How to get an accurate allergy test - advice for adults
Having to deal with the symptoms of a food allergy can be extremely unpleasant and stop you from enjoying life to the full.
It is only natural that those suffering with an allergy are keen to get the correct diagnosis. But, how do you get an accurate test?
Be careful of high street 'food allergy testing'
There are many food allergy tests available on the high street, not all of these are accurate. Those who get inaccurate allergy tests will often end up avoiding several foods in the hope to gain symptom improvement when actually, all they achieve is nutritional deficiencies and a rather anti-social diet.
So, how do you get an accurate test?
Symptoms of food allergies can range from full on anaphylaxis, to less specific gut problems such as stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Anaphylactic reactions will mostly be picked up as a child and are not covered in this post.
Firstly, if you are experiencing symptoms, you must see your GP. They will start with first line medical tests to rule out conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease.
It isn't uncommon at this stage to be diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as the symptoms are very similar in nature, the process diagnosis is similar and IBS is more common than food allergies.
If your medical tests come back negative, then you can see an allergy specialist consultant or a specialist dietitian.
A consultant or dietitian will go through your medical history to look at symptoms patterns and see if they fit the pattern of a food allergy. A consultant may then arrange for a blood test (specific IgE serum) to show if there are any allergic reactions going on. This will then be followed up via an elimination diet from a registered dietitian.
Positive blood tests do not always indicate a food allergy and some food allergies can not be tested for at all. This is why it is so important to go through the elimination diet stage.
If you are seen by a dietitian, they will trial an elimination diet followed by a reintroduction period. Depending on your symptom patterns, this elimination diet may cover several foods or just one.
It is important that you do not trial an elimination diet on your own as allergens (the bits of foods which cause allergies) are in many foods that you may not realise and you will struggle to follow a balanced diet whilst on the elimination phase. Reintroduction of allergens can also be a complicated task that you will struggle to do on your own.
You must also ensure that you have had the correct initial testing before taking foods out of your diet, otherwise, tests will come back negative.
Bottom Line: If you think you have a food allergy then see your GP and dietitian.