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Understanding allergy testing
March 1st, 2021 + The Naturopathic Co.

There’s been a recent surge in people thinking about food sensitivities, and enquiring about allergy testing. All the talk about gluten free and dairy free is making people more aware of how their body responds to certain foods. But what is the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?

Our immune system is complex, and there are three immune responses in particular which relate to allergy testing.

IgA, IgE and IgG refer to immunoglobulins, or antibodies. These antibodies are part of our immune system, and are produced in response to things we come in contact with such as bacteria, foods, and pollen.  These antibodies help the body’s immune system respond to foreign substances.

IgE – immediate reactions

IgE reactions are anaphylactic responses that occur immediately after ingesting a food or substance the person is allergic to. Immediate symptoms could be hives, swelling, difficulty breathing/wheezing, coughing, or full anaphylaxis resulting in lack of consciousness. Often these immediate responses are triggered by foods such as peanuts, shellfish, egg, and tree nuts.

IgA and IgG – delayed response reactions

IgA immunoglobulins are present in our mucus membranes and helps us fight bacteria and viruses. IgA increases due to inflammation. It can also increase in response to stress.

An IgG reaction is related to immune cell reaction. A repeated exposure to a substance, or inflammation, or an immune reactivity can contribute to this type of reaction.

Both IgA and IgG reactions are delayed reactions that could be in response to food sensitivities, they can take hours or even days to show symptoms in the digestive system or skin. They can trigger a variety of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, eczema, or dermatitis.

What about food allergy testing?

Food allergy testing can happen by skin prick testing or blood testing.

Testing IgG and IgA reactions are not for testing an allergy as such, but testing for an immune response or inflammation, which indicates a sensitivity. They are delayed reactions to foods which cause symptoms and reveal an intolerance or sensitivity, not an allergy.

For example, you may find you are just gluten sensitive through IgA and IgG testing. For a gluten allergy though, you’d need to be specifically tested for celiac (an autoimmune response to proteins found in wheat) where the lab looks for a specific reaction to gliadin.

Leaky gut

Sensitivities can also be triggered by a permeable gut lining or inflammation of the gut. Inflammation can cause a sensitive gut, or digestive symptoms after consuming certain trigger foods (spicy foods, fried foods, fodmaps etc). Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors (alcohol, pathogenic bacteria, parasites) which causes damage to the gut lining, and in turn ‘sets off’ an immune response if proteins pass through the gut lining.

We can also get good results in terms of identifying food sensitivities by removing some foods (elimination diet). However an elimination diet may not work for everyone (timing constraints, challenging to follow).

If you suffer from food sensitivities and ongoing digestive symptoms or would like to discuss allergy testing, make a time to see our South Yarra naturopath, Camberwell naturopath, or speak to us online via zoom.

Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of digestive complaints, skin issues, mood disorders, hormonal concerns, fatigue, and also has a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions. Yvette consults in South Yarra, Camberwell, and Australia-wide via Zoom. Book HERE


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