How can I determine if I have food allergies?
There are a number of medical and non-medical approaches to allergy testing, none of which are going to tell you all of the foods that may hinder your health or even all of the foods that you might have a significant reaction to.
Electro Dermal Screening
There is one testing technology that is able to pick up a broader range of suspect foods and for less cost than the medical tests. It will register a positive intolerance response for any type of intolerance that causes stress to the body, regardless of the type of reaction. This technology is more commonly used by naturopathic physicians rather than medical doctors.
A probe is used to direct a response signal into a specific acupuncture point on the hand or foot. The response is then displayed on a corresponding computer.
The equipment needs to be well cared for and updated and populated with organic samples. The technician needs to be highly skilled, committed and concentrated on the well-being of the patient. The most modern versions of this equipment have built-in controls that help to reduce the margin for error.
The test is very different from the medical allergy tests. It identifies different types of intolerances and allergies regardless of immune reaction but it also identifies them by priority - according to the degree of stress with which the body is currently reacting to each food (or other substance.)
There are a variety of DIY home methods of assessing our compatibility with certain foods. Careful observation and recording using a food diary and various methods of food elimination and reintroduction are possible.
Muscle testing, is a sort of ‘body dowsing’ method to estimate the effect that a substance will have on your body. There are specialized organizations that offer workshops to help you develop these skills with the support of an instructor and a group.
Allergy Testing Methods Available
Skin Scratch Test
As mentioned above, this test only assesses IgE antibody levels and these are related to histamine reactions. Since over 80% of food allergy and chemical allergies are non-IgE mediated, this test just offers a piece of the puzzle. A drop of antigen is applied to the skin surface after pricking or scratching it. The results are then observed. A skin reaction indicates a typical allergy.
Radioallergosorbent testing (RAST) is a specialized blood test. It also uncovers IgE antibody allergic responses but inhalant allergies instead of food. The test can produce 20 percent false positive and 20% false negatives and is expensive.
This is a blood test for foods. Live white blood cells are mixed with individual food antigens. A reaction to the combination indicates the presence of a sensitivity. This test is expensive and can show false negatives of food that has not recently been consumed. The skill of the technician reading the slides is crucial.
The pulse test is done for one food at a time, usually after a fast (allergists use anywhere from a four hour to a four day fast). The pulse is counted every twenty minutes for an hour after exposure. If the baseline pulse reading increases or decreases by 20 or more beats per minute after exposure, an intolerance is presumed. It is time consuming and can be confounded by multiple conditions.
The rotary diet (a food is only eaten once every four days), the food diary (every food item consumed is recorded in a diary, along with symptoms) and the two-week elimination test (foods are systematically reintroduced after a two week abstinence) are all examples of elimination diets. These tests are slow and require a strong commitment from a patient. They are not completely objective but perhaps are at least as objective and accurate as any of the more clinical tests. The main advantages of this type of approach are the ability to connect a specific allergen with a specific symptom and the ability to conduct the test at home, at no charge.
Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Testing (ALCAT)
This is a blood test based on the incubation of serum and white blood cells with a food or mold impregnated disc. Evidence of significant changes in cell size and numbers are indicators of sensitivity.
The antigen (for contact allergies) is placed on a patch applied to the skin for 24 to 28 hours and reactions are noted.
Provocative Neutralization Test
A dilution of the antigens tested is administered in drops under the tongue or by injection.
In my opinion, the electro dermal screening and the elimination tests provide the most empowering results and are the most affordable. The four day rotary/elimination diet provides not only a diagnostic tool but an approach to treatment. Once CRC is resolved, most people can tolerate many more foods than they could during their acute illness.
Part III of Food Allergies will explore some additional considerations when analyzing whether food allergies may be a part of your health picture. Stay tuned.
This article has been revised from an archived article by Tarilee Cornish. Tarilee is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in immune and digestive recovery including general detoxification and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth. She is especially passionate about pure healing food choices that have a democratic, ecological and compassionate production and distribution chain.