With an increase in awareness of food intolerances, particularly gluten and dairy, many people are now curious about food allergies. They wonder if they have food allergies, and if they too should be avoiding certain foods to improve their health. This can be a confusing topic, so let's look a little deeper into the difference between allergic food reaction and food sensitivity or intolerance and whether you might benefit from food sensitivity testing.
Before we continue, it is helpful to have a mini biology lesson and learn a little about our IgA, IgE, and IgG immune responses. IgA, IgE and IgE refer to immunoglobulins, or “antibodies.” These antibodies are part of our immune system, and are made in response to things we come in contact with on a daily basis. Our bodies make antibodies to foreign substances like bacteria and viral cells, but can also respond to foods, dust, animal dander, and pollen. Antibodies help the body prepare an immune system response (“fight”) against what is sees as foreign trespassers in the body.
IgA and IgG reactions are known as delayed response reactions, that include food intolerances or sensitives.
IgE responses are immediate and are considered a true food allergy.
IgA and IgG reactions may not be evident straight away, but can take hours to days to show up in your skin or intestines, and cause a wide range of symptoms which you might not even attribute to what you eat.
These symptoms can be related to inflammation like headaches, fatigue, brain fog, or joint pain. People with food intolerance may experience digestive upset like nausea, constipation, or diarrhoea, or skin rashes including conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
IgE immediate hypersensitivity reactions are characterised by the hives, and throat swelling that accompany anaphylactic reactions some people experience when exposed to certain foods. Other symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, a runny nose, vomiting, swelling of the lips or tongue, tearing or redness of the eyes, or even a weak pulse and loss of consciousness. Common foods that trigger IgE reactions are peanuts, shellfish, egg, dairy products, soy, tree nuts, wheat and fish.
IgA immunoglobulins are present in our mucus membranes and helps us fight bacteria and viruses. IgA increases in response to foods when the foods we eat cause inflammation, and in response to stress, disease, or alcohol.
An IgG reaction to food proteins suggests tolerance related to immune cell reaction. Repeated exposure, inflammation, and immune reactivity contribute to sensitivity and high IgG in response to food proteins.
Testing for Food Allergy and Sensitivities
IgE allergic reactions are tested with skin prick or patch testing as well as blood testing to know what foods and other allergens must be avoided and when an Epi-pen is an appropriate prescription.
While you can test IgG and IgA for rood reaction, this is not diagnostic of hypersensitivity or allergy. These tests may indicate a sensitivity and intolerance, as well as inflammation. While blood testing is available for food sensitivity reactions, these tests are controversial as the results are commonly not reproducible and are not as reliable as elimination diets for uncovering food sensitivity.
What About Coeliac Disease?
IgA and IgG testing can test for whether you might be gluten sensitive or intolerant. If you are not diagnosed with coeliac disease, you may be gluten sensitive (not gluten intolerant). Those who have a true allergy to gluten have coeliac disease, which is caused by an autoimmune response to proteins found in wheat and some other grains, and harms the cells of your small intestine. Testing for celiac disease is done with a blood sample looking for more specific immune reaction to gluten and gliadin and confirmed with a biopsy of the small intestine.
Why would you consider testing for IgA and IgG food sensitivities if the tests are not 100% reliable?
• You like to see lab data with recommendations on how to improve.
• Someone you know did the testing and it helped them to feel better.
• An elimination diet may not work for you for one of these reasons:
o They are time consuming and can take months to go through the process of eliminating and then challenging foods.
o You have a picky/growing kid who already avoids some foods. You don’t want to restrict kilojoules or food groups entirely, or risk food aversion, or tension that can go along with an elimination diet.
o You are busy, enjoy eating out, or don’t have time to cook, and have limited time for the shopping and meal planning that is required to follow a restricted elimination diet.
If food intolerance or sensitivity testing seems like it might be a good fit for you, or if you prefer to try an elimination challenge diet to address your symptoms, then book in for an initial consultation with me to get started and work out the best solution for you.
There is some debate in both the healthcare sector and community at large as to whether we really need supplements. Some argue that we get all the nutrients we need from food, where as others point out that maybe our food doesn't have the level of nutrients that it once had. In addition, there is some confusion around the difference between RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) - which is essentially the amount required so we are not deficient in that particular nutrient; and a therapeutic dose (where larger doses of a nutrient are used to treat a specific condition).
In Australia, an overwhelming majority of the Australian public are consumers of vitamins and supplements, an industry which is estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion.
In clinic, I often have clients come in with shopping bags of supplements that they are taking. These supplements are of varying quality, sometimes out of date, and have been prescribed by various practitioners or self-prescribed.
I couldn’t possibly tell you without seeing you in person whether you need to take supplements, or which supplements you should take.
I would need to look at your diet, lifestyle, current stage of health and possibly run appropriate blood tests to answer this question. Naturopathy is about tailored health care which looks at the needs of the individual.
What I can advise is to first look at the building blocks of good health – this is good nutrition, a healthier lifestyle, exercise, fresh air, sunshine and lots of water.
That being said, sometimes supplementation is required in addition to cleaning up your diet and lifestyle. Modern farming methods, genetically modified strains and food processing can impact on the levels of vitamins and minerals present in our foods.
Sure, some popular food brands may advertise that they have added nutrients, but really these are there to make up for the nutrients lost in processing, or are so full of sugar that they are best avoided anyway, regardless of the added vitamins and minerals.
The thing with supplements is…the supplement must be right for you. For example, we all know that magnesium is a vital nutrient for health. However, magnesium comes in many forms – some which are better absorbed than others. And depending on your specific health requirements, sometimes you are better taking magnesium with certain co-nutrients to enhance its action in that particular system of the body.
The other important factor is that when it comes to supplementation, you get what you pay for.
Cheap supplements are not as potent, have less nutrients and are often bulked up with fillers that provide nothing in the way of health. Or they may not be created in a form which is used efficiently by the body.
I generally advise people to avoid supermarket and bargain supplements. Frankly, I find that they don't work nearly as well as a quality or practitioner-prescribed supplement.
Choose supplements either with advice from a Naturopath or qualified healthcare practitioner, or from a trusted health food shop or pharmacy with Naturopaths in store.
Be wary of what is advertised in the media, and definitely avoid Multi Level Marketing products where you buy supplements and diet products from well-meaning friends who don’t have any proper training or qualifications in healthcare.
Certainly never buy your supplements from the ‘specials’ bin outside the pharmacy. Fish oil is a fantastic and beneficial supplement when it is fresh and of superior quality, but it can actually go rancid sitting in the sun outside the local chemist.
My personal preference for everyday health is for naturally-derived vitamins and minerals, as I believe they are better absorbed by the body. A "greens" powder is a good example of this. However when looking for a specific action or therapeutic benefit, then sometimes a more formulated preparation is required.
So, when it comes to supplements:
1. Get professional advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner who actually has formal and clinical training in nutrition, herbs and vitamins/minerals – such as a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist or Herbalist.
2. Buy the best quality supplements you can afford.
PS – If you would like a consultation with a Naturopath who cares about your health and wellbeing, and not about selling you supplements, then get in touch! I'd love to hear from you.
Book a consultation or free no-obligation discovery call here.
1. Change the lighting
Light actually hurts during a migraine. It’s known as photophobia. You can help by turning off bright (especially fluorescent) lights and closing the curtains. If a little light is needed, then soft or low lamps are better than ceiling lights.
2. Be mindful of perfumes and strong-smelling foods.
Strong smells can nauseate a migraine sufferer, who are thought to also has a heightened sense of smell. Which smells and odours cause problems can differ for individuals – check which ones affect the migraine sufferer in your life.
3. Keep it quiet.
The migraine sufferer is very sensitive to noise. Just like it is believed they have a super sense of smell, they also can seem to hear sounds that others can’t. What sounds quiet (or even normal level) for you can be deafening to someone who has a migraine. Speak softly and gently, and avoid any unnecessary sounds such as television, music and loud conversations.
4. Send a text. Don’t phone.
Talking can be difficult for a migraine sufferer on many levels. Firstly, their speech can be affected or they have trouble finding the right words or following a conversation. And secondly, the sound of talking can hurt. Also understand that it might be a few days before they feel up to returning your call.
5. Understand when they cancel social or work commitments.
As a migraine sufferer myself, I’ve had to cancel so many plans which results in feelings of guilt. Plan another event or outing with them in the future to show that you understand and are still there for them, no matter what. Check in on what is fun for your migraine sufferer.
6. Ask how you can help.
Offers to babysit, cover a work project, pick up a prescription or supplement, tidy up or help around the house, drive to appointments or pass on messages on a migraine sufferer’s behalf will be gratefully received.
7. Be supportive of their self-care.
Whether it is a change to diet or a need for quiet time, help them by not tempting them with foods or alcohol they are trying to avoid or crowding in on their downtime.
8. Understand that migraine is not just a bad headache.
Migraine is a whole collection of often debilitating symptoms which makes it difficult to function and think straight. Migraines can strike anytime, and some people get them weekly (or even daily).
Take the time to understand their symptoms, triggers and early warning signs that a migraine is on the way.
Treating and preventing migraine naturally is a special interest of mine. Book in a call or consultation if you would be interested in a naturopathic consultation to help you, or someone you know with migraine.
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist