If you suspect that your child has food allergies or intolerances, there are several types of testing options available. Whether you have true allergies or other intolerances will determine the type of test you need.
What to expect at the doctor
To diagnose a food allergy, a doctor will usually do the following:
- Detailed Patient History – including what food you think you are allergic to, when and how you react, what other foods you eat, how you prepare the food, how often you eat it, etc … This means you must already have a good awareness about the foods you eat and your reactions to them.
- Physical Exam – to identify or rule out the possibility of other unknown medical problems
- Food Log – you will then go and record everything you eat for a few days, when you eat it and what reactions you have. This helps with consistency in symptoms and provide your doctor with a clear idea of the pattern.
- Elimination Diet – you stop eating suspected or tested foods, if the symptoms go away, a diagnosis can be made. If you eat the food again and have a reaction, the diagnosis is confirmed. This confirmation can not be used in the case of a certain IgE allergy, as it would be too dangerous to eat the food again. It would simply be eliminated completely.
- Initial Testing – Once a diagnosis is suspected or has been made, a doctor can use standard tests to measure an allergic response. This can be a skin prick test, RAST or ELISA test, as well as other options like ALCAT test.
IgE Mediated Reactions (Acute Allergy)
- Skin Prick Test – A diluted substance or extract is put on skin, a small prick is made just enough to let the substance enter the epidermis (outermost skin layer), usually skin on the forearm. Redness or swelling would indicate a localized reaction. It's quick and easy, but sometimes false positives occur – the patient reacts to skin test but not to the actual food. The doctors go by patient history and skin test to give a better diagnosis.
- RAST Panel – (RadioAllergoSorbent Test) Blood sample is taken by the doctor and sent to a lab. Detects multiple allergies at once by measuring the amount of antibodies found in the blood.
IgG Mediated Reactions (Intolerance with Delayed Symptoms)
- ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) Blood test that measures levels of IgG antibodies for commonly offending foods. It clearly identifies those foods that may be causing health problems.
- ALCAT (Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test) Blood test that measures food sensitivities or intolerances in over 350 foods, additives and environmental chemicals. It measures the inflammation produced due to the reactivity of leukocytes (white blood cells) in whole blood.
Other Test Options
- Stool Test (Fecal Matter) This test measures IgA reactions and is known as the most accurate test for Gluten intolerance.
- Energetic Testing – (NAET, kinesiology, SCIO, electrodermal screening) These various testing methods are the most alternative, involving principles of energy, muscle strength and various other controversial techniques.
- Saliva Test – One of the less expensive tests available, but also one of the least accurate and least recommended.
** There are more that could be discussed, but these are the most common options.
Discussing Allergy Testing with Your Doctor
If you choose to go to your medical doctor, you may be met with opposition. Because most allopathic (regular MDs) doctors usually think of actual IgE allergies only, they might not be familiar with the other options or try to convince you that they are unnecessary.
The medical establishment likes neat cause-effect-remedy type problems to solve. Strep bacteria causes strep throat fatigue, for which an antibiotic is prescribed. The doctor has done their job by using a prescription drug to get rid of the problem. There is no money to be made with pharmaceutical drugs by prescribing an elimination diet.
Beyond the 1 single course in nutrition during medical school, there is no education for medical doctors on this issue. The pharma companies ensure that doctors are offered continuing education on all the latest equipment and drugs manufactured because it will bring them profit if the doctors prescribe the drugs and use the fancy equipment. On the other hand, if the doctor does not personally understand the benefits of diet and food sensitivity elimination diets, you will most likely get disissued when you bring it up.
It is rare to find a regular MD with this knowledge and who will follow this plan. This is why you often need to find a Naturopath or a doctor trained in biomedical autism intervention to follow this course of treatment under the supervision of a medical professional.
There is a whole new area of medicine developing, called “Functional Medicine” with standard MD's who understands and acknowledge the “whole-body” principle and who recognizes the value of nutrition in health and in exploring food allergies and intolerances or sensitivities. This developing information will help guide parents on the differences between allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.