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Lab Lesson: 24 Food Allergy Test

Written by Cindi Lockhart, RD, LD - Weight Loss Coaching Program Manager

The 24 Food Allergy blood test determines the body’s delayed immune response to 24 of the most common food allergens: chicken, pork, egg, haddock, lamb, shrimp, soybean, cow’s milk, blue cheese, corn, tomato, green bean, onions, white potato, wheat, rye, oat, peanut, chocolate, sugar, coffee, chili pepper, bakers & brewers yeast.  It measures the IgG antibody production in response to consumption of the above foods.  Food sensitivities alone can be reason for certain health conditions as well as an inability to lose weight.

What is it’s function on health?

Food sensitivities are much different than food allergies.  Food allergies are easier to detect due to their immediate reactions such as hives, rashes, or difficulty breathing.  These account for only 5-10% of all food reactions.  Food sensitivities, on the other hand, account for the majority of food reactions with 90-95% prevalence.  They are more difficult to identify as symptoms are more subtle and delayed, as much as 48-72 hours AFTER consuming the food culprit.  One may feel a drop in energy, joint pain, change in mood/temper, digestive complaints, or even their weight increase on the scale without a significant change in food intake.  These reactions are inflammatory in nature and stimulate the immune system to attack a certain food or foods that it sees as being “foreign” to the body. This is oftentimes a result of an imbalanced digestive system.  An inflamed intestinal tract, also known as “leaky gut”, is when the intestinal barrier cells become permeable and allow undigested proteins from food & toxins into the bloodstream.  This can impact long-term health if we continue to eat these offending foods on a regular basis.  Some health conditions related to food sensitivities include mood disturbances (depression, ADD/ADHD, anxiety), unexplained joint pain, thyroid or adrenal dysfunction, insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune conditions, allergies, asthma, or weight gain. [i] [ii]  Food sensitivities have also been shown to cause food cravings and disrupted eating patterns.  If the body doesn’t process a food properly and most of it’s nutrients get malabsorbed while the undigested portion enters the blood and gets attacked, one will crave what the body isn’t getting nutritionally.  An unhealthy digestive system also affects brain function by sending signals that disrupt neurochemical production and can lead to poor memory, mood, and focus.

Optimal Lab Values:

The optimal lab value would be a 0 Category response to the food, which means there is no immune-stimulating response to that food.  There is a potential of 5 categories with 0 meaning no response, 1 meaning a mild response, 2-3 meaning a moderate response, and 4-5 meaning a severe response.           

Impact of being outside the “optimal” range:

Anytime one falls outside of the 0 Category response, they test positive to having a sensitivity to that particular food. It now becomes a question as to how severe of a response it is.  If one falls within Categories 1-5, their risk for the above symptoms and health conditions increase.

For those measuring in Categories 1-5:

When foods test positive and fall in Categories 1-5, it is best to eliminate them from the diet.  This  allows the body time to repair by restoring the immune system and decreasing any inflammation. 

Category 1 foods: Mild sensitivity - ok to eat but in limited quantity.  Best to rotate consumption every 4 days (i.e. if eat the food on Monday, do not eat again until at least Friday). 

Category 2-3 foods: Moderate sensitivity - best to eliminate completely for at least 3 months.  At that point in time, one of the foods can be incorporated back into the diet (start with the Category 2 foods).  Make sure to monitor tolerance.  Eat a normal portion of the food a few times in the day and check for symptoms over the next 2-3 days.  If symptoms occur rapidly and/or significantly, avoid the food again for 6 months before trying it again.

Category 4-5 foods: Severe sensitivity - best to eliminate completely for at least 6 months before adding one food back in at a time (start with the Category 4 foods).  Follow the same protocol above.

How diet affects levels:

The goal of the diet is to help optimize immunity, digestive health, and decrease any inflammation.  The following tips are recommended:

  • Avoid  highly processed foods that contain preservatives, chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.  Select organic foods whenever possible.
  • Limit intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates as they can destroy the healthy flora balance in the intestinal tract, leading to more inflammation and leakiness. 
  • Limit intake of dietary lectins, a type of protein found in cow dairy and gluten, that have been found to disrupt the intestinal environment by promoting the growth of yeast. [iii]
  • Increase intake of vibrant, varied color vegetables and fruits (3:1 ratio of vegetables : fruit should be sought to limit sugar intake) for their immune-promoting antioxidant properties.
  • Eliminate fermented foods, mushrooms, and yeast until food sensitivities are resolved.
  • Increase healthy anti-inflammatory Omega 3 sources in the diet: cold water wild fish, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, and ground flaxseed.
  • Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol as both are irritants to the digestive tract.  Green tea is a wonderful alternative with it’s health-promoting antioxidant properties.

How lifestyle affects levels

Stress alone (both physical and emotional) can negatively impact the digestive system from functioning optimally and therefore lend to food sensitivities.  It is understood that stressors can not always be easily eliminated.  Therefore, focus should be spent more on managing stress through meditation, yoga, journaling, or quiet time.  It is also important to aim for at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night to allow for optimal repair, recovery, and immune support.  To limit exposure to environmental toxins, which also disrupt the digestive system, work on transitioning from conventional cleaning supplies, toiletries, and cosmetics to organic, all natural varieties. 

Supplements to support optimal values:

  • MultiProbiotic 4000 provides the healthy bacterial flora needed to optimize the intestinal flora balance.  Aim for 1-2 capsules three times a day with meals.
  • Vegetarian Enzymes can assist in the proper digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat for better absorption and utilization in the intestinal tract. Take 1 tablet ~30 min prior to main meals.
  • L-glutamine is a perfect fuel for the gut.  It helps heal any damage to the intestinal wall barrier related to inflammation or food sensitivities.  Encourage 2 scoops 2-3 times a day – mixes great in water.
  • Cat’s Claw supports immune and digestive health while decreasing inflammation.  Not for those with type 1 diabetes or autoimmune conditions.  Take 1 capsule twice daily between meals for 1 month.
  • Aller DMG has antioxidant nutrients and DMG (dimethylglycine) to support the immune system.  Take 1 tablet 2-3 times a day for a month.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

[i] Burcelin R, Luche E, Serino M, Amar J. The gut microbiota ecology: a new opportunity for the treatment of metabolic diseases? Front Biosci. 2009 Jun 1;14:5107-17. Review.

[ii] Ghoshal UC, Ghoshal U. Gut flora in health and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. Trop Gastroenterol. 2007;28(2):43-4.

[iii] Lacour M, Zunder T, Huber R, et al. The pathogenetic signifificance of intestinal Candida colonization—a systematic review from an interdisciplinary and environmental medical point of view. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2002;205(4):257-68.

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