Why I'm not ashamed I got a food intolerance blood test

Here's an extract from an article that I read recently on Outsideonline.com:

It's something I've heard before, notably also from Eve Kalinik at a Guardian Masterclass I attended on How to Heal your Gut: testing for food intolerances using a blood test is a waste of time. 

My food intolerance blood test was bought for me as a Christmas gift in 2015 (weird perhaps but ultimately life changing present). And at the time I didn't really look into the science behind it. 

My intolerance blood test results from York Laboratories 

My intolerance blood test results from York Laboratories 

But since I've started this journey, changing what I eat and eliminating things I have seen these comments about the tests time and time again. So I went to have a look at the research behind food intolerance blood tests, also known as igG reaction tests. 

There's plenty out there if you Google but Eileen Laird has written a great explanation on the Autoimmune-paleo.com website about why these blood tests are said to be unreliable. I'll quote from it here:

ELISA and ALCAT are both blood tests that claim to identify food intolerances. They look at how your blood responds when exposed to a specific food. ELISA measures IgG antibody reactions. ALCAT measures white blood cell reactions. These sound like plausible theories, right? Antibodies and white blood cells are part of your immune system. If your immune system reacts to a food, that would obviously signify intolerance.
 
Not so fast! The immune system is complex; if it wasn’t we’d have a cure for autoimmunity by now. It turns out that some studies show that an IgG response to a food actually indicates tolerance. And white blood cells constantly change shape and activity anyway, so if they do that in the presence of a food, that doesn’t mean the food was the trigger. Not surprisingly, both tests are notorious for inconsistent results.

Eileen Laird at autoimmune-paleo.com 

Eileen, among many others with lots of science and nutrition qualifications, state that the only truly reliable way to discover your food intolerance is to do an elimination diet. That is, cut out a hell of a load of things, and then slowly re-introduce them back into your diet, ideally under the supervision of a dietitian. It's slow and strict and can be very difficult, but ultimately gives you highly personalised results. 

So right now I should be hanging my head in shame at my stupidity, right? I was thick enough to be duped into taking the 'easy' option of finding out in one simple test what was triggering my bloating and diarrhoea. 

And partly this has been true. I have been embarrassed. I put my hand up in that Guardian Masterclass with Eve last year and said to a room full of people that I was one of those idiots that had taken a blood test to discover my food intolerance. **Cringe** 

But at the same time, I'm actually not ashamed to say I did the blood test. Because you know what? It's done me a huge amount of good. 

When yeast showed up as my intolerance I thought I'd just be cutting out bread. And then when I did my research and discovered the whole world of candida and the fact a yeast intolerance is linked also to wine, dairy, processed meats and sugar suddenly the impact was much greater. My three months of elimination wasn't just lacking in toast and Marmite, it was a whole education in what was good and bad for the gut (read more about it in my blog post here).  

The Flourishing Pantry | yeast free diet blog

Cutting out loads of food types from your diet without a sound 'scientific' reason isn't a good idea. It could leave you lacking in particular nutrients and minerals that your body needs and ultimately denying yourself perhaps unnecessarily of food you love.  

I can totally see how some people, particularly if their symptoms are really severe, could take these results very seriously and cut out a load of food from their diet leaving them deficient in some areas when the results might not be accurate. 

But personally I've discovered a low yeast diet is healthy and well-balanced. 

The things that I cut out or cut down on: fermented products, refined sugar, processed meats etc. (see a full list on my About Yeast Free page), are pretty much stuff that any person wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle would want to eliminate anyway. 

My diet now is much higher in vegetables, fruit, unprocessed meat and fish, nuts and oils. How on earth can that be a bad thing? 

Hellloooooo fruit! Plentiful in Barcelona's Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

Hellloooooo fruit! Plentiful in Barcelona's Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

There's a lot of shouting (and sometimes anger and outrage) about health science and myths, who you should listen to and who you shouldn't. This seems to be growing all the time as people become more interested in eating better and how gut health is affecting their whole body and mind. 

A lot of the fear factor for me, particularly starting a blog like this with no science background or training, is that what I'm writing about will be 'wrong'. Whilst I appreciate the concern some people show about false nutrition facts circulating on the internet, sometimes it's about the journey and learning along the way. 

So I think it's important to say that yes, I do acknowledge the blood test I took has scientific weaknesses. And yes, I may well be cutting out things that technically I could eat and are not triggering my symptoms. 

But actually I'm happier and healthier without them and have discovered so many alternatives and delicious food and ingredients I would never have found otherwise. And surely that's the point? I started this journey to feel better, and that's the result I've got and now want to share with others.  

If the reason I started cutting this stuff out was because of a 'phoney' blood test then I will take that embarrassment. It's led me to where I am now a year on: a much healthier, slimmer, more mindful eater, conscious of what I'm eating and how it affects my body. And maybe that's the same for you too. 

Some bits of reading I did:

https://www.allergyuk.org/food-intolerance/identifying-your-food-intolerances
http://autoimmune-paleo.com/why-food-intolerance-testing-doesnt-work/