My understanding has always been that food intolerance tests are not entirely scientific. I’ve been told this by lots of different people, including my own doctor, who told me that you can’t test for food intolerances. Recently I’ve had allergy blood tests done which helped diagnose the foods I knew I was allergic to; food allergy tests look for IgE reactions in the blood which cause an automatic immune response. The body thinks there is danger to fight, when in fact it’s just some innocent food; instead of ignoring the food it fights it as if it were bacteria or a harmful germ, the result is a nasty allergic reaction.
Allergies are where a person reacts to varying degrees whenever they eat even small traces of a certain food. Symptoms can range from skin reactions, problems breathing, nausea and vomiting to anaphylaxis and in rare cases, death.
Food intolerance on the other hand is a far milder reaction and not life threatening. They are caused by IgG reactions in the blood to proteins in certain foods. People can react to foods sometimes, but be able to tolerate them in small doses or in moderation. This is very different to a real allergy and is what leads to so much confusion between the two conditions. Some people with a food intolerance will describe it as an allergy, and when people see them eating that chocolate pudding they’ll question whether they are making a fuss unnecessarily. Understandably so, but this makes it doubly hard to be taken seriously in restaurants and in life as some view people with allergies are just fussy eaters!
This brings me on to the main reason for this blog post. I attended an event last week organised by YorkTest Laboratories called “Understanding food intolerances: fact from fiction”. The pull of meeting two eminent doctors got me interested and I decided to attend. I met Dr Hilary Jones and Dr Gill Hart and the event totally changed my views of food intolerance testing.
Dr Hilary Jones endorses YorkTest
Dr Hilary Jones is most famous for appearing on TVAM and then GMTV, where he is a regular on the early morning slot. He has written several books including ‘Before You Call The Doctor, ‘What’s The Alternative?’, ‘Your Child’s Health’, ‘I’m Too Busy To Be Stressed’, ‘Total Well Being’ and ‘Natures Remedies’. His first novel, ‘What’s Up Doc?’ was published in August 2009. He can also be heard on the Steve Wright Show on Radio 2 and also writes for various magazines including Rosemary Conley magazine and News of the World. Dr Hilary Jones is also the new health editor of breakfast television.
I was very privileged, excited and just a little star struck to have the chance to chat about food intolerance with him. I wanted to know why he was interested in food intolerance testing and in particular those conducted by YorkTest Laboratories. He told me that he sees more and more patients at his practise with food intolerances. Historically the NHS hasn’t viewed this problem seriously since it’s not life threatening, but it can seriously effect the quality of people’s lives. To feel constantly unwell, tired, depressed etc. is not a fulfilling life and can hinder work performance, relationships, sleep patterns and general enjoyment of life.
He told me that he started to research various food intolerance tests and has also been to visit YorkTest Laboratories to see for himself how they carry out their tests. He is now a strong advocate of the tests and told me he thinks they are scientific and proven.
You can visit YorkTest Laboratories website to watch a video of Dr Hilary Jones discussing the benefits of taking the YorkTest
Dr Gill Hart, Scientific Director at YorkTest Laboratories
I met Dr Gill Hart, Scientific Director at YorkTest Laboratories who explained the results of my YorkTest. They showed that I have a mild intolerance to gluten, wheat, yeast and egg white. This is exactly what I would have expected to see, since I know I have to watch the amount of gluten and egg I eat. If I keep it to a minimum I can tolerate both, however, if I overdo it and eat too much egg, bread or yeasty things I do suffer with minor skin rashes and stomach pain. This can cause eczema and asthma flare ups, cause me to become very easily run down and bring on the cold sores!
Elimination diets and food diaries
It’s taken me years to discover what foods trigger a problem with me, and conducting a strict elimination diet was one of the most helpful things I did. However this is really tough to stick to in practise and very hard to control. Elimination diets are incredibly restricting, and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly which foods are causing a problem, since some people can be intolerant to even the key foods you are told to begin limiting your diet to during a food elimination experiment.
Dr Gill Hart feels these tests are a quick and easy solution for so many people and YorkTest have seen some amazing results and success stories. As well as your test results you also get two free sessions with a nutritionist to ensure you understand the results and how to stay healthy and keep to a balanced diet, even when avoiding certain foods.
This is what Gill says about YorkTest, “YorkTest is a pioneering organisation with a strong scientific base. As Scientific Director I ensure that each of the services we offer is fully validated and adheres to the highest scientific standards. I also ensure that we meet all the required quality and regulatory requirements, so you can have every confidence in the results you receive.”
I was also thrilled to find out that Gill contributes to the Talk Health Partnership blog, which I’ve also just started blogging on. Read more here: Dr Gill Hart, industry expert on Talk Health Partnership
What is the YorkTest?
It’s important to understand that the YorkTest does NOT test for allergies. They only test for intolerances which look for IgG anti-body reactions in the blood to 113 foods. So the YorkTest wouldn’t identify any real allergies, and if you had already cut out a certain food, suspecting a problem, it wouldn’t identify that either. For the test to work, the person must be eating the problem the problem food as normal before the tests, this ensures the blood contains anti-bodies and means results will flag any problem foods.
I can’t think of a better explanation of what food intolerance is than the one I read recently on the Talk Health Partnership blog, written by, none other than, Dr Gill Hart.
“10 myths of food intolerance”.
Allergy UK also endorse YorkTest.
Attending this event and speaking to these two renowned experts, both extolling the virtues of YorkTest, has really changed my views about food intolerance testing. Before attending I had been very sceptical, mainly because most people I spoke to believe them to be unscientific. I now believe that if done properly under laboratory conditions, as at YorkTest Laboratories, these tests can offer very useful insights into how a persons blood is reacting to certain foods.
If you’ve ever tried to get a referral to an allergy specialist and allergy testing you’ll know how difficult that can be. It can take months just to get the first appointment since there are very few allergy specialists practising, despite the steadily rising numbers of people with allergies and food intolerances. The tests done by the NHS will only identify real allergies, not intolerances. So if you have food intolerances you’ve just hit a brick wall. There is no alternative but to go private and I know from experience that you’ll consider trying anything to find some answers and relief from unending, depressing and painful symptoms.
So how do you decide which tests to try? There are so many options out there and they can cost quite a bit of money, and potentially provide you with misleading results. What’s worrying is that disreputable tests could mean people cut foods completely out of their diets unnecessarily which can lead to an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Without understanding the nutritional implications cutting foods out can be very bad for your health. Make sure you get the right advice. YorkTesk provide free follow up sessions with a nutritionist so you can find out how to cut the foods out, how long for, and how to replace vitamins, protein etc. to give you a balanced diet. Ultimately with time you should be able to tolerate the foods you are intolerant to, and sometimes the body learns to tolerate them again in the future so it’s so important to react sensibly and get professional advice.
Have you tried the YorkTest or any other food intolerance tests? What did you think about the results?