Just before I started on SCD I did a blood test for food allergies – the ELISA food allergy test. I fully expected to get the results back showing a reaction to gluten, red meat, and certain fruits and vegetables I knew had trouble with. In fact, none of those showed up at all. I was ‘allergic’ to bananas and eggs (especially whites), two foods I was eating the most of and feeling good with. This didn’t sound right to me so I started investigating how the test works.
Food allergy tests (IgG – not anaphylactic-shock reaction testing for IgE) are looking for antibodies to certain food particles. This is how the Celiac blood test works too, it looks for antibodies to gluten. If you haven’t eaten gluten, you will always test negative (one reason why a lot of these tests return a false negative, as some people have already gone gluten-free by the time they test). So if you haven’t eaten a particular food, you won’t test as being ‘allergic’ to it.
If you have leaky gut syndrome, where the intestinal wall becomes permeable allowing food particles to cross over and end up in the blood, you will almost certainly test positive for a number of ‘allergic’ responses. This is because food particles aren’t supposed to be showing up in the blood. A working digestive system will break down food particles so that basic amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins etc will be absorbed, not larger molecules of food. If larger molecules get through, your body will treat them as foreign and mount an immune system response.
If you have Celiac disease, the damage done to the intestines leaves you with intestinal permiability. This means you need to be aware that other foods are probably causing you problems and will continue to do so until you heal the intestinal tract. I would argue that most people with gastrointestinal symptoms have some degree of leaky gut syndrome. A food allergy test in my opinion is useless except to tell you that you do in fact have leaky gut. It would probably tell you that you’re allergic to everything you’re eating.
Most Naturopaths will tell you to avoid all foods you test high or moderate for, seeing the test as a final result. Do this and take the blood test again in a few months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if your results are different, showing a higher reaction to the new foods you are eating. My naturopath reacted a little differently. She didn’t tell me to cut anything out, but did introduce me to the concept of rotation diet. Foods that I was reacting to at a high level I would not eat every single day, but once every few days. That made sense to me and helped me get a bit more variety in my diet. Especially with meats which at the time I was just eating beef, chicken and pork. I started eating lamb, duck, turkey and various game meats. I also started trying to get seafood once a week. I had a hard time with vegetables and was scared of raw fruit at the time, so I didn’t manage to get much variety there but I did rotate through the ones I was eating.
Here’s the thing though, rotating these foods, having a bigger variety to choose from, avoiding some (eggs) didn’t result in any noticeable difference. Pretty soon I just went back to my usual way of eating, which happened to be eating a lot of the same things for a few weeks until I tried some new recipes and changed it up a bit. Slowly over time my digestive tract healed without me removing individual foods that had shown up on allergy tests.
For me what worked was focusing on three things.
- Remove major offenders: these foods are the ones that cause noticeable symptoms, like gluten and most grains for me
- Add in as much nutritious healing food as you can: foods containing lots of nutrients, especially if you’re like me and have a hard time eating enough, including shellfish, organ meats, vegetable juices, egg yolks, raw dairy, fruit)
- Fine-tune: change it up if it’s not working and take note of how you feel after eating each meal. Change the time of day you eat that type of meal (for example at one point I felt better eating high fat & meat for breakfast, but now I feel better eating lots of fruit for breakfast, meat later in the day). Take notice of how cooked vs raw food affects you, again taking note of the time of day.
I felt after doing the blood test that it was a waste of money. I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone do it if money is tight. At least it led me to understanding how this all works a bit more, but I still thinking listening to your body is a much better indicator of what to eat.