September 6


The Truth About Diagnosing Food Allergies

By Sue Ingebretson

September 6, 2011

artificial sweeteners, dairy, Elimination Diet, food additivies, Food Allergies, Food intolerances, Health Coach, naturopath, nutritionist, Wheat/gluten


I recently heard a lecture from an MD who has seen his general practice shift drastically in the past ten years. He recognizes the tell-tale signs of food allergies in his patients and now has become an expert in diagnosing them.

The instances of diagnosed food *allergies have risen sharply in the past decade. Statistics vary widely in the general population, but for those with autoimmune conditions, allergies are part and parcel of daily life. So, why don’t more interested MDs become experts in diagnosing them?

The easy answer is that they simply don’t have the resources.

Current food allergy lab testing can be inconclusive and often confusing. Blood tests, skin tests, and saliva tests can help to narrow down the field of likely offenders, but the real skill comes in the fine-tuning of the diet and the analysis of the results. Simple detective skills are needed to compare changes over time; it’s a fairly easy process.


The truth is, diagnosing food allergies takes time, patience, and persistence.

 Do these sound like resources available to the typical overworked and over-booked MD? Not likely. That’s why there’s no one better or more qualified to seek your own solutions than YOU!

Removing possible food allergens in a systematic way (an elimination diet) isn’t difficult. I go into more detail in my book, FibroWHYalgia, as well as in the workshops and lectures I give. An elimination diet requires removing a single food group for a period of time (as few as 7 days or so), and then paying attention to how you feel. The body gives many clues about the foods we eat and let’s us know what foods work “with” us and what ones work “against” us.

Evaluating your own experiences with likely offenders (wheat/gluten, dairy, corn, food additives/chemicals [including artificial sweeteners], caffeine, shellfish, soy, eggs, nuts, etc.) can be done on your own. Additionally for a little help, you can choose to seek assistance from naturopaths, holistic nutritionists, and/or holistic health counselors. The point is to seek help from those who can truly provide you with the time and resources necessary to help you achieve your goals.

If a food has been determined to be a problem for you, doesn’t it make sense to give your body a break and remove it from your diet?

Allergies and sensitivities are common and many food questionnaires can be found online. They can serve as a guide and point to sources of inflammation. Pinpointing foods that are negatively affecting your health is a great place to begin your wellness plan. Here’s a simple online test you can take from Dr. Mark Hyman, a well-known food sensitivity expert HERE.

For now, take a look at what you’re eating to find out what’s really eating you!

*NOTE: I’m using the term “allergy” it in this post to refer to any indication that a particular food doesn’t “agree” with the body. In a more formal arena, the term allergy is used for a true allergic response where the body shows a dramatic reaction such as hives, swelling, anaphylactic shock, etc. Food intolerances and sensitivities may show up in less obvious ways, but they’re no less impactful over time. For the purpose of this post, I’ve used “allergy” to encompass all problems with food whether an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance.


  1. Not okay to use “allergy” w/* then say it encompasses other things, esp when title is “THE Truth” – too many people confuse lactose intolerance with true immune response. Like the restaurants and chefs in recent survey who self-rated highly capable of dealing with allergies and then got series of questions dead wrong. (e.g. thinking it is okay to simply remove nuts from a salad and serve that salad to a diner with an identified nut allergy.)

    As someone recently diagnosed with new food allergies, I can tell you it is nearly DAILY that I have to educate people about what IS and what IS NOT a case of “picky eating” or eating disorder masquerading as food allergy. Muddling the terms together as you did here only makes it harder.

    “Food intolerances and sensitivities may show up in less obvious ways, but they’re no less impactful over time. For the purpose of this post, I’ve used “allergy” to encompass all problems with food whether an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance.”

    I don’t think this, as written, is even medically true? Some intolerances like Celiac can be very harmful over time, others are not the same as anaphylactic shock. It’s just not helpful to be imprecise.

    There’s also a plethora of pseudo-science out there. I’ve heard about, read about many so-called experts who cannot cite a single peer-reviewed sound study to back their theories.

    First people have to get an accurate diagnosis which is expensive and time consuming.
    Then, they can start a course of treatment and management. For true allergies, the only recommended course is total avoidance.
    Management usually means the re-education of self and family, of servers, chefs, schools, it simply must be done, and must be done with support of accurate information.

    1. Thanks for your input Jacqueline. I appreciate your comments. Because this article is intended as an overview of establishing a better understanding that some foods can be harmful, it was not meant to be an exhaustive review of the differences between the terms “allergy,” “sensitivity,” and “intolerance.” I’m very aware of what they are. The problem is that I’ve seen far too many clients who have had the full spectrum of diagnostics done (blood tests, skin tests, even colon biopsies), but they’re still very sick. They come to me still confused about what foods work with them and which ones work against them. Many clients tell me, “My doctor says I don’t have a wheat/gluten problem,” yet – when the offending food group is removed, there is significant improvement in symptoms. The point here is for the reader to take action — with whatever health practitioner can give the time needed — to determine what foods work best.

  2. Thank you for this post. A good coach/practitioner IS key. They keep you focused and on track. The tough one is with little kids — like mine with speech delays. They cannot tell you exactly when something hits their system that does not “sit well.” It’s a blessing in disguise that he still is not potty trained. It’s one of my only ways of knowing how his little system reacts to certain foods/meals. I think a big thing is to have hope that once the immune system and inflammation calm down and the gut heals that foods can be reintroduced. We live with that hope daily. : )

    Lexie | Lexie’s Kitchen

    1. I can understand the difficulties of trying to analyze the food allergy/sensitivity issues from a non-talker! Kudos to you for being a diligent parent and doing your best to figure thing out. Sounds like your little one is a pretty lucky guy to have a mom like you.

  3. I’m glad @Markhyman tweeted this post…And you’re right, curing food allergies does take time since we are creatures of habit..But it’s possible with a little stick-to-it-iveness 🙂 And speaking of “sensitivities showing up in less obvious ways,” my body becomes acidic everytime I mix carbs with proteins

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