Intolerance or sensitivity is a hot topic in the food world these days. Food packaging is clearly in on the trend as it is common to see food labeled “gluten free,” “lactose free,” or “contains wheat.” What has brought about this trend? Why are so many people unable to eat certain types of food? It is possible that testing for these allegies and intolerances is flawed, and it is leading to overdiagnosis.
There are many types of food testing available today. Some are very unorthodox and come to conclusions that seem very hard to swallow, like eating green peppers may cause bloating and lethargy, lemons trigger headaches, or chicken may act like poison in your body.
Other non-traditional practitioners may diagnose food sensitivities by analyzing hair, assessing muscle strength, or by performing a test that assesses the body’s “energy pathways.” From these tests, patients are told what foods may be causing their troubling symptoms. Sometimes these tests are concluding that serious issues like irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease, and arthritis are being caused by particular foods.
These are tall claims and allergists and gastroenterologists are questioning these methods. Most allergists and gastroenterologists agree that food intolerances do occur from time to time, but they also agree that the tests being marketed have no scientific basis. The tests are prone to false positives and lead people to eliminate foods from their diets unnecessarily.
The professionals agree that the best way to test for a food sensitivity is to eliminate certain foods until the symptoms resolve and then reintroduce them to the body one at a time. This is the only type of testing supported by the U.S. or European allergy or immunology societies or the National Institutes of Health.
Allergists and gastroenterologists also clarify what a food allergy is versus a food intolerance. The trend is to interchange the two words or simply mis-use them altogether. If one is having an allergic reaction, their immune system overreacts by producing an antibody that can cause hives, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory problems, along with other symptoms. A food intolerance can be an unpleasant reaction in the body, however the immune system is not affected. Intolerances are less common and more difficult to diagnose. In both cases, eliminating the foods and using reintroduction, under medical care for an allergy, is the most effective test, even over blood testing.
Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas, MD in Wichita, KS feels it is very necessary to make certain any determinations are found in proven science.
“Food allergies are legitimate and can be the source of many symptoms, however, they should be evaluated in a standardized fashion that is based in solid, proven medicine. Too many alternative tests are simply snake oil intended to defraud the consumer.”
Umbehr furthered his thoughts by sharing the dangers he’s personally seen from patients turning to nontraditional medicine.
“As a physician, I see patients who are looking for “natural” answers to their health concerns who are at risk for manipulation from unproven and undocumented treatments.”
It seems fair to claim that food sensitivities are a fad right now. It also seems fair to conclude that many people are not being tested properly and may simply be wasting their time with their specialized diets. Like always, when dealing with your health, do the research.
April 23rd, 2012