If gut symptoms, including bloating and cramping, regularly bother you, chances are you want to find why! It is currently extremely popular to pay big bucks for a blood test that will tell you on paper what is causing your gut problems. Such a test measures your body’s immune response to certain foods in your system. High levels of immune response are reported as being highly intolerant to the specific food. It makes sense that a blood test would be highly accurate, right? – Not in this case. Receiving a list of foods to avoid, based on a blood test, has huge limitations. I believe people need to be more informed about this.
The first and most important point here is that dietary intolerances or sensitivities are not reactions of the immune system, and therefore cannot be diagnosed using a blood test! An allergy on the other hand is a response of the immune system and commonly diagnosed using blood testing. However, it is essential that physicians provide detailed interpretation of results to their patients, as the reliability of dietary-related allergy testing is low. Immune response is stimulated by everything we eat, and research has shown the more frequently we eat certain foods, the higher the immune response. So higher immune responses can be simply identifying that the food has been eaten regularly, not that it is responsible for gut symptoms.
It is a concern if people receive a list of foods to avoid and proceed to exclude these from their diet, without consideration of the nutritional impact. It is unlikely to cause any long-term health risk, however removing a variety of foods from ones diet can cause nutritional deficiencies, as well as stress, anxiety and an unhealthy relationship with food. So it is important that people are well supported during such a process.
Dietary triggers for allergy and intolerance is an area in which I have a keen interest. I am seeing more and more people seeking advice for gut health issues. Seeing a Dietitian for a suspected intolerance or sensitivity will involve the assessment of your regular dietary intake with regard to your current symptoms and medical history. There are two well-researched dietary approaches to determining the source/s of gut symptoms. These are the low-FODMAP and Elimination diets, both involve the elimination and systematic reintroduction of foods. The key here is that you will be guided and supported during the entire process by your Dietitian.