Food allergies and intolerances

CHOICE investigates why nut allergy rates are now soaring, and what you can do if you think you have an allergy.
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04.Allergy tests

True allergies are tested by measuring particular immune factors in the body, called Immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies, which are measured using skin prick tests or RAST blood tests. But how these tests are interpreted is important, as some people can have low levels of food-specific IgE without any allergy problems. Seeking the advice of an immunologist or allergy specialist is sensible – a lifetime of avoiding foods unnecessarily is a hassle and can mean you miss out on some essential nutrients.

Food intolerance, on the other hand, can’t be measured by any blood or skin test . The road to working out which foods (and how much of them) might trigger your symptoms is a long haul following a low-chemical elimination diet and, if your symptoms improve over several weeks, challenging your body with individual foods or food chemicals at increasing doses. It’s a trial-and-error process that can take months. Sadly there are no quick fix tests, but a wrong diagnosis can mean you spend years on complicated and costly special diets you don’t need. Seek the advice of your GP and get a referral to a specialist clinic or dietitian for help and advice.

Alternative allergy tests not recommended

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) has reviewed a wide range of other tests for allergies and didn’t find any worth wasting your time or money on – and there’s no Medicare rebate for any of them. There is no scientific evidence to support any of these allergy ‘tests’ :  

  • Cytotoxic testing Some of your white blood cells are mixed with dried foods and studied under a microscope. A change in the cells is said to represent a sensitivity or allergy.
  • Oral provocation and neutralisation Drops of dilute allergen extracts are placed under your tongue and the amount needed for a reaction is assessed. Before you eat an offending food you use drops of a more dilute solution to stop symptoms.
  • VEGA (electrodermal) testing This is based on the idea that illness is reflected in a change in the body’s electrical charge which can be measured by a VEGA machine. You hold one electrode and another is placed on acupuncture points on your fingers or toes. A food extract in a sealed container is put into the loop – a reduced electrical current means a sensitivity. Children are tested by holding the parent’s hand during the test.
  • Kinesiology Exposure to toxins or allergens is claimed to be reflected in reduced muscle strength, which is measured before and after drops of suspect food extracts are put under your tongue or held in your hand. Children are tested by holding the parent’s hand while the test is done.
  • Radionics (psionic medicine, dowsing) Disease is claimed to be reflected in changes in an individual’s electromagnetic field, which are said to lie outside the normal electromagnetic spectrum. Practitioners say they can detect subtle changes in the energies and vibrations of internal organs by using a pendulum-like device to amplify the changes. By focusing their thoughts and energies, the practitioner claims to treat the problem by restoring energy balance. In some cases the test can be done at a distance, using a lock of the patient’s hair, for example.
  • Iridology Iridologists believe each part of the body is represented by a part of the iris and your health is reflected in the appearance of the appropriate part. Imbalances are treated with dietary supplements or herbal medicines.
  • Pulse testing Proponents claim allergic reactions change nerve impulses and can be measured by an increase in heart rate.
  • Hair analysis A sample of your hair is measured for trace elements and deficiencies or excesses related to your symptoms.
  • Dysbiosis This is the theory that imbalances of good and bad bacteria in the bowel result in diseases. Various metabolic and bacteriological measurements (stool analysis, blood and urine tests, etc) are done to assess the balance. Imbalance is usually treated with large doses of vitamins/minerals, probiotic or antibiotic therapy, or diet changes.
  • VoiceBio is based on the concept that your internal organs communicate with each other by sound, each organ vibrating at a certain frequency. It’s claimed unhealthy organs can be detected by using computer-assisted analysis of your voice.

Source: Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)


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