We usually get a number of people calling in about the food intolerance test, and these people are often suffering with something like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). There’s usually a lot of questions around the test such as “should I do a test to find out if I’m reacting to foods that are behind my digestive issues”? Or some people will call in and ask only for the test because they have been having digestive difficulties and figure it would help them to know which foods are causing the reaction. Below is the response from our Toronto naturopaths when we asked if a patient should get a food intolerance test.
The answer is: Possibly! But this test is not usually the place to start (unless there’s an urgent need or few other options), nor is it the end-all and be-all. Food intolerance tests are a snap-shot of food antibodies in the bloodstream, so this is essentially an immune system test, not a digestive system test. For a digestive system test you need to do a comprehensive stool analysis, which looks at the bacteria and fungus living in the gut, measures the inflammation in the digestive system, looks at how well your digestive system is breaking down your food, and if there’s parasites in your gut.
Also important to consider is the context. The food intolerance test results will change over time. They respond to a number of things, such as:
1) The foods you’ve eaten in the past few weeks to months;
2) To what extent these foods have had the opportunity to interact with your immune system in the lining of the gut;
3) How much intestinal inflammation is present; and
4) How much intestinal permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut, is present – which relates to both item 2 and 3 above.
Nutrition is very central to human health and the food you eat is definitely a pillar of health that cannot be ignored. But we can’t always blame specific foods for creating disharmony or disease. The food we eat must be handled in an intensive series of digestive processes, many of which can be dampened by stress, fatigue, inflammation, toxicity and other issues. It then interacts with intestinal bacterial populations, known as the microbiome (if you’re just hearing about the microbiome now, watch out for our upcoming blog post about the microbiome). So let’s not make food the enemy. It’s a tool and an opportunity for change. But importantly, after healing the processes that allowed food sensitivities to occur in the first place, many foods that were once causing issues will no longer be producing antibodies.