Food Sensitivity Testing

Food sensitivities are immune system-mediated reactions to certain foods.  The most common are dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, and nuts.  A person can develop a food sensitivity at any stage of their life due to a variety of different factors.  Usually, a person can develop an immune reactivity to food if there is an increased intestinal hyper-permeability (“leaky gut”) situation and this can arise from repeated exposure to toxins, antibiotics or the use of acid-blocking medication.

Symptoms of a food sensitivity can include: diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, acid reflux, low energy, joint pain, muscle pain, migraines, and difficulty losing weight.  Food sensitivities are often implicated in autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and lupus.

Food sensitivities are different than food allergies.  The latter is often tested for by an MD using a “skin scratch test”.  This looks at immediate hypersensitivity reactions to foods (IgE reactions).  Since these are immediate, for them to be accurate, they must be done up to 48 hours following the consumption of the tested foods.  IgE reactions involve the release of histamine and often present with hives, allergy symptoms, itchy eyes, or anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, lip swelling).

Food sensitivities are delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions.  They involve an immune-mediated IgG response which can last in the body for up to 3 months following exposure to a particular food.  These are the reactions that happen when you eat something and feel sick a few days after.  There are for types of IgG antibodies and IgG 1-3 are involved in inflammatory reactions in the body where IgG4 is a protective response against any IgE-mediated allergies to keep the inflammation and immune response in check.

The food sensitivity testing Dr. Shah does in her office tests your total IgG antibodies to a particular food that determines foods that are either creating inflammation in the body or showing a tolerance reaction to foods that one is allergic to and may develop hives or anaphylaxis from.   This test is done in-office and involves a finger prick to obtain a small amount of blood for the sample.  There are different panels – 120, 200, and vegetarian food panels.  Results take approximately 7-10 business days for me to receive them and then we establish a 4-step gut repair plan to help heal the gut.  A person can expect to remove reactive foods from their diet from anywhere ranging between 3-6 months or possibly longer based on the situation.  An additional fee is applied for the testing.

The cheaper alternative to the IgG food sensitivity testing is the elimination diet.  While cheaper, this does require a good amount of compliance in order to identify any food triggers and can be a lengthy process.  The elimination diet, if done carefully and under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor, can help identify both food sensitivities and intolerances.

Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis

This is a stool test that not only looks at occult blood in the stools but looks at gut dysbiosis, or, bacterial imbalance as well – the amount of good probiotic bacteria and any pathogenic bacteria that are in your intestines.  Yeast/fungi and parasites are able to be tested using this stool test as well.

In order to maximize nutrient intake from foods consumed, foods must be digested first in order to be absorbed.  Many factors can contribute to improper digestion such as low stomach acid, decreased pancreatic enzyme secretion, food sensitivities, inflammation, and microbial infections in the gut.  Some symptoms can be gas and bloating after meals, diarrhea and/or constipation.

The test can also assess key markers of digestion, absorption, and inflammation in the gut.  This can help determine the possible presence of IBD, pancreatic insufficiency, and an inability to digest/absorb fat, protein and/or carbohydrates.  It also looks at your sIgA level which is the first line of defense in your gut against infection.  Short-chain fatty acids are measured and stools are assessed for blood and mucus.

Organic Acid Testing

This is a urine test that measures organic acids, which are products of metabolism in the body.  The testing gives you a comprehensive whole-body metabolic profile while testing approximately 70 different markers.

The test has the ability to test for the presence of candida and mold exposure/infection in the body.  It can also look for the presence or absence of dysbiosis (an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut).  Organic acid testing can identify the presence of Clostridia bacteria.  Clostridia bacteria is common to be present in those with behavioural some neurological disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorders and the bacteria can affect dopamine activity.

The test looks at several markers of mitochondrial function. Mitochondrial dysfunction can be present in many chronic health conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune conditions.  Oxalates are another marker on this test which can be elevated in chronic pain conditions and when there are symptoms of joint pain, urinary difficulties, and kidney stones.

Metabolites of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are assessed.  Imbalances in these neurotransmitters can be found in mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and Bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease).

Some other markers include B vitamin metabolites to assess for B vitamin deficiencies; Glutathione status (a powerful antioxidant in the body that determines detoxification status); and, amino acid metabolites for errors of inborn metabolism.  It also looks as phosphoric acid which helps to determine vitamin D and bone metabolism.

Addressing infections or deficiencies highlighted on the organic acid test has yielded improved gut function, energy levels, improved ADHD and autistic symptoms to name some of the few benefits.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a condition that is becoming increasingly common.  Unfortunately, many MDs are unaware of this and may establish a diagnosis of IBS instead.  It is normal to have some good bacteria in our small intestines, but the condition implies too much good bacteria.

Excess bacterial accumulation in the small intestine can happen for numerous reasons including decreased gastrointestinal motility.  This can happen from the use of acid-blocking medication, the use of antibiotics, decreased stomach acid, liver/gallbladder disorders, hypothyroidism, and other causes.  As bacteria accumulate, they ferment sugars resulting in excess bloating “feeling like one is pregnant”, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, acid reflux, heartburn, burping, and, abdominal pain.  Fermented foods and probiotic supplements may make you feel worse.

This test involves collecting a breath sample at home which measures the concentration of hydrogen and methane in your breath.  This helps to determine the presence or absence of two types of bacteria.  Results are returned in 7-14 business days and if positive, a SIBO treatment protocol is implemented that includes gut healing.

Bacteria in the gut