Is it an allergy or intolerance? Find out how to tell in this month's newsletter. Dr. Gleason explains the crucial difference and what we can do to feel better.
To clear up the confusion between these two similar but different reactions I like to think of: 1) True allergies and 2) Intolerances.
In order to protect us, our immune systems are designed to react when exposed to foreign compounds in our environment. This is critically important when it comes to things like viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Problems arise when our system starts to attack things that do not pose us a threat; things like foods, pollen, dust and animal dander. When we react with swelling, redness, pain, sneezing, etc. it is our body’s attempt to expel or fight against a perceived threat. These symptoms can vary from a slight annoyance to a life-threatening anaphylactic attack leading to airway closure.
Most people with a true allergy (think IgE) are aware of the offending substance. An example would be a peanut allergy, which results in an almost immediate wheezing or skin reaction. Another example of true allergy is a seasonal allergy that produces predictable symptoms in the spring or fall.
Intolerances (think IgG) may be harder to identify. They produce reactions that may be delayed as much as 48 hours following exposure. Food intolerances may not even produce digestive symptoms. They can produce a wide variety of reactions such as hypothyroidism, skin lesions, fatigue, joint pain, panic attacks and brain fog.
There are a number of different allergy and intolerance tests available. If you go to an allergist you are likely to get provocative skin scratch testing. This involves injecting or scratching a number of substances into your skin and then returning the next day to see if there is a significant redness or swelling. This type of testing is for true allergy (IgE). Some allergists may also do blood testing.
IgE vs. IgG
The “Ig” stands for immune globulin and the “E” or “G’” stands for the division within the immune system that is producing the response. IgE is the true allergic response while the IgG is the intolerance. I like to use the analogy of law enforcement. IgG are analogous to the police; when they arrive at your door you know there is a problem. IgE however is more like a swat team with nuclear weapons; when IgE gets involved things are really serious.
In our office we test for both IgG and IgE reactions by means of blood tests. This helps us determine if you are really an allergic person or if you have food intolerances. The test we use includes 88 IgG foods, 24 IgG spices, 19 IgE foods, 15 IgE molds, 14 IgE inhalants and 4 gluten antibodies. This screening helps us devise a treatment plan.
If you have food intolerances (IgG) we recommend complete avoidance for 8-12 weeks and then reintroduction or provocative testing. This involves intentionally eating the suspected food three times a day for two days to see if there is a reaction. If there are no resulting symptoms the patient can eat that food once per week without the fear of re-sensitization. If there is a reaction, complete avoidance is needed.
If the test shows allergy (IgE) the patient is instructed to completely avoid the offending foods for an indefinite period of time or until a desensitization procedure has been done. This should be done only under the supervision of a competent professional. It may involve allergy shots or sublingual drops of increasing concentration of the offending allergen(s).
Multiple food intolerances may indicate intestinal hyper-permeability (Leaky Gut Syndrome). If present, further testing to diagnose and treat the gut may be indicated.
Inhalant allergies can be mitigated in several ways. Avoidance is possible for certain allergens like pets. Using HEPA filters can diminish airborne allergens. Dehumidifiers, filters, and mold mitigation can reduce levels of mold allergens. We use a device called Just Fog It that removes most toxins and allergens from the home or office.
We recommend herbal blends to reduce the common histamine reactions such as hay fever, sneezing, watery eyes, and itchy skin. We have found the most effective formulas to contain quercetin, nettles, tinespora, and bicarbonate. Herbal anti-itch creams are often found to be very effective for topical conditions.
Both allergies and intolerances can lead to serious health problems. We recommend testing, avoidance and treatment to optimize your health.
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