advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Best Test for Food Intolerance?

What is your opinion on the validity of food intolerance testing? Would you recommend following an elimination diet based on this type of testing?

A
Answer (Published 2/15/2008)

With certain exceptions (such as sensitivities to lactose and gluten, both of which have a genetic basis), food intolerances are often highly individual and mysterious. In some cases, they are due to physical or emotional stress or exposure to environmental toxins rather than a reaction to the foods themselves. Lactose intolerance results from a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar in milk. At least one out of 10 people worldwide shares this deficiency and develops bloating, abdominal pain and, often, diarrhea when consuming milk. Gluten intolerance is caused by an abnormal immune response to the major protein in wheat and some other grains.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

I discussed the issue of testing for food intolerances with Randy Horwitz, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, who specializes in immunology. We agree that the only reliable approach to determining food intolerances or sensitivities is to use avoidance and provocative testing - in other words, an elimination diet followed by a "challenge" to see whether a suspect food really does set off a reaction.

Dr. Horwitz notes that when food sensitivities - not true allergies - are a problem, traditional allergy tests such as the IgE RAST blood tests or skin prick tests often yield negative results. He says that in his practice, he has not seen uniformly good results with IgG anti-food blood tests, applied kinesiology (muscle strength testing), or "live blood" microscopic analysis, all of which have been advocated by some practitioners as ways of determining food intolerances. Results "go all the way from questionable to downright useless," he says.

Instead, he prefers to ask patients to keep a record for a few weeks of everything they eat and any symptoms that develop in response to specific foods. This can help narrow the list of foods that may be causing problems. The next step is a defined food elimination diet. This can be an avoidance diet of patient-defined triggers, a "hypoallergenic" diet for four to six weeks, or a rotation diet, in which new foods are introduced sequentially. Once symptoms have been associated with a food or food group, the intolerance can be confirmed with a "challenge" in which the patient is given the suspect food and then watched to see if symptoms develop (This isn't practical when symptoms are severe).

Sometimes you can overcome food intolerances by avoiding the food or foods to which you're sensitive for a few months. Then, you can try reintroducing each food (separately) on a regular basis beginning with tiny amounts. Eat some every day, gradually increasing the portions. With luck, you'll find that you are able to develop tolerance to foods that have previously bothered you.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here