Identifies adverse immune cell reactions associated with food and chemical sensitivity. We evaluate the immune system’s reactions to foods following an ex vivo challenge of the white blood cells. For example, the results from the testing can help determine which foods and other substances may trigger unwanted inflammation and related symptoms. Testing enables us to help patients improve chronic health issues through dietary change.
It is well known that food can cause many different types of reactions in the body. These may be evident in the skin (such as hives, rashes, itchiness, or swellings); the gut (such as reflux, vomiting, tummy pains, wind (gas), diarrhea, and constipation); when breathing (such as shortness of breath or a tight chest) or through generally feeling unwell. Some people put up with symptoms for years, which could get better if the foods causing these symptoms were cut out of the diet. Identifying the food trigger or triggers and a sensible management plan can allow life to be very different for the intolerance sufferer.
Finding out which foods are causing your symptoms can be straightforward for some people and incredibly tricky for others; dependent on what their symptoms are; how quickly the symptoms appear after eating a food; and which food (or foods) is causing a problem. Animal milks and dairy products, wheat and gluten, eggs and coffee, are probably the most common foods that cause intolerance problems, but any food can be a problem. If your symptoms improve significantly during the time you cut out specific foods, then this suggests that these foods may be responsible for the adverse reactions.
True food allergy is a reaction involving the immune system where the body sees the food as harmful and makes specific antibodies (called IgE antibodies) to ‘fight off’ the allergens found in these foods. This results in the release of histamine and other naturally occurring chemicals in the body. It is this release of histamine and chemicals, which produce the symptoms we recognise as an allergic reaction.
Symptoms caused by an allergic reaction to food can range from skin reactions: which include itching and rashes (urticaria); swelling (angioedema), gut symptoms, vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhea, to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, asthma, blocked or runny nose.
In the most severe cases, symptoms may develop rapidly and can be life threatening and require urgent medical attention. Symptoms may include swelling of the lips, tongue, or face, shortness of breath, throat constriction and breathing difficulties. Loss of consciousness can occur in extreme cases. This collection of symptoms is known as anaphylaxis. Normally, symptoms arise within a few minutes of eating or coming in to contact with an offending food, although they may be delayed by up to a couple of hours. Those at risk of anaphylaxis should have an adrenaline device (EPI PEN) available.
True food allergy is really actually quite rare; the foods that most commonly cause allergic reactions are peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds and Brazil nuts), eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, and sesame. Food allergy involves the body’s immune system and is a reaction to the specific food or foods. Symptoms can be mild or severe and can involve the skin, gut, breathing or the whole body circulation. IgE food allergies are easy to diagnose and if the culprit foods are totally excluded it is possible to remain completely free from any symptoms. Some people can tolerate a well-cooked version of the food, but will react to the food in its part-cooked or raw state.
Food intolerance is not so clear cut and is a more controversial area. Although not life threatening, it can and often does, make the sufferer feel extremely unwell and can have a major impact on working and social life. Ongoing symptoms can also affect a person psychologically as they feel they will never get better.
Food intolerance reactions do not involve IgE and the mechanisms are unclear however it is known that these reactions are more likely to be delayed, with the reaction occurring several hours and sometimes up to several days after eating the offending food. The symptoms caused by these reactions are numerous but have been associated with gut symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and skin problems such as eczema.
Symptoms can affect different people in different ways but usually last for many hours or days depending on the symptoms, and because it is possible to be intolerant to several different foods at the same time, it becomes very difficult to determine whether food intolerance is the cause of chronic illness, and which foods may be responsible. Many people with food intolerance have several symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms are vague and not always easily diagnosed. People may complain of non-specific problems such as brain fog, lethargy, headaches, or feeling bloated. These are often additional to bigger problems relating to the bowels and skin. Food intolerance can be caused by several different factors; lifestyles with erratic food intakes and poor nutritional intake or high intakes of refined foods, poor intakes of dietary fibre or high fat diets are just a few examples. Some people actually lack the enzymes needed to break foods down, for example, lactose intolerance where the enzyme lactase is not produced in large enough amounts to break down the lactose (milk sugars) in milk. Some people may react to the chemicals that are produced naturally in foods such as caffeine, salicylates, monosodium glutamate,and histamine in foods like strawberries, chocolate, and cheese. Another possible cause of food intolerance is the additives in foods which can be found in the form of sulphites, which are added to processed foods to give them a longer shelf life. They can also be found in fruit drinks and wine. A reaction to a food that has ‘gone off’ such as salmonella poisoning is another type of reaction to a food; such a reaction will usually affect anyone consuming it.