Last week, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HRPA) released a press release regarding the validity of these tests.
Consumers have been warned against buying products that wrongly claim to be able to test for food intolerances and pharmacies have been told to stop offering food intolerance testing services.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said people should not act on the results of such tests after a review of widely available kits showed there “is no single test to diagnose food intolerance”.
The authority warned people “not to rely on the results of these test kits alone to detect a condition or to remove certain food groups from their diet. Anyone suffering from gastrointestinal issues or of the view that they could be intolerant of a certain type of food should consult a doctor or dietitian.”
Food intolerances effect approx. 15% of the population and common symptoms include headaches, fatigue, tummy upset and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The triggers are often substances that naturally occur in foods (e.g. amines), arise in food processing method or are added during processing (e.g.MSG).IBS is bowel condition which can cause abdominal bloating, pain, cramping, constipation and diarrhoea; these symptoms are usually caused by common everyday foods.The symptoms of food intolerances are usually delayed, which explains why they can be difficult to diagnose.
Food Intolerance Tests
Food intolerance testing has become increasingly popular in recent years. A growing number of pharmacies in addition to complimentary therapists and private health clinics offer intolerance testing services directly to the public. These centres claim that a wide range of health problems such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, sinusitis, skin problems, digestive issues and even obesity can be solved using such tests.
The kits take a small sample of blood to check the levels of IgG antibody (immune system activity) for a range of various foods e.g. shellfish, wheat and dairy products. If IgG antibody levels are elevated for particular foods, the test centres diagnose an intolerance and recommend complete exclusion from the diet to relieve symptoms. These tests cost €150-€350 approximately depending upon the number of foods tested. Unfortunately I have to relay the news to such vulnerable clients that IgG intolerance tests are “a complete waste of money” and not worth the paper they are printed on. I have first-hand experience seeing such printed reports which don’t even make clinical sense e.g. gluten is rated high and to be avoided, yet rye (which contains gluten) is ok???!!
Lack of Supportive Science
The websites marketing food intolerance testing claim that there is sufficient scientific evidence to prove that these tests are warranted when afood intolerance is suspected. Having examined these studies, many of the trials involved small numbers of people tested twenty years ago, therefore applications to the general population are not relevant. The leading food allergy and intolerance institutes around the world are currently advocating against IgG food intolerance testing. There appears to be no correlation between high levels of a particular food antibody and the development of symptoms. High levels only indicate the person has consumed a particular food in the past, the immune system has “acknowledged” this food and positive test results are to be expected in normal, healthy adults and children. Furthermore, the inappropriate use of this test only increases the likelihood of false diagnoses being made, resulting in unnecessary dietary restrictions and decreased quality of life.
The Food Exclusion Method
The Irish Food Allergy & Intolerance Network and the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute also strongly advocate against food intolerance tests because of the lack of quality studies to support them. At present, the “gold standard” method for determining if a food intolerance exists is to follow an elimination or exclusion dietary plan followed by a reintroduction challenge. The elimination approach helps to pin-point the culprit food(s)within 2-6 weeks and it’s the preferred method as recommended by health professionals, Allergy UK’s Intolerance Group and the NICE guidelines for the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.These professional agencies recommend personal guidance from a health professional such as a Dietitian or Doctor to ensure that the correct type of exclusion diet is followed and to avoid any risk of nutrient deficiency in the long-term.
Contact the office today if you wish to get to resolve your underlying food intolerance and discover the specific foods causing your particular symptoms (087) 680 2248SEE OVERLEAF