflammation causing chemicals, which may play a role in numerous conditions.
Each food tested is reported as “elevated”, “borderline”, or “normal” by the lab. Similar to the elimination diet, you will eliminate the most elevated foods for up to 3 months, then reintroduce them one at a time. The borderline foods can be consumed a couple times a week, and the normal foods can be eaten regularly. Based on your results, this may mean your eliminating 2 foods or 28 foods.
3. Modified elimination diet
A modified elimination diet can be done when there is a suspected food sensitivity, but the patient isn’t willing to restrict everything on the comprehensive elimination diet. In this case, the most commonly reactive foods are eliminated, as well as any suspected individual sensitivities (I.e. gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, citrus, nuts, corn, nightshades). Foods are then reintroduced as discussed earlier.
If you suspect a food sensitivity, talk to your naturopathic doctor. Other conditions can present with similar symptoms, so it is important to rule out these first. In cases where inflammation and damage caused by food sensitivities are significant, additional naturopathic protocols may provide great benefit.
Dr. Michelle Hislop ND
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