When I was working on the floor of the health food shop I would often get people coming in looking for allergy testing. Now I am the clinic I still get many people asking about what kind of allergy testing that I do.
My answer is that I usually use diet and gut repair work as a foundation of allergy repair and management. My response is usually met with a look of disappointment or even confusion. People seem to have the misconception that if they just find out what the one thing is that they are reacting to, they can simply avoid this substance for the rest of their lives and they will be cured.
The unfortunate thing is that it doesn’t work like that, and here’s why:
First of all the gold standard in allergy testing is an elimination diet. That goes for the most prestigious allergy clinics and hospitals as well as Naturopathic practitioners. The reason why most Doctors or hospitals don’t put people on elimination diets for allergies is simply because they think it’s too hard. Mainstream medicine just doesn’t have the time to support people through the process.
That is why I formulated my 12 week Gut health program. The benefits of an elimination diet is that it removes all likely reactive foods, it is the gold standard in medical care for allergies/intolerance's, it repairs the gut at the same time as finding reactive foods, reintroducing foods one at a time helps you take control of symptoms.
I have researched extensively on gut health and have put together a plan that incorporates the most successful diets for managing digestive symptoms and healing & sealing the gut lining. As well as following and elimination diet my plan includes the GAPS diet (Dr Natasha Campbell McBride), the Low FODMAP diet ( Dr Sue Shepherd) and the Autoimmune Paleo Diet- AIP (Dr. Loren Cordain).
To book in for my Gut Health program or to make an appointment to discuss your health go here
If you are reacting to a food or even an inhaled allergen, then you most probably have a leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability), so you are most likely reacting to a multitude of foods/substances, and taking those substances away won’t solve your underlying problem.
Think of it like this; if you are pouring milk through a cracked bowl, will changing from milk to water solve the problem of the liquid running through the cracks? The water may be less reactive, but if you don’t seal up the cracks in the gut/mucous membrane the immune system will actually begin to react to the most benign substance.
If a person with a leaky gut comes in for a food intolerance test, they are likely to have almost every food that they have been eating come up as reactive. This is because bits of almost all the food that they are eating is passing not fully digested into the bloodstream. The results of these tests can cause a lot of confusion and heartache for people who aren’t fully aware about why they are reacting to everything, and the amount of foods that they assume they will now need to remove from their diet can be just too overwhelming.
Remember for those with hay fever/asthma/eczema and dermatitis, the mucous membrane in the digestive system is very similar to the mucous membrane in the nasal cavity, both are closely related to the skin; all can be reactive and inflamed.
Right about now I probably should say that I do offer allergy/food intolerance testing in clinic. I do think there is a place for it.
But what I don’t understand is why many people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on testing before determining which test will be the right one! It’s vitally important to have an understanding of how an allergy test works in order to determine which test, if any, is the best one for you. That is why I sit down with people for a full hour (sometimes more) before I advise on testing. A small investment upfront and getting the right information is worth it, before you go down the path of spending hundreds on tests!
The number one thing to know is that when we do an allergy/intolerance test of any kind, is that we are observing the immune system’s response to stimuli.
The particular part of the immune system we are looking at are the immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are part of the blood that function as “antibodies”. Antibodies combine chemically with substances which the body recognises as alien, such as bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances in the blood. I like to think of these immunoglobulins like big boofy rugby players that tackle and hold onto a foreign substance until it can be removed by the body. Imagine thousands of these guys piling up in the mucous membrane, skin or gut tissue; that is what inflammation looks like.
There are a few different immunoglobulins that have differing functions, the following are the main ones that we look at in allergies/hay fever/food sensitivities;
Immunoglobulin A (IgA): IgA is found most prevalently in the mucous membranes of the body (mouth, digestive tract, vagina)and is mostly found in secretions such as saliva, tears, colostrum, mucous, sweat and gastric fluid. IgA is the first line of defence against viruses and bacteria. IgA is found abundantly in the first breast milk. It gives the newborn baby antibodies to substances that are exposed to both the mother and child in the first months of life. Increased IgA activity in the gut can be caused by an active viral infection or it could be a sign of an inflamed damaged gut lining. Not enough IgA can be a sign of lowered immunity and points to adrenal exhaustion. Secretary IgA is a really interesting topic, which I'd like to discuss in detail another time.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG): IgG is the most abundant immunoglobulin in the body and is found everywhere, in blood, cerebrospinal fluid and lymph. IgG is what passes between a mother and her unborn foetus and gives the baby the mother's immunity. IgG antibodies produce a delayed response and stay around in the system for a long time and can show past infections or vaccination history. IgG interacts with other parts of the immune system to regulate anaphylactic response.
IgG testing is what a lot of Naturopath's use to find food and inhaled sensitivities. These may be vague, delayed responses, or seemingly unrelated symptoms that don’t seem to correlate to exposure. You may even be having IgG reactions to foods without any apparent symptoms. This kind of low level continued inflammation could play into immune dysregulation down the track (remember that one of IgG's roles is to regulate anaphylactic response) and is a sign that some digestive function needs to be restored. It’s important to remember that before doing an IgG test, you should eat a large variety of foods in the two weeks prior to testing. You may get a false negative if you haven’t had recent exposure to a food.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE): This is the least common antibody and is the reason for the typical anaphylactic allergic responses that happen quickly after exposure to an allergen. IgE are mostly found in the lungs, skin and mucous membranes. A typical IgE response is wheezing, swelling, excessive tears, asthma, rhinitis, eczema, hives and dermatitis. Some parasitic infections (worms) can cause a raised IgG response. IgE is what is measured when you go for a skin prick test. IgE testing (otherwise known as RAST) is the only kind of allergy testing recognised by mainstream medicine in Australia.
The reason that mainstream medicine doesn't recognise IgG and IgA testing as valid forms of testing for allergies is because studies carried out showed that you can have IgG and IgA reactions to foods and other substances without necessarily having typical symptoms of allergy. Unfortunately mainstream medicine is not great at recognising immune sensitivities or low grade chronic inflammation as health risk factors.
You can see how important it is to know what you are looking for before you send out for a test kit.
Why not get in touch with me? I'd be happy to talk you through your options.
Feeling like a spring clean? Why not try my 5 day cleanse.
A quick cleanse is a great for getting rid of bloating, resetting your metabolism and kick-starting the liver into action. I’ve outlined for you some simple, wholesome guidelines to a 5 day cleanse that will get you kick started for summer.
There are two basic rules to any cleansing program and a quick cleanse is no different.
Rule number 1: Reduce the toxic burden
During the cleanse you will want to omit or reduce all inflammatory foods and drinks, this includes: red meat, wheat and other gluten containing foods (Rye, oats, barely), dairy, coffee and alcohol. You may also want to reduce all grains (rice, quinoa and buckwheat). Many people are unable to digest grains well, especially when they aren’t properly prepared (soaked and fermented).
All fried foods are off the table, as are all processed and pre-packaged foods.
You can do this! It’s only for 5 days!
Limit your exposure to all chemicals including those in cleaning products, washing powder, moisturisers, shampoo, conditioner, soap and perfume. There are plenty of alternatives out there to replace the chemical laden stuff, just go in to your local health food shop and ask for natural sage alternatives. Reduce your exposure to plastics, such as food wrap, drink bottles and plastic food containers. Consider your air quality; are you in a high pollution environment? Are you inhaling second hand smoke? What can you do to limit your exposure? Open the windows to your house every day and allow plenty of fresh air in. Nicole Biljasma from Building Biology has some great advice for detoxing the home here
Stress is a big contributor to inflammation in the body and is a major cause of sleep disturbance. What can you do to reduce your stress load? Try breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques and meditation. Exercise is one of the most under-utilised tools for mental health. Get out in the fresh air and go for a walk! Being in nature can make a significant impact on your mental wellbeing, go to your local park and take your shoes off and ground yourself (watch out for dog poo!). If sleep disturbance is an issue try a calming herbal tea 1 hour before bed.
Limit screen time, electrical devices and screens emit toxic pollutants and electromagnetic fields from electronic devices are a known source of endocrine (hormonal) disrupters. They also impact immensely on your sleep quality. Try going back to the dark ages for at least one night during your detox, turn off all the lights and electrical appliances at the wall, use candles for light, go out and gaze at the stars.
Rule number 2: Assist the cleansing process
Starting the day with some freshly squeezed lemon juice in water is a fundamental beginning to any self-respecting detox. Lemon in water is alkalising for the body, improves secretion of digestive juices, is a good source of vitamin C, assists with liver function and assists with appetite control.
Filtered water is a must! Chemicals that are used to kill bacteria in your tap water also kill good bacteria in your gut! Water will assist your kidneys to flush out toxins. Drink plenty of filtered water throughout each day. No plastic bottles!
Drink 2-3 cups of green tea per day, green tea is a powerful antioxidant and will assist with burning off any unwanted fat. Ginger tea is a great digestive and powerful metabolic booster and Chamomile tea is great for those suffering from IBS type symptoms. You may freely drink any herbal tea of your choice.
Eat loads of vegetables, especially greens such as cooked broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, spinach, lettuce and rocket. These greens will assist the liver in hormonal balance, help alkalise your system and heal the gut. Coriander is particularly useful in a detox as it helps the body get rid of heavy metal toxicity.
Think whole foods, unprocessed foods and seasonal foods. Summer is a great time to be eating lots of fresh veg and antioxidant packed berries.
Breakfast: A green smoothie for breakfast is a fantastic way to get some greens in to the beginning of your day. A simple green smoothie recipe can be found on my website http://www.wholistichealthnutrition.com/blog. Or if you are on Instagram, you can find many clean breakfast ideas on my account @wholehealthnut.
Lunch: Lunch should consist of as many vegetables of your choice (limiting starchy veg like potato and concentrating on colourful vegetables), and a palm sized piece of protein (fish, chicken breast or vegetarian option) A good rule is to fill 80% of your plate with vegetables that grow above the ground, 15% with a lean protein, and 5% healthy fat.
Dinner: A light vegetable based soup for dinner is good for adding more water to your daily intake and is easily digestible. Home made chicken broth will assist any digestive symptoms that you may have. You don’t want to be eating a heavy meal at night that will sit in your tummy and disturb your sleep.
Fibre is as equally important for those suffering from constipation as those suffering the diarrhea (or a mixture of both). You will be getting amazing fibre from all of those vegetables that you are eating but you may like to take a supplement. A good fibre supplement that contains slippery elm assists in healing the bowel and removing any matter that is stuck to the bowel wall. Taken as a powder with water, slippery elm will help with reflux and heartburn as well as reducing inflammation (pain) in the bowel. Most people can tolerate slippery elm, however if it makes your bowels too loose, stop taking it.
Eat plenty of probiotic rich foods such as yogurt (non-dairy), kefir and sauerkraut. You can also take a probiotic supplement to enhance your digestive health, find out from your Naturopath which one will be best for you.
Sleep is our time to repair, absorb and reset, go to bed no later than 10pm and be up by 6.30am. Getting exposure to daylight assists to reset our circadian rhythm, so try and expose yourself to the morning light (and by that I don’t mean scaring the neighbours into thinking you’ve joined a nudist colony- just your eyes and clothed body will do!).
Go to your local health food store or ask your Naturopath about a liver cleansing tablet. They will be able to direct you to the most suitable one for your situation and advise you on a dosage. You might want to inquire about a good spirulina or microgreens powder and a quality vitamin C to assist your cleanse. You can continue to take these after the 5 day cleanse to assist your body to detox.
Within a couple of days you will be feeling more vibrant and lighter. You may even want to continue with some of the suggestions to keep you feeling your best.
If you are serious about detoxing why not join up to one of my detox programs. You can find all the information about how to join here
Melanie Turner, Naturopath, mother, gardener, lover of wholesome food