Allergies vs Intolerance: What happened when I got tested

With a growing number of people experiencing food allergies and intolerances (self-diagnosed or otherwise), it is hardly surprising that over the past 12 months, Google searches for intolerance testing labs are up 750% in the UK alone.

Allergy and intolerance testing

I’ve spent much of my adult life musing over my own possible intolerances and allergies. I show various symptoms of allergies: I’m fine with milk, but heat it up for a latte or a bowl of porridge and I’ll soon be running to the toilet. Soy alternatives make my tummy hurt and too much chocolate will sometimes give me hives. Noticing all of this before the spike of available vegan milk, I trained myself to like black coffee. My chocolate induced hives, however, I chose to live with.

My curiosity sent me to nutrition consultant Sana Khan, who is the founder of medical and aesthetic clinic Avicenna Wellbeing. I underwent some thorough blood and tissue testing in her hands.

Allergy and intolerance testing

To check for allergies, Sana looked at the number of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) in my blood, these are antibodies produced in reaction to an allergy. If these levels had been high, I’d have been asked to keep a longer food diary and return for more tests at a later date to ascertain what was causing the reaction, but at the moment I’m not ingesting anything that’s causing problems.  (I might be allergic to something that isn’t currently in my diet).

Despite my intrigue, Sana didn’t test for intolerances — she simply saw no reason to after looking at the results from my blood. You see, a big issue with intolerance testing is the antibodies that might indicate an intolerance are present in the body for a whole host of reasons.

They protect against bacterial and viral infections and, depending on the state of your immune system, your body could react to food with these antibodies differently on any given day, making the results inaccurate.

It is currently a huge problem, with many clinics and online testing options telling people they are intolerant to various foods when they really aren’t.

Her avoidance is supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which states it ‘couldn’t identify any evidence the tests worked’.

See more health and fitness features here.

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Allergy and intolerance testing
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