Thursday, March 22, 2012

Food Allergy Part 2: Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances

What's the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?

I'm not an expert, but as near as I can tell from reading and researching this topic, here's the difference:

An allergy to a food involves an immune system response. That means when you eat a food you are allergic to, your immune system creates antibodies against that food. If you're unfortunate, some of those antibodies generated may also attack YOU- in other words, an autoimmune response.

According to wikipedia (and several other sources agree), "Food intolerance is negative reaction, often delayed, to a food, beverage, food additive, or compound found in foods that produces symptoms in one or more body organs and systems, but it is not a true food allergy. A true food allergy requires the presence of Immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies against the food, and a food intolerance does not."

Now here's where the confusion and disagreement begins. Wikipedia, and most other sources, are saying that:

1) an allergic reaction involves an immune response
2) an allergic reaction is defined only by the presence of IgE antibodies.

But what about other antibodies? Specifically, what about IgG antibodies? I'm not a scientist or a doctor, but if you're generating antibodies, isn't that an immune response?

In 1994, I was tested (a blood test) for food allergies by an MD. We did an ELISA test, which measures IgG antibodies created when exposed to a panel of foods.  IgG antibodies, I was told, are the ones that manifest in delayed reactions. So this doctor was testing me for food allergies that create symptoms up to 3 days after eating the food.

IgE just tests for food allergies that show up within about 12 hours of eating the food. I hate to point out the obvious (OK,  I lied- I love to point out the obvious), but if I react to a food within 12 hours of eating it, I don't need a blood test to tell me that. I eat shrimp, I get hives a few hours later. I only need to eat shrimp 2-3 times before I connect the dots. What I need help with is the stuff that shows up long after I've forgotten I ever ate it. And that was the purpose of the ELISA test.

As for the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance, let's try this again:

 -a food allergy happens within 12 hours of eating a food, and involves an IgE antibody response by the immune system
- a food intolerance is more loosely defined, but I believe it's any delayed negative reaction to a food, and the IgG antibody (also an immune response) has been lumped in with other possibly non-allergic reactions to food.

Some people think the ELISA test is experimental, or a sham, or {insert derogatory term of your choice here}, but it was a tremendous help to me. The blood test revealed strong allergies to wheat, milk, eggs, and cheese. I stopped eating those foods and my lupus tests completely cleared up.

I got tired of working so hard at my diet (have you tried eating at a restaurant and finding something with no wheat or dairy?). I slowly fell off the wagon, and eventually forgot all about the tests and the diet and... oh, look I got sick again. Very sick. Stroke, kidney failure, congestive heart failure sick. "Is she going to make it?" sick.

I've been gluten free this time for about 5 years (Just FYI, I also eliminated aspartame at that time).

After rediscovering my blood test results, I am back to also being egg-free and dairy-free (and still aspartame-free), and my inflammation and autoimmune blood tests are improving again.

So go ahead, various credible sources on the internet and in books, and mock the ELISA test. I will take my "sham" results, implement the diet changes, and enjoy my improved health.

And to you, my friends, there are other ways to discover your food allergies, in addition to the (I believe useful) ELISA test. I will share those ideas and more in future posts. Stay tuned to this bat-channel for more episodes of Fun with(out) Food Allergies!


*** If you or someone you know would like to live healthier, happier, more balanced life, e mail me for a free one-hour consultation: . I am a holistic health coach! Talk to someone who has been there and is living well now. You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain! Start living your best life. ***

Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient and Health Coach - health coaching- visit this site to get a free e book on nutrition! funny medical songs