Do I have Food Sensitivities?

You are feeling sick…again!  It is the second time this week that you’ve developed a migraine and you can’t get rid of that intestinal discomfort. Maybe you haven’t been able to fight off that runny nose or cough for the last month.  Perhaps you’ve battled the aches and pains of arthritis for years now or you can’t seem to determine why your 8-year-old has another patch of psoriasis on his skin.  You’re exhausted and tired of going to doctor after doctor to discover why all of this is happening.  You’ve done skin prick allergy testing, tried medications, used all of the new lotions, and eliminated gluten or dairy to see if it would fix it…but nothing is helping!

Does this feel familiar?  If this is similar to your story, perhaps there is more to it than food allergies or medications.  Why is it that the routine allergy tests did not provide any positive allergy results, yet you notice that you or your child are still “reacting” to certain foods such as wheat or dairy?

There is a difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. Food allergies show an IgE reaction which cause acute (usually severe, short-term) reactions that typically result in swelling, choking, or other terrifying symptoms. Food allergies do not always show the source of the problem. The most common food allergies include tree-nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, and wheat. However, traditional food allergy tests do NOT identify what we call delayed or hidden (Type II, III, or IV) hypersensitivities.  This means that someone can test negative to many foods as allergies. However, he/she might have a food or chemical sensitivity: the body’s immune system has an inappropriate response that might cause a delayed reaction.

In the case of a sensitivity, the body recognizes the food or chemical substance as a foreign intruder and will attempt to fight it off. This fight can damage white blood cells which then produce potentially damaging and reactive materials in the bloodstream. If enough of this damage occurs over time, the body’s weaker organs or systems produce symptoms that are rooted in these delayed hypersensitivities.   The following are some examples of potential delayed hypersensitivities:  migraines, multiple sclerosis, ringing in the ears or earaches due to autoimmune meniere’s syndrome, rhinitis, recurrent cold and flu symptoms, asthma due to hypersensitivity (not primary diagnosis), irritable or inflammatory bowel symptoms, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.

There are many approaches to discovering hypersensitivities. As the Registered Dietitian at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants, I utilize the LRA (Lymphocyte Response Assay) by ELISA/ACT®. The LRA is a procedure that identifies signs of immunologic overload and delayed reactions.  The LRA is a simple blood draw (provided off-site) and the procedure is relatively simple.  It entails a 12-hour fast followed by a one ounce blood draw.  Depending on which panel is chosen, the laboratory measures reactions to as many as 400 items from the following: foods, additives/preservatives, environment chemicals, toxic minerals, molds, danders, hairs, and feathers, medications, therapeutic herbs, and food colorings.

After an initial consultation with a dietitian and a subsequent off-site blood draw, the client meets with the dietitian again to plan how to accurately avoid the substances using an elimination and rotation diet. The strong reactions are avoided for 6 months while the moderate reactions are avoided for 3 months.  After 6 months, a monitored reintroduction of the previously reactive foods can be planned. This type of nutrition planning can be complex and limit social interactions, so it’s not for everyone. However, it is a great tool for people who are weary of looking for an answer to their health conditions  and are ready to make some more complex changes.

For more information on how to pursue LRA testing or to schedule an initial nutrition consultation with a dietitian, please contact us at 713-365-9015 or email heritage@heritagebehavioral.com.