Food Allergy, Intolerance, Sensitivity Testing Impacts Disordered Eating
I am frustrated by the lack of clear information on food allergy, intolerances, and sensitivity testing on the Internet, so I am writing this post to show what I have seen as someone who works with those who may have had these tests in their past.
First off, we all know someone who believes they are allergic to certain foods. Technically, allergies are serious, so we don’t take any chances with them. In practice, I try to work around people’s real or perceived food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities.
When I think of a food allergy, I think of anaphylactic shock and hives. When I think of food intolerance, I think of getting diarrhea due to something like lactose intolerance, where the food, when taken in large enough quantities, draws water into the gut from blood circulation and washes you out because you can’t create enough lactase.
I don’t know what to think about food sensitivities because they weren’t on the RD exam and were mentioned as not one of the two types of reactions you could have and even included as a wrong answer in that multiple choice question on the exam.
Common food allergy testing includes tests and protocols like ALCAT and LEAP, among many others. A pharmacist, Scott Gavura, did an EXCELLENT blog post about food sensitivity testing for the website sciencebasedmedicine.org and did a lot of work on finding real evidence in the literature to support it. The short conclusion? There isn’t. Check out his post for more detailed info.
Because I won’t attempt to do a better blog post than he did on this subject, I will say, in short, that I support that work he did. The rest of this post will be what I actually see in clients who have had these sorts of tests as well as my own experience having had allergy testing early in life myself. It impacts their lives both positively and very negatively.
I had the full 42 pricks in the back and 21 shots in the arm allergy testing done twice in my life, once when I was 11 or 12 and once when I was 22. The first time, I supposedly was allergic to eastern and western weeds, molds, dust mites, and tomatoes. Yet, I wasn’t going to get away from dust, molds, and tomatoes in my life. Hell was I going to miss dad’s pizza on Sundays or not eat spaghetti. I kept eating it and it had no real effect on me.
Growing up I always had a lot of inflammation in my nose such that I felt like I was congested but actually wasn’t. Looking back, a lot of that actually just was undiagnosed generalized anxiety disorder, something I’ve struggled with my whole life for reasons that aren’t related to allergies or nutrition at all.
Having worked with an excellent pscyhotherapist on that, I don’t experience those symptoms anymore and can check in with myself when I get anxious. With this life experience, I’m keen on seeing if it happens in others!
In others, I have heard sensationalized testimonials about how after having their food sensitivity test that they experienced dramatic weight loss and found God. I won’t even dive into that subject because it is a case by case basis as to how eliminating certain foods can help people.
You would really have to see what that person was actually doing through detailed dietary recalls to see if their testimonial has merit from a nutrition standpoint. Perhaps they also found love in the the meantime, which released anti-inflammatory cytokines throughout their body. It could be a number of things.
Some clients have had these tests negatively impact their lives, and some of them aren’t even aware of it. One client I worked with was told she was allergic to chicken among many other foods by the alternative medicine practitioner. Her parents tried to keep her in line with her food restrictions throughout life (out of love, which is understandable) enough that she felt left out of social activities involving food.
Imagine going to a birthday party and not being allowed to have what everyone else is having. Fast forward 10 years when she is allowed to have these foods now and can’t get enough of them such that it leads to overeating of them.
It’s the psychology of deprivation. The more you restrict it, the more you want it. Look what happened to Miley Cyrus. Things will rebalance after they swing the other way for a while. Right now, she’s just being Miley.
I have worked with others who have such an extensive list of foods they are not allowed to eat from these tests that they literally have trouble constructing a healthy diet out of it, let alone allow for variety. This is a problem that these tests have that much power over people.
If the person got results and thinks it was from restricting certain foods that lack a legitimate scientific basis, they will live in fear of eating with others for the rest of their lives. Granted, if you reintroduce some of these banned foods and notice symptoms reappear, then yea, maybe you should avoid them.
However, most of the time when you reintroduce these foods, you DON’T get the same symptoms. Many find out that you are actually allowed to have all these foods you previously thought were bad for you based off a sham test that costs $450 that the desperate must pay out of pocket for.
Maybe you can start with just a little bit of the banned food and experiment to see if it actually gives you unpleasant symptoms.
Bottom line, these sorts of tests that give you extensive lists of foods to avoid beyond common allergens like soy, tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and egg (for more info see foodallergy.org) should be given extra scrutiny and skepticism until proven by adding back in offending foods to see if they actually produce symptoms. This is just called an elimination and reintroduction diet, and you don’t need a $450 test to try one.