The number of young people with food allergies is on the rise. Although there are a variety of reasons for the increase in food allergy symptoms, one reason is that we live in a more sterile environment these days which can alter the immune system in such a way that it makes food allergies more likely. Food allergy shouldn’t be confused with a food intolerance which is far more common, but is rarely life threatening as a food allergy can be. Many cases of suspected food allergy actually turn out to be food intolerances instead.
If you have symptoms you believe are related to a food allergy, what should you do? According to Dr. Merrell, a physician at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a medical author, one of the simplest ways to detect a food allergy is to get an ELISA blood test that measures levels of an immunoglobulin protein know as IgG. This test is often more reliable than conventional skin testing when it comes to detecting food allergies. If levels of IgG are elevated, it may indicate that a food you’ve eaten in the last few days caused the symptoms. Although this test for food allergy is convenient, it’s rather expensive, costing anywhere from one hundred to several hundred dollars. The accuracy of the test results also depends on how capable the particular lab used is at performing this study.
Another less high tech way to determine whether you have a food allergy or food intolerance is to keep a food diary. When you write down everything you eat throughout the day along with your symptoms, you can begin to see patterns you may not have noticed before which allow you to pinpoint food allergies or a food intolerance. To do this, write down each food you eat on a daily basis along with the time. You should also record any symptoms you experience along with when they occurred. This can make it easier when you see your doctor for evaluation of a food allergy. Together the two of you can look through your food diary for particular foods that seem to trigger symptoms. Once determined, the offending food can be eliminated from the diet for a period of time to see if your symptoms resolve. The downside? This method of looking for food allergy takes time and isn’t always accurate since so many factors can come into play that affect the results other than the foods eaten.
The bottom line? If you’re concerned about food allergies and food intolerances, keep a regular food diary, recording both type of food eaten and symptoms. Once you have several weeks worth of data, take it with you when you visit your physician. Together you can decide whether ELISA allergy testing would be appropriate for your particular situation.