Food allergies and intolerances can be difficult to diagnose, and without prior knowledge, many individuals and parents may miss the more subtle signs, writes Laura Paul.
For an increasing number of adults and children, food is becoming dangerous. And in addition to life-threatening allergies, there is a growing awareness of the disruptive nature of food intolerances.
Many food allergies and intolerances begin at birth and are often linked to family history. Infants can experience colic, reflux, sleep disturbances and digestive distress from ingredients in formula or problematic foods that pass into breast milk. If left undiagnosed, symptoms can evolve into chronic eczema, asthma, poor immunity, regular stomach aches and gastrointestinal distress. Moreover, specialists are now recognising that food intolerances can also cause a host of behavioural issues including tantrums, anxiety, irritability, hyperactivity or withdrawal. As an adult fatigue, constant digestive disorders, brain fog, skin conditions and a host of almost 300 symptoms can become part of your daily life.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or your child, there are a variety of testing options available.
TESTING FOR ALLERGIES
Dr Adrian Wu at the Centre for Allergy and Asthma Care has several different methods to test for food allergies. A true food allergy elicits symptoms such as hives, skin rashes, swollen lips, eczema, stuffy noses, constant coughing and possibly anaphylaxis, he says. His first method of testing is the “skin prick” test, where individual needles containing a small amount of allergen are pressed into the skin. An allergy is diagnosed when a measured reaction occurs in combination with a detailed patient history. According to Dr Wu, this test is very accurate when administered by an experienced physician or nurse. False positives may occur if a less experienced practitioner administers a prick too deep into the skin or uses a multi-prick device, which is unreliable. After receiving initial results from the skin prick test, there are additional investigative methods, including the IgE antibody blood test, intradermal tests and the oral “food challenge” (where the child is given small amounts of the potentially allergenic food under medical supervision).
TESTING FOR INTOLERANCES
Opinions are mixed about food intolerances and how accurately they can be measured. Unfortunately, Western medicine has a very narrow band of intolerances that can be tested. For example, there is no test for gluten intolerance. Dr Wu uses two tests for a select number of problematic food items such as lactose. Alternative and natural medicine practitioners disagree with the view of Western medicine here, and believe a broader and more active approach is possible.
Dr Benita Perch at Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI) uses an IgG blood test to assess delayed food intolerance reactions. The PathLab IgG test available through your local GP examines a number of common foods, whilst the more comprehensive test through IMI covers approximately 94 items. Several offices around Hong Kong now carry Food Detective, a finger prick test for about 50 common food items that can be done in the office in about 45 minutes. Dr Perch uses these tests as a guideline, along with patient history, and she has found the tests to be more accurate with individuals above the age of five.
The gold standard test in Dr Perch’s opinion is the “elimination test”. Appropriate for any age, this test takes approximately three weeks and begins by eliminating 8-15 of the biggest food allergens from one’s diet. Foods are then reintroduced every third day to watch for immediate or delayed reactions.
An additional non-invasive method – Bioresonance – may be an option. Although peer-reviewed scientific research is not available, anecdotal evidence may suggest its efficacy. According to Peter Brodendal and Pelle Andersson, owners of Waveworks, Bioresonance is a form of energy medicine that’s been used in Europe and Australia for the past 30 years to diagnose food, environmental and pathogen related illnesses. Using a special machine, a person’s frequency patterns are compared to various foods to diagnose imbalances.
Although treatment involves lifestyle adjustments, there are now numbers product options for families to cater to different allergies and intolerances. Whether you have allergies in your family, both Western and alternative/natural medicine practitioners agree about the benefits of consuming a wholefoods diet and eliminating processed and artificial foods.
For more information on food allergies, see Healthy Living Asia’s related content
This article was adapted and updated from it’s first publication in Playtimes Magazine in September 2013.