IgG tests promise to reveal food sensitivities. But are they science or science-ish?


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35 comments

  1. Kira B

    We tried keeping a food reaction because of severe non IgE food allergies (red cheeks/GI issues/rashes/eczema) Mainstream testing and allergists were zero help. We stumbled upon ALCAT food sensitivity test and FINALLY were able to get relief for symptoms. Allergens included black pepper and broccoli which were frequently consumed, impossible to figure out with a food diary and when removed truly brought relief to years of chronic, visible symptoms. Yes–there is not a lot of science to these alternative food tests–but sometimes they help individuals when mainstream medicine fails to bring relief or even acknowledgement of the problem. One GI doctor told me “We deal with death and disease not health and wellness.” So if your reactions are causing you to be unwell and not healthy but don’t fall into the death and disease catagory often it is outside the scope of what MDs in the US deal with. We did the ALCAT every year or so until my sons gut and immune system healed. I am truly grateful for the parent who showed me the ALCAT food allergy panel when mainstream doctors were failing us. I understand doctors reluctance to believe in these tests. But as a parent–it was very helpful to us and halted non IgE food reactions. Interesting article. Thanks for overview.

    • Nikki

      Well said Kira! My family has had similar benefits from the Alcat test.

  2. Julie Bolin

    Wow! Thank you for this article. I’m just coming off of a 21 day elimination of the foods that my IgG test said I was sensitive to. (I thought it was bogus because it contained almost every healthy food that I typically eat – like lettuce and cabbage) I wish I had done a little more research because this test was very expensive (out of pocket was $250 but they billed my insurance $5000).

    • Saskia

      Hi Julie,
      I have just been doing an elimination diet as well, IBS, and symptoms actually got worse instead of better. Did you notice a difference in your symptoms?

      Hope what ever you are dealing with gets better soon!

      Saskia

      • Monique Lalonge

        Hi Saskia,
        I read a book recently “the Plant Paradox” by Dr Gundry that eliminate a lot of food with lectins.
        I did that blood test too and have to admit (the test shows a lot of intolerances for food I never eat.
        Got a paper from a naturopath with what you should eat with your blood type too (many food are contradictory (some should be highly beneficial on the blood type but were in my top for intolerance with the blood test)…..it’s very frustrating as it difficult to pinpoint easily.
        Personally, I’ll start with Dr Gundry list and add food after. His approach seems more logical and doable.
        Good luck

    • Ali

      Are you kidding me??? $5000 is insane and should be illegal! I had to pay for mine out of pocket and submit on my own. The company really should be fighting that charge then. Insane!

      As it was, I had only 5 foods in the red and 9 in the yellow zone. The rest all green. So it really does look like stress (and now anxiety according to my chiro) is the main culprit!

  3. Ro Fundum

    I’m on the fence about the info in this article. In some ways it makes sense. But the statement, “…… IgG may simply indicate that the food is in the diet.” does not make sense to me. I had the test done, and it came back as “highly sensitive” to whey, hemp, and kidney beans. I often did whey protein with hemp seed hearts for omega 3’s. So in that respect the above statement makes sense. But I rarely eat kidney beans….by rarely I mean maybe once a year.
    Also, my test came back as moderate sensitivity (just barely below the ‘high’ sensitivity range) to papaya & pineapple. I do not eat pineapple because I don’t like it. I ate one bite of papaya, one time several years ago. I didn’t like it either and I never eat it.
    Furthermore, many of the foods I do eat a lot of, are on my low sensitivity list. Things such as eggs (I eat them almost every day), berries (I eat daily), all nuts & seeds (I eat daily), and my favorite cheese (cheddar) which I eat often. My results showed that I could continue to eat these foods freely, they were very low on my reaction list. So it seems that the correlation is not consistent.
    Of interest, is the fact that once I got my results I immediately quit doing my whey/hemp protein drinks. Within a few days, the pain that had been in my shoulder for the last couple of years completely let up and I now have complete range of motion again. The only thing I did different was quit the whey protein (and hemp seed hearts).

    So bottom line, although this article is interesting, I cannot help but wonder if there is some valid science supporting the IGg test that is just not yet mainstream. The author of this article does make some sense, but I’m not ready to discount the clinical usefulness of the food sensitivity test.

    • June 1970

      Hi, glad to hear you had some success. My son (age 11) had a similar experience. His sensitivities included most of the foods he hates and doesn’t eat anyway. It also noted egg whites and wheat. He was recently seen by a paediatric neurologist for a tic disorder NOS, and once we eliminated the eggs and wheat, his tics disappeared. They come back if he has too much of his trigger foods. So, I’m sold!

    • Marina

      I also find that the food that I have high IgG to, when removed, help with pains , swollen fingers etc. I also find that I got high reactivity to foods that I hardly eat. By that I did not eat sesame seeds for years, yes, no tahini.
      And some other foods. Does this article also says that if no reaction I have no tolerance to it? I would love to hear.

    • Raine

      I agree with you totally. I had similar experience with my test results. We have a tendency to eat from a small group of food choices instead of a rotating from a wide range.

    • Lola White

      Glad you are navigating your health. These test have been very helpful for me and my family. I have energy, weight loss and better patience.

  4. Colin

    I am just about to have my test done. My family doctor prescribed medicine that was harmful to me and suggested I continue on long term it long term even though it wasn’t relieving any symptoms. I went to a Naturopath that had me supplement a couple of vitamins etc and after 3 days I am feeling marginally better. He suggested I get the IGG test done and see if instead of putting something foreign into my body (hardcore pills) maybe I just need to remove something (a food or two). It is a no brainer in my opinion. Mainstream doctors do not seem to care about the root causes just symptom relief at any expense to overall health. My opinion…

  5. Scott Rozell

    Paying for Food Specific IgG allergy testing is the first mistake people make. This testing is performed by EVERY lab in the U.S.. What that means is that they are covered by most insurance companies when using a repeatable lab and they are ordered by a doctor.
    Next is, nobody is eating a whole food diet. You have no idea what is in processed foods. Natural Flavors is a very common ingredient in processed foods. No identification of the “Flavors” is required on the label.
    Then trusting any labeling on foods. The FDA clearly states that up to 20ppm of Wheat is allowed in Certified Gluten Free labeled foods. Therefore, those GF labeled foods are actually NOT gluten free.
    You really need to understand the food supply in the U.S.. FDA does a poor job of regulating. Tobacco companies own 80% of all food manufacturers. That right there should scare everyone.

    • Deborah

      Although the testing may be common, coverage by insurance companies is not. My insurance company was happy to pay for my IgE tests but refused to pay for the IgG/IgA tests with the same doctor. The former was done in the doctor’s clinic, the other was blood work that needed to be sent out; maybe that’s part of the cost equation.

      You’re right that many people are not eating a whole food diet, but it’s incredibly uninformed to suggest that “nobody” is doing so, or to imply that a whole food diet will heal all ills. Before I did any allergy testing, I went on a paleo diet which eliminates processed foods, grains, dairy, and legumes. I ate meat my family hunted / fished, all organic produce, wild berries I picked, local honey only for sweetener, etc. for 2 months to determine if it would help and while some of my symptoms improved, the rest did not until I did the IgG testing and eliminated all 15 foods on my list (yes, I know that’s a lot!).

      However, I complete agree with you that labeling is often misleading and most people don’t take the time to read labels effectively.

      Like a few other readers, I found the article interesting but it didn’t mesh with my own experience with this testing. My test revealed 15 items and I question the need to purge all 15 from my diet. However, in reintroducing some of them I found that my symptoms returned. I also found that for most of them there was a cumulative reaction so I can eat them once without any problem, but if I eat it two or three times in a few weeks than I react; this is something that wouldn’t show up on the typical reactivity test to determine IgG testing validity. It’s also extraordinarily different to figure out from logging food alone.

      The one fact not included in this article that I felt should be included is that many of these tests are not reliable. When you compare results for the same individual taken at the same time but sent to two different labs, there are also inconsistencies.

      At the end of the day, however, it is one more tool in the arsenal of solving chronic health problems.

  6. Colin

    Got my results today.

    I have an extremely elevated sensitivity to 40 of the 120 foods tested and another 6 are mildly elevated. Funny thing is I also have no elevated sensitivity to 6 foods that I am sensitive too and always have been. I am doubting the merits of this test… at least as far as my blood is concerned. I have another very expensive apt with my naturopath Dr. in a few days and will see how he recommends that I proceed. I am just about to go and eat my lunch and then I read my emailed blood report. My lunch has 5 sensitivity elevated foods in it, seriously 5.

    #DiscouragedBeyondBelief
    #InsaneFromTheVein
    #WhatDidIJustPay$400For?

    • Melanie

      Colin, what happened after your blood work? Did you eliminate the foods?

  7. Maureen

    I just received results for an IgG test and it had elevated levels of all the foods I am eating on a regular basis. However, dairy was not elevated which I react to. If I follow the results and removed all the elevated foods, there is no way I am eating a healthy diet!

  8. Paul

    These tests work!
    I changed my diet based on the IgG tests. I have had the test twice 3 years aparts. Here is the result… previously I had high levels if intolerance to 33 foods. Wheat and dairy being the most intolerant foods.
    After a very strict diet for 3 years, all of my intolerances have decreased in magnitude but still exist without any recent sources in my diet.
    All of my poor health symptoms such as fatigue, arthritis, migraines, indigestion, cramps, and IBS have been eliminated and my intolerant food list has reduced to 27 foods. Dairy and Wheat are still my most intolerant foods.

    I am sometimes reminded for days after eating a mysterious ingredient in a restuarant that some foods can act like poison in the body.

  9. Peter

    It is crucial to separate IgG-tests from IgG4-tests. IgG4 is viewed as an antagonist to IgE-responses and does not correlate to delayed responses to food. But other IgG-tests do. I provide som references after spending a day looking for scientific backing. :

    IBS
    Atkinson W, Sheldon TA, Shaath N, Whorwell PJ. Food elimination based on IgG antibodies in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomised controlled trial. Gut 2004; 53: 1459–1464
    Zar S, Mincher L, Benson MJ, Kumar D. Food-specific IgG4 antibody-guided exclusion diet improves symptoms and rectal compliance in irritable bowel syndrome. Scand J Gastroenterol 2005; 40: 800–807
    Drisko J, Bischoff B, Hall M, McCallum R. Treating irritable bowel syndrome with a food elimination diet followed by food challenge and probiotics. J Am Coll Nutr 2006; 25: 514–522
    Zuo XL, Li YQ, Li WJ, et al. Alterations of food antigen-specific serum immunoglobulins G and E antibodies in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia. Clin Exp Allergy 2007; 37: 823–830
    Yang and Li, Zhonghua Nei Ke Za Zhi. 2007 Aug;46(8):641-3. [The therapeutic effects of eliminating allergic foods according to food-specific IgG antibodies in irritable bowel syndrome].
    Ou-Yang et al 2008. Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi. 2008 Feb;10(1):21-4. [Application of food allergens specific IgG antibody detection in chronic diarrhea in children].
    Fergus S, Peter J. IgG-mediated food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome: a real phenomenon or an epiphenomenom? Am J Gastroenterol 2005; 100: 1558-9.
    Aydinlar EI, et al. IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache 2013;53:514-525.

    There is pretty much on migraine as well and some other diagnoses too

  10. dilis clare

    As a family doctor I was very wary about the expense to people of an unproven Food Intolerance Test. I always made sure people reintroduced the foods as tis is the missing action, even though people are advised to do this they often don’t comply for a variety of reasons.
    However I was with my sister and her family when after a usual family meal my niece aged 7 became unmanageable with a severe temper tantrum over nothing. They coped but after she went to bed I enquired what was going on. They said ‘welcome to our world, sometimes this happens for no reason, usually after dinner’. I recommended a Food Intolerance Test as there were no clues as to any particular foods. She came back positive for wheat dairy and peas. No problems while they were eliminated, milk and wheat re-introduced, all well. Peas reintroduced and all hell broke loose. Same happened with several reintroduction, even when blended and disguised as none of us were convinced of the science.
    Safe to say peas are no longer on the shopping list.
    I had been absorbing patients stories of similar experiences, this lead to the recommendation. I don’t often suggest the tests, only in conjunction with seeing a nutritionist and most often suggest elimination and reintroduction. But they can answer and solve some health issues if used discriminately and with guidance.
    Of the billions spent on medical testing just in case and for patient reassurance or as a ritual this one is not the worst by a long chalk. Incidentally these problems started shortly after a severe allergic reaction to Ibuprofen taken for a fever with an infected finger which may have caused GIT damage or immune crossreactivity. We will never know.
    Dr Dilis Clare Galway Ireland

  11. Lucy

    Fact-check:
    In this article it says ” There is evidence that kids who have had their diets limited by food allergies can be susceptible to poor growth and nutrient deficiencies—and it makes sense that restricting a child’s diet due to suspected intolerances or sensitivities could have the same effect”. Doubting this, because I have seen exactly the opposite when food reactivites/allergies are identified and removed, I followed the link for this quote and found the TRUE study results (which do make sense to me)…
    STUDY RESULTS:
    “Six studies were analyzed. One study found that children with food allergies are more likely to be malnourished than children without food allergies. Three studies found that children with multiple food allergies were shorter than children with 1 food allergy. Four studies assessed nutrient intake of children with multiple food allergies, but the inclusion and comparison criteria were different in each of the studies and the findings were conflicting. One study found that children with food allergies who did not receive nutrition counseling were more likely to have inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D.”
    I have not edited this in any way. This result makes sense to me, as the reason kids are manifesting food reactivites/allergies in the first place is because their digestive and immune systems are not operating optimally! Of course they are going to be often shorter/less well nourished – they are not digesting well and need to work with someone who can help optimize digestion and give guidance on balance of nutrients. Any allergens can be removed from the diet without removing necessary nutrients. Luckily, nature supplied us with MANY beautiful sources.

  12. Jenn Kozek

    No one lab test is ever perfect. This is why as my book explains a multiple of different types of testing tells a more complete story. Gut testing, etc etc

    All I know as applied kinesiology (muscle testing), ALCAT (white blood cells) and IgG (antibodies) testing all told us a similar thing.

    Healing Without Hurting

  13. Leelee

    I disagree. I struggled with eczema and hives after eating and severe stomach pain and just a general unwell feeling. I had IgE tests and they all came back negative. I then decided on the advice of a functional doctor to have an IgG test which came back with a very high positive for wheat, eggs and dairy. I knew I reacted to them that is why I had the IgE test in the first place which was negative. Well based on the results of the IgG I cut out dairy, wheat and eggs. Guess what, my eczema, hives and stomach pain disappeared. I even tested positive for Cola Nuts which I have never eaten in my life so your theory of elevated IgG levels for everything you eat daily does not pan out. I also tested negative for things I eat daily, so again you are wrong. So do I believe you, or the great result I had trusting the IgG test? Tired of conventional doctors that never
    think out of the box and guess what? After cutting those three there is a vast improvement in my auto immune illnesses, multiple sclerosis being one of them.

    • Magdalena

      But if you know how the gut works – eliminating gluten (from wheat) and casein (from dairy) restores the gut, and so the symptoms go away. No expensive test needed at all. Eggs are also one of the most common foods, that cause a reaction (especially the not organic ones), so it could have been solved with a simple elimination diet too.

  14. Jarrod Stringer

    I would like to thank all of the people who commented on this article. I find your experiences invaluable as I try to find my own way through the physical distress my body has been experiencing. I wish you all the best.

    • Stacey

      I feel the same way! My son has been suffering his whole 3.5 years with terrible eczema, asthma, allergies, and muscle trouble. I have begged the allergist to test him but won’t. We have started an elimination diet again and struggling through the “healing process” and elimination of all steroids and antihistamines he was taking daily. It seems he is so much worse right now but I am trying to stay the course. So many family members do not get my avid need to keep searching for other reasons and often just want to “give him one little bit” of something we are trying to assess. So the diet is difficult to complete because family cares for him during the work day, causing a yoyo effect. I just completed an IgG test at home because I am at my wits end! We are hoping for some clarity from the results even though this article contradicts the validity of the test. Wishing you healing with whatever health issues you face!

  15. Asthma. And more allergy

    Stacey
    I had the same experience with my son over 20 years ago when he was 8 and had the same symptoms as your child and same road blocks.They did not have these igg tests back then. After 2 years on steroids and medicines, allergy shots and negative allergy tests and more that did not remedy anything I turned to a homeopathic md. They follow peter adamos book” eat right for your blood type “. Within 2 weeks on this diet mainly going off wheat and dairy he was off of all steroids without an asthma attack. It was amazing. Years later when at sleep away camp his dad secretly told him ( but don’t tell your mom since you outgrew this allergy)he could start eating dairy or wheat again and he develops warts all over his body including his genitals. After getting them burned off, frozen off and other procedures over course of 2-3 months they still came back. Finally i discovered he was secretly eating these foods. Once you have an food allergy the reactions to your body will change and become more severe. It may not be asthma but might also come back as cancer. We have had many different episodes like this with family members sabotaging his diet and young mind and trying g to figure out the cause but it always comes back to his intolerance . Fast forward to college 8- 10 years ago and sure enough his age and me not cooking his meals his Asthma and other new gastro symptoms r acting up. Now he takes the ig4 test and it shows wheat and dairy off the charts despite not eating them for years and also other foods. By following this chart and eliminating sugar for a year all his symptoms got back to normal. Now he is 29 and asthma flares up after trip to Mexico. He went back to same doc who helped for another ig4 test and they say it is illegal to now have this test. I don’t know why that is so. He told him to get back on the books diet and he is deficient in vitamin d and b12. When on a limited diet you must be sure to get your blood work checked because vitamin defininchy ar common due to food elimination. Which labs ig4 test in nj would anyone recommend? Thought this info would help doubting parents

  16. Dr. Mazen A Ch

    I have done the food intolerance tests IGg (( immupro 300 )) with patient with Behavioural Disturbance & others with chronic gaseous fustension & abdominal discomfort & after elimination ting the food the were highly intolerant to they got much better. I tried it on myself & it worked with me as well & decreased my abdominal issues of flatulence & discomfort, what can be the explanation for that????
    I am doing to my patient although it is costly but if I will get convinced that it is of no value I will feel bad to do it & let them pay that amount of money.

  17. Paul Conyette

    An elimination diet is a test. However there is very little objectivity. I would recommend a detailed diet record along with an elimination diet diary which would include a Numerical symptom scale such as how many tums are you taking for your upset stomach per day before starting the elimination diet and after starting the elimination diet . Another example would be how many puffs per day are you requiring from your Ventolin asthma medication before and after the elimination diet. A reduction in number would be an objective finding that could prove that eliminating the food is a useful strategy for that individual. This information should be gathered for up to two or three weeks for a single food item in order to obtain realistic data. The problem with this method is that screening for dozens and dozens of foods could take months to years to get the full picture. Another point to keep in mind Is that food sensitivities can often mean that the person’s immune system might be under stress due to other factors. It is important to address those outside interfering factors before spending hundreds of dollars on tests. For patients who live a life of no stress which in my experience are very few, then I would suggest taking the highroad with some form of testing either subjective or Objective and in that order.

  18. Paul Spencer

    I have sent a copy of this to our local Lifelab for comment.
    I doubt I will hear form them.
    Sad to see a medical lab marketing unreliable testis.

    Paul Spencer MD

    • Alex Gornall

      Dr. Spencer, I am very interested in understanding what it is about this LifeLabs test that makes you certain it is more unreliable than other tests. I’m doing some study in this area and wonder if you could point me to any scientific research that confirms your view. Thank you.

  19. Beverly Campbell

    To whom it may concern,

    Here is my problem with your opinion and this article, which from my opinion appears to be dismissive towards food sensitivities. When my IgG test was done I had been off milk and all milk products for five years. I made this choice following a severe incident with extremely elevated liver enzymes (into the 500’s). This resulted in me illiminating all fat out of my diet and consuming nothing but almonds, Bolthouse Green Goodness, and skinless chicken for three weeks. By the end of the first week 2 enzymes were back in the normal range and the last was just under 100. There is no mistaking how sick I was when I was released from the hospital.

    At the end of this drastic diet, I chose to drink a glass of milk, my favorite. Within the hour I was doubled over in intense abdominal pain 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. It took two or more hours of being curled up in a ball for the pain to subside. It took me the next two years to figure out how much dairy I could have, and in addition the urologist I was seeing during that entire time could find no cause.

    After seperate incidents of getting sick on a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips which contained milk by-products; a small pill which contained lactose; and a small piece of a friends cake which had 1/4 cup of milk in a recipie that yielded two 9″ inch cakes 4″ inches high, the result was obvious – zero milk in any form.

    I had been getting randomly and frequently ill with this pain and IBS for years. Over the next five years I avoided milk faithfully, checking every bag, bottle and box for any of the sixteen names for milk, or the words “may contain.” At the end of that five years, following another health complication, I had my IgG test done. What was at the top of that score? Sheeps milk at 68 – which I had not to my mind ever ingested; cows milk at 66 – which to my knowledge I had been off of for the affore mentioned five years; and goats milk also in the 60’s – which I had eaten from time to time. Both I and my doctor had already come to the conclusion, as did my naturopath, that I have a severe intolerance to milk in all of it’s forms.

    So here is my question. Why would it rank so high if I prepared all of my own food and had not ingested cow’s milk for 5 years, with the exception of a tiny liittle pill for my thyroid, which I have since discovered contained lactose and have now switched. I could not figure out why every now and then I would randomly double over.

    I take issue with the prevalance of unsympathetic attitude toward sensitivites. When you find yourself in the hospital on morphine on more than one occasion to combat the pain; unreliable at work due to random bouts of illness and the fear of getting sick; terrified to eat out, or travel, you will quickly change your mind about the casual way you address this issue. Please stop dissmissing food sensitivies and treating them as though they are nothing to be concerned about. They may not be life threatening, but they are life altering. As for me, thankfully I am getting better.

    Sincerely,
    Beverly Campbell

  20. Stacy

    We have gone through blood and skin testing after 2 reactions to peanut. One systemic, (but not recognized at the time), and the other a contact reaction to peanut where peanut briefly touched skin and produced hives on a large surface area. Testing of course revealed peanut allergy. Skin testing also showed lower skin reactions to milk, some nuts, and wheat. All of which we were told to ignore because he was eating them with no difficulty. Of course with cross contamination all nuts were off the table from that point. The next year, testing was done for nuts only, and peanut remained, but the types of tree nuts on skin test were reversed. Which made me doubt the skin testing right there. Later that year, my son began having reactions to the cold, and unknown things. Then the asthma started. We limited milk, and the symptoms improved some, but still having very concerning symptoms that looked like the beginnings of anaphylaxis, triggered by cold, exercise, unknowns. We did do IgG testing, as we did not want a future of heavy medicating for him. The IgG showed highest for wheat and rice. Our other son also has serious digestive issues with wheat and milk. We have strictly followed a rice, wheat and gluten free diet for 6 weeks now, without any asthma, or other allergy symptoms. So many allergic type disorders, autoimmune, asthma, are given the same meds to “treat” whether it is idiopathic anapylaxis (no cause known), allergic symptoms to the cold, heat, exercise, mast cell disorders, and so many of these same people note improvement with removal of foods causing sensitivity. I agree that elimination diets are also a way to test. What further complicates things more in some people using a food diary to track, is that the combination of certain foods with certain activities can increase gut permeability for some people and cause reactions. Some people will have allergy symptoms if a food like wheat is eaten, then they exercise, or vice versa. The same people may not react if they do not exercise around the time the food is eaten, or exercise in the absence of that food.

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