You come with lists a paragraph long of seemingly-random food sensitivities on a print out from a naturopath’s office. You are overwhelmed with not only eliminating these from your diet, but also trying to heal your gut in the process: Cauliflower, egg whites, potato starch, salmon, pork, rice, corn, nuts, soy, dairy, yeast…
Some things on the list you may have suspected already, as you feel better when you eliminate things like soy, wheat, and nuts from your diet.
The others on the long list are usually something that is just showing up on on the test because your gut is leaky.
How does leaky gut influence lab results?
As Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explains in the GAPS Book, the problem is the leaky gut. If the gut is leaky, undigested particles of food get through the gut walls, and are irritants in the body as they are not supposed to be there. She says it is not uncommon for a GAPS patient to test allergic to just about everything they are eating.
How do allergy/sensitivity tests work?
IgE allergies can be diagnosed via blood or skin-prick tests in a doctor’s office. IgE allergy tests test for antibodies that are made upon exposure to certain foods. IgE allergies are more serious reactions that typically affect the skin (hives), nose, throat, and lungs.
The medical literature encourages followup with a medically-supervised oral administration of the potential allergen due to the unreliable nature of these tests. (source)
Sensitivity test, or IgG tests are done both with the Enzyme-Linked-Immnosorbent Assay (ELISA) and Antigen Leukocyte Antibody Test (ALCAT) both produce many false positives, leading to unnecessary restriction. (source) (source)
Even though false positives are common, it doesn’t mean that you can completely ignore the idea of food allergies- it is recommended that you do an elimination diet of common allergens instead. (see below)
Why I don’t recommend sensitivity tests
When my daughter was showing signs of autism as a toddler, I knew that taking dairy and gluten out of her diet might help. So I did that, and we saw improvement. Later we started the GAPS diet, and she showed even more improvement. However, after about a year on GAPS I felt like she was stalling in her healing, so I took her to a naturopath to see if they had any suggestions.
After expensive diagnostic tests, the naturopath announced that there was no reason for me to have her on such a restricted diet, and she for sure could eat brown rice and other grains, but maybe I should cut back on the meat.
I knew for a fact that any starch, rice, or grain ingestion sent Hannah into the waking up every 2 hours at night/losing eye contact regression. She also was prescribed an antibiotic for yeast (Nystatin) which we tried for a month and didn’t see any change with.
I glared at anyone who looked at me as I wrote a check for more than our monthly grocery bill at the time, and was completely let down. At that time in our lives we really didn’t have money to waste on things like that, and I really wished I had researched the lab tests before allowing them.
This interaction was a costly experience that confirmed that my little homemade elimination diet/symptom-tracking chart was exactly what this child needed.
Why elimination diets are better
Your body will heal itself. If you can go down to the least likely foods to cause a problem, and then slowly add in potential allergens, you will give your body the time and space it needs to repair its own gut lining, and start digesting our food better.
Elimination diets are time consuming- it would be easier to just have a printout of a list of foods to avoid, but that printout just isn’t effective. Missing one thing (such as brown rice!) can keep your gut in an inflammatory state and prevent healing.
For an example of a strict elimination diet, check out the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Introduction Diet.
A less intense elimination diet would strictly eliminate common food allergens, or allergens that your family has a sensitivity to for a week, and then attempting a re-introduction. After reintroduction, see if symptoms exacerbate or come back. Common allergens to try eliminating are: Gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, and shellfish.
Consider placebo-controlled elimination diets
Did you know that stress can trigger an immune response as well?
If you are feeling fear about what you eat, you may be reacting to anxiety and stress instead of the actual food. Placebo effect is very high, even among children, in food allergy diagnostics (source)
A placebo-controlled elimination diet would take an understanding and knowledgable friend or family member, but if you are in a cycle of testing positive for many food allergies, it may be worth the effort.
To do a placebo-controlled elimination diet you need to have an understanding person prepare your food for you. The protocol is the same, but your job is to record their symptoms, and the food preparer’s job is to eliminate, and then reintroduce different potential allergens without telling you when they will be introduced.
I don’t have allergies… I have ____
This is the advantage of allergy and sensitivity tests. Presumably, you are at your doctor’s office because you are experiencing a health problem. Your doctor is showing you, via lab tests, that what you eat is affecting your whole system. This doesn’t always show up as the classic need-an-Epi-Pen covered-in-hives food allergy response, it can also show up as any of the following (and so much more)
- Picky Eating
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Seasonal Allergies
How to heal and seal a leaky gut
For more information about healing leaky gut and either eliminating or significantly reducing food allergies, click here.