Dr David Buckley
Last week we talked about “bogus food allergy testing”. In this article I will talk about scientifically validated allergy tests available in Ireland today.
True food allergies (e.g. to milk, wheat, gluten, nuts, eggs, etc.) are quite rare. While there is not one accurate validated test available today, there are a number of tests that, when combined with a thorough history and detailed examination by a doctor experienced in allergy testing, can accurately pick up food allergies in most cases. It is important to realise that many common symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, fatigue, joint pains and depression are not caused by food allergies in the vast majority cases. They are more likely to be linked with a poor diet high in sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed or junk food or may be linked with stress.
Accurate scientific reproducible food allergy tests which are generally only available from doctors include the following:
- IgE and RAST test: this is a blood test which is sent to a registered lab in hospital and can test for various items including foods, animal dander, house dust mite, pollen, etc.
- Skin pick test: drops of various substances are placed on the skin and scratched through; positive reaction will result in swelling in the area which lasts a few hours
- Exclusion diets followed by reintroduction of the food after a few weeks looking for evidence of food intolerance.
- Food challenge: This is usually only carried out by doctors specialising in allergies where a suspected food is given to the person without them knowing what they are taking (blind testing) observing for reactions.
Although none of these tests are 100% sensitive or specific, they are the best tests available today. They are all available in The Ashe Street Clinic. See www.fani.ie for more information on food allergies.