Sunday, November 27, 2011

Food Sensitivities: Hocus Pocus or the Secret Weapon?

The newest craze among people, especially professional athletes, is the IgG Antibody testing for food sensitivities and the coinciding food elimination diets. While at my elective/second hospital rotation in Arizona, I got to work alongside many professional and collegiate athletes. As a performance nutrition professional, my preceptors are often asked, “if I am already eating right for my body, what else can I do that will provide me with that edge?” or if they are a rehabilitation client, “what will aid in a faster recovery time?”.

There has not been a lot of research on the significance of IgG testing and food elimination diets. However, I myself, have seen a great difference in those who have followed their tailored food sensitivity list and have heard comments of those who have changed their eating habits around this idea.

For those of you who have not heard about these “food elimination diets” or want some further clarification on what they are, let me explain. It first starts out with a blood draw. Your blood samples are then tested against a panel of different food antigens to see if your body reacts to any of the additives. If there is a sensitivity present, your body produces an antibody (IgG) and then each of those receive a grading of a +1, +2, +3, or +4 in regards to the strength of the sensitivity (remove from the diet for three months, six months, nine months, or one year, respectively). Immunoglobulins G (IgG) are found in all body fluids, they are the smallest and most abundant of the antibodies in the body. They are the most important antibodies for fighting bacterial and viral infections. Since these antibodies are so prevalent in our bodies you might wonder what kind of a reaction you might get when for example consuming some items you show a sensitivity to. Anywhere from the obvious signs/symptoms such as a stomach ache, delayed digestion, and heartburn to a slower reaction time or mental clarity.

While in Arizona, I got to analyze many of these results just as a nutrition professional would for their client. Once the lab results are received, I would go through the food items that elicited a reaction, then determined if there were any similar food families present, most commonly: Bovine (cow’s milk, goat’s milk, eggs, beef, dairy products, etc.), Nightshade (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.), Legumes (all beans, peas), Grains/Grasses (rice, wheat, oats, corn, etc.), and Fungi (baker’s and brewer’s yeast, cheese). Many foods fall into “families”, this means that they have a similar structure and make-up, therefore, also causing a similar “reaction”. These foods are then eliminated from their meal plans and substitutions are made when necessary (almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk). After the allotted time for elimination foods are then cycled back in (one at a time) so the individual can try and read how their body feels upon reintroduction.

Many of the athletes found this plan difficult and hard to follow at first, then you would start hearing the responses about how they “cheated” and for instance, ate a wheat product when they weren’t supposed to and how they felt so slow and sluggish the rest of the day. This is when you start believing that some of this really might make a difference even on a smaller level.

There still needs to be a lot of research done to prove the significance of eliminating foods that your body shows a higher sensitivity to from the diet. You must remember that this testing does not prove you have a full-blown allergy, but that your body shows sensitivity. However, I believe that the ideas behind the diet are good. If you eat the same items over and over again, your body will most likely show sensitivity to them due to overexposure. It probably is a smart idea for everyone to start cycling food items most often consumed and add some variety into your refrigerator and pantry. Stay tuned for more information!

1 comment:

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