Ep. 124: What to do with Food Sensitivity Test Results

Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, I'm chatting with Reverse Interviewer Haven about what to do with the results you get from a food sensitivity test.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 124 what to do with food sensitivity test results with Cassy Joy

We're back with our 124th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 124 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. My name is Cassy Joy Garcia, I am your host. And I am the owner, founder, blogger, nutrition consultant. Well, I guess at this point, one of the nutrition consultants behind the brand Fed and Fit. Our team is growing, and it’s very exciting. And we’re back with another weekly Fed and Fit podcast episode. It’s a very fun, informal 30-minute show. I like to sprinkle in the occasional dive really deep into the weeds of scientific topics, nutrition science topics, like dairy 101 is one that I’m working on right now. I like to invite really wonderful guests to come on and share their experience.

And on that note, today is kind of in line with that. I like to do the occasional reverse interview, which is where a Fed and Fit listener/reader writes in with a wonderful question, and instead of giving them exactly what they want, which is an email response. Or however they reached out to me; whether it was through messaging or something. I ask them if they’d be willing to come on to my podcast to record our conversation with the hopes that it resonates with more folks out there. More of you that are listening.

So today is just exactly one of those occasions. I’m really excited to welcome Haven onto the show today. Haven lives up in Victoria, British Columbia. She’s a graduate student over at the University of Victoria. She’s getting her Master of Science in Hydrology, which I really geek out over. I think that’s really cool. If you're wondering what Hydrology is, because I asked {laughs} it’s essentially a geography type subject. But zeroing in on focusing on water.

But, we’re not going to talk about that today. But I think it’s so neat to know what people’s backgrounds are. Haven, welcome to the show!

Haven: Hi; thanks Cassy.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I’m excited to have you. Well, as always with these reverse interviews, I’m going to let Haven run the show. She gets to ask whatever question she’s got. I’m at your disposal for the next 25 to 30 minutes. And we’re going to have a good time.

Haven: Awesome. I feel very powerful. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughing} You are.

Haven: Ok. The question that I wrote in about had to do with food sensitivities, specifically food sensitivity test results. A year ago, I had an IgG allergen test done, and I found out I had dozens of food intolerances. I’ve often heard that if you have so many food sensitivities, it’s really just a sign of leaky gut rather than true food intolerances. And I’d been confused ever sense whether these are real sensitivities, but they should resolve once I manage to heal my gut? Like they’re not permanent? Or if the results are really just unreliable because my gut is leaky and every food might show up as sensitive. And it’s really ok to still eat them?

It’s been a year. And I removed the foods. And I tried to reintroduce them. I actually have had a lot of reactions when reintroducing them, but I’ve also been a bit fatigued of feeling so limited for an entire year now and being unsuccessful in reintroducing most of these foods. So I was like, it’s time to ask someone if I really need to remove these foods. Can I heal my gut otherwise, or what? Does that make sense?

Cassy Joy: That makes perfect sense, and it’s such a good question. I like to be a little bit surprised when I invite people onto the show for a reverse interview, so that you really get. I think it’s fun just to fire from the hip. So I had kind of forgotten the details of your question, and I love it all over again.

Ok, such a great question. So, I would say that, they probably showed you in your test results kind of a green, yellow, red spectrum of sensitivities, is that correct?

Haven: Yes.

Cassy Joy: Ok. And so for folks who are listening, and you're not quite sure what I’m talking about. These allergen panels, what they’ll do is they’ll essentially test cross-reactivity to see if you have active antibodies in your body for various kinds of specific foods. Bananas, pork, eggs, you name it, right. They’re all going to be on there. Or at least a lot of the more common foods are going to be on there.

Depending on the concentration of antibodies in your body that are present will tell you if you are highly reactive or not so reactive to those foods. So, for example, if you eat banana every single morning, and you have; let’s say you also have leaky gut syndrome. And leaky gut is also known as intestinal permeability. Haven, this is obviously review for you, but I think it’s good to cover for other listeners that are dialing in.

Intestinal permeability; the concept of that is that it is a very complicated one to describe accurately. But to give you kind of a Ms. Frizzle overview, if you guys remember the Magic School Bus. Overview of what goes on in the body. It’s essentially that nutrients we’re consuming, proteins that we’re consuming that are a part of; every single food has protein in it, right? Has a form of protein. For example, gluten is a form of protein found in wheat.

And these proteins, we ingest them, they go through our digestive system, and if our gut barrier, that intestinal barrier, isn’t quite strong and intact as it normally could and should be, sometimes these proteins are not denatured properly. Digested properly. And they find their way into our body in forms that aren’t necessarily usable by our body, or maybe they’re interpreted as foreign invaders.

So what does our body do when these foreign proteins are floating around? They wage some form of attack. Because that’s what we’re made to do. That’s what our immune system is made to do. And so the first wave, just kind of like if you guys want to listen to allergies 101, I did a podcast on that this past spring. Where I really dove into the science of antigens and allergens.

But essentially, let’s say you get a wave of exposure. That banana that you eat every single morning, you now have intestinal permeability with that banana. And you're eating this banana. And these banana proteins find their way into your body, and your body does not recognize these proteins as useable, right? So what it does, the first wave it tends to ignore. But the second time it happens, it’s ready. It’s prepared. It’s created these little antigens that are specific lock and key designed to attack that exact protein.

So what these allergy tests do, in extreme layman’s terms. I’m jumping over big voids of technical details. But essentially what these allergy tests do is they test for these antibodies, and these antigens in your system. And let’s say if you have a high concentration of little warriors that your body has made to fight bananas, that’s probably because those banana proteins have found their way in and your body is just hypersensitive and ready to combat. Even though the banana protein won’t necessarily harm you, your body is just ready to take it down.

Ok, is that clear as mud? I know you understand the test, but I hope that was helpful for other folks. Ok, so her question is such a good one. Because let’s say you go in and you get this IgG antibody test. And they give you your results back, and they have this green, yellow, red spectrum of where you rank for every single food that they’ve tested. Pork, poultry, beef, salmon, bananas, apples, almonds, wheat gluten, dairy, sheep’s milk, so on and so forth.

And it says, let’s say you’ve never eaten sheep’s milk in your life, so it’s probably going to be in the green for that one. Right? Haven, I don’t know if you noticed. But if there’s foods that you haven’t eaten; did you notice that there are foods you haven’t touched at all that came back as very low reactivity.

Haven: Yes, there were. But interestingly, there are actually some foods I’ve never eaten that came back as red.

Cassy Joy: Interesting. So those are true allergens. Those are true sensitivities in the body.

Haven: Ok, that was my next question.

Cassy Joy: Yes, those are true sensitivities. Not that the others are not true. But they could be somewhat inflated in their high test result based on how much you consumed them. So, let’s say you get this test result back. So across the spectrum; let’s say you eat eggs every single day and eggs came back as relatively inflammatory or a reactivity in your body. So on and so forth. So you look at these results, and you scan the list, and you think, “I can only eat the things that are green.” And that leaves; I’m just making this up. Let’s say that leaves salmon, grapes, and avocado. {laughs} You're thinking, “That’s all I can eat for the rest of my life.”

Truth be told, I personally. My personal take, as a nutrition consultant, is that’s not the case. Our bodies are made to heal. And essentially what these tests do is it’s just a snapshot in time. It’s just a quick litmus paper. We’re dropping in, at this moment, this is what’s going on, the chemistry of our body. But that’s not a forever sentence. And it’s so easy to look at those results and think, “OH, I’m allergic to eggs. Because these came back as relatively highly reactive, between yellow and red. Even though I eat them every single morning, maybe I need to cut these out entirely for the rest of my life and go entirely egg-free.”

My personal take is that’s not the case. That’s not true. So getting to Haven’s original question; you took this test you said a year ago?

Haven: Yeah, last August.

Cassy Joy: Ok. So that’s a nice long time. So typically, when we get these test results back, the idea is to cut out the reactive foods. Eat only the foods that we’re not reactive towards, with the hopes that one of two things happens. Either, A, we decrease inflammation overall. If our body is irritated by bananas, then let’s go ahead and cut out bananas. Right? If our body is being irritated by eggs, let’s go ahead and cut out the eggs. With the hope that it starts to really reduce an inflammatory reaction.

An inflammatory reaction that shows up in so many different ways in our bodies. That can be painful joints. Even in my early, early 20s I had knee and hip pain that was almost debilitating and it was because of food. So that could be painful joints. It could be headaches. It could be showing up as bloating; just general bloating overall. Holding onto water weight. Mental fog. Exhaustion. Things like that. Difficulty focusing.

So the idea is, let’s cut out the things that are causing inflammation in our body. Those yellow and red-scoring foods, so that we can reduce inflammation, hopefully get down to a baseline, heal ourselves, and then start to reintroduce. That’s really the full picture.

But a lot of the times, I don’t think that full protocol is delivered to folks who get these test results. At least with people who I’ve worked with. They get these results and they think, “Well I guess I can’t eat eggs or avocados the rest of my life.” And I really don’t believe that to be true, unless it’s a true allergy. And that’s something really only you can test individually as time goes on.

So I’m of the mindset; to Haven’s question, that the main objective here is to heal our gut. Right? So when we think about leaky gut, the visual. The very rough visual that it gives us going on physiologically in our body is that we have essentially a leak in our intestines that’s leaking into our body cavity. Right? These proteins are flowing in and it’s causing a reaction. That’s technically not exactly what’s happening, but it’ll get us pretty close. Right?

So if we heal the leak. If we patch that leak, we heal our gut, then could we start eating these foods that we don’t have a true allergy to, and our body then won’t react to them. And then answer is yes, you can. It’s possible to heal ourselves. It’s possible to reintroduce.

When I first “went paleo” and cut out a bunch of foods from my diet, I cut out the foods that I was reactive to the most. And that included all grains, all dairy, and a couple other very random things. I guess not so random. Artificial sweeteners, that’s not random at all. I was a diet Dr. Pepper queen. But I cut out these things that I knew were the source of the damage; not necessarily the source of the inflammation. If that makes sense.

So if we look at cutting out the source of the damage, we’re probably going to be able to heal the gut and then maybe eat those foods that aren’t necessarily causing damage in the gut, but could be causing inflammation just because they’re slipping through.

So I would say, yes. Focus on healing the gut. Focus on healing that leaky gut, and we can talk about doing that in a second. I’m sure Haven’s got a pretty good idea. And then start to reintroduce some of those foods that you suspect were flagged as high just because you had been eating them, and just because your body had been exposed. Not necessarily because you have true allergies. Does that make sense?

Haven: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Can I ask another question related to it?

Cassy Joy: Yeah girl. Go for it.

Haven: Ok. So I did remove these foods. For my personal case, what’s interesting is I removed these foods. Tried them again after 6 months, and then tried to reduce a lot of them again this past summer one by one. And like I was saying, I was really unsuccessful. Which was disappointing to me, I think. It was all fine until this past summer. I’m like; now I’m really tired of not being able to eat some of these very basic foods that are in everything, you know?

I’ve struggled with small intestine bacterial overgrowth, Candida, a parasite, the gut dysbiosis. I just came off the pill after 7 years. I was vegetarian for 5 years before that. I had a restrictive eating disorder 2 years ago. So I think my gut has just been through a lot of things. So is it possible that even in this year of trying to combat specifically targeting things in my gut with my naturopath, removing these foods, eating lots of bone broth, liver, other nutrient dense foods. It’s just possible I have a lot more healing to do and that’s why I’m still reacting to these foods?

Cassy Joy: That is possible. It definitely is. Healing the gut can take anywhere; for example, I have a 28-day protocol. Right? I call it the path A. The super fast, rip the Band-Aid off. And I would guess; it’s an educated guess. But I would guess that that 28 days really only serves about 10% of people to truly heal.

Most people require more. I would say, at minimum, people require 3 months. And that’s if you're just coming off; it sounds like you have a pretty complicated history. And you're not alone there. I don’t want you to think that you are. It’s very normal. People who struggle with SIBO or Candida generally struggle with a lot of these things. So you're definitely not alone there. And a lot of things are very related.

I would say it’s normal. Yeah, it’s absolutely normal that it could take a year or longer to heal. And it can be exhausting, especially if you’ve done any sort of a small intestine bacterial overgrowth protocol. Those are pretty daunting. As is Candida, going through the die off phase. And it just feels like there’s never a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see that. And it’s definitely possible that your gut is just working on getting things back. Rebuilding. Your naturopath sounds like they’ve got you on a great track with the bone broth and the really nutrient dense foods with the liver. I would focus on probiotic supplements. I’m sure you are. But I would just want to touch on that. I would focus on those kinds of foods. Whether you're taking the actual supplements or you're enjoying probiotics foods.

Haven: Yeah, that’s a great tip. Actually all the foods I’ve been doing have been kind of on my own, listening to your podcast and everything else. But he’s been more targeting in terms of supplements to really target these parasites. So that’s really helpful. It’s hard sometimes when you remove all these foods that you're supposedly sensitive to, but you don’t find your symptoms improve because you have so many other things. So like a year later, I still have all of these symptoms or IBS stuff.

So this just made me think of a different question while we’re talking. We have gut permeability, and it can produce these reactions to foods temporarily. If my gut is still healing in this past year, is it possibly I’ve developed new sensitives that I’m not aware of. Would it be useful to do another; I know some of these tests are not super accurate, but would it be useful to do another one since it’s been a year. To even see; maybe I wasn’t reacting to all of these foods. Maybe some of these other foods I’ve been eating have caused sensitivities? Or maybe I just don’t want to know. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: You know, I think it depends on you. It depends on you and your personality, right? There are some people out there that knowledge like that really helps to empower them. And if you're one of those people, then I would absolutely go get another test. I think a year is a reasonable amount of time.

Because it’s very possible; just because you cut out. I’m making these foods up for you, Haven. I’m sorry. But just because you cut out bananas and eggs, because they were highly reactive for you, doesn’t mean that the day you cut those out you stop having intestinal permeability, to your point. I know you know that. But just to reiterate that. So yes, it’s possible. Let’s say you stop eating banana and eggs, but all of a sudden you start eating way more chicken than you ever have before, and then you could develop some sort of a sensitivity to that.

Even if I eat too many eggs. If I eat them 7 days a week for every single breakfast, even though I would not say I have a high degree of intestinal permeability left anymore, I do still notice some sort of a sensitivity to it. So I have to go on and off. And that’s true for any food. Even for healthy people. It kind of goes back to that thing that our parents really loved to say, and our grandparents. Moderation is key. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that moderation is key in terms of only have a bite of that cupcake every day, instead of four cupcakes every day. What it really speaks to is nutrient variability. Right?

Moderation is key in terms of not overdoing it in any one particular food category. If I’m going to have a banana, I’m probably going to have one to two a week. I’m not going to have one every single day. Because it’s just too much of one very particular food for my body. And because evolutionary wise, your genetic constitution is going to be pretty specific to your ancestors. As is mine to my ancestors. So there are certain foods that my body is going to really thrive on and be able to handle every single day, 7 days a week. And others that I can enjoy every once in a while. Or I might develop a sensitivity to it.

So it is, it’s a moving target. Food sensitivities are a moving target. It’s a target that moves even faster when you have active intestinal permeability. Active leaky gut. And so I think that if you suspect that because all of a sudden now you're eating chicken liver four times a week, I wonder if chicken is going to show up on that chart, then it’s worth getting tested. Or, if you want to get tested.

Now, if you're also think, if you already suspect it, then you can also just mix up your plate. Now try bison liver, and beef liver, and other forms of organ meats maybe to get in there and get some rotations going.

Haven: That’s really cool. I don’t think I’ve really gone down this path of thought before. Thanks Cassy.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, this is fun! Girl, we can geek out all day like this.

Haven: Are there any food sensitivity tests that you particularly prefer over others? I know that a lot of them are not the gold standard.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, I think that the IgG/IgE antibody test is a good one. And that’s probably the one that folks can find the easiest. You can go to your naturopath. You can probably actually even get it from you GP; general practitioner.

Haven: OK, yeah. So you're ok with any of the different labs that run an IgG food sensitivity test.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I mean, there are definitely some out there that are probably going to have a higher rate of accuracy. But at the end of the day, those aren’t always widely and easily found. So I think talk to your doctor. See what tests they will write. Which ones they order, which labs they work with. As a consumer, you should do your due diligence. Go online, Google, see what’s out there. And when we get information from them, we can come back and ask more questions and see. “I see you run this test, would you also tack this one on the side as well. I’d really like to add this panel.” And that’s when we really get to kind of be collaborative in our health care efforts. But I would say any of the information out there is going to be powerful.

And you also; I don’t want folks listening to think that you have to go out and get these antibody tests done. Because there is an instance of being so tuned in with your body that you just know. Right? You just know it’s time to take a break from eggs. And it’s just time to take a break from maybe tomatoes. I’m actually in the opposite boat right now, because I haven’t had a tomato, I realize, in a long time. I’m craving Italian food all of a sudden. But your body will tell you when it’s time to add a food in or maybe phase a food out.

And you can really get down to the nitty gritty of what your body is telling you by creating a food journal. And I’ve said this a bunch before on the show. But I like to reiterate; when it comes to food journaling, I’m not necessarily promoting writing down that you had 2 cups of spinach, and you weighed it out exactly. Or 27 raspberries. I always use the 27 raspberries. I don’t know why, it’s just the easiest example I can think of.

But I’m not saying write down to that specific amount. But you could write down quality wise what actually showed up on your plate. “I had eggs, bacon, avocado, and kale for breakfast. On repeat. For five days in a row. And now on Saturday, I’m feeling a little puffy and I’m breaking out.” Right? Maybe you can look back through the food journal, and you can say, “You know what? Maybe it’s time I take a break from eggs. Because I’ve been having them every day for the past 27 days.”

So it’s those kinds of journaling activities that we can do. Cut out eggs for 7 days. Keep note of it, and then all of a sudden the acne clears up. There are other variables in there, right? Time of the month. Hormone cycles. Things like that. But it at least helps give us a pretty good idea of what’s going on in our body from day to day.

Haven: Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s a journey, I think sometimes to get really tuned into your body. But once you do it can be really exciting.

Cassy Joy: It is. It is a journey. And you know what, it’s a major mindset shift. I don’t want people thinking; if that doesn’t come easy to you, please know that that’s normal. It’s normal for this to not come easy. Because what we’ve been trained to do, especially in our society. We’ve been trained to eat; really just eat as people tell us to eat. Or as we’re told to eat. Whether that is the clean your plate club. The generation of our parents. What is that, gen X. Where they generation X?

Haven: Yeah. {laughs} Whichever we’re not. X and Y.

Haven: Yeah. {laughing} The baby boomers. Those people. We’re raised on the clean your plate club. And it’s interesting when I work with my clients that are in that generation. It’s hard for them to get around; to get over that very integral coaching that happened at a very young age to keep eating past the point of full. So what does that do? When you have a serving, and you’ve taken food, and it’s on your plate. But you finish your plate regardless of what your body is telling you. You know; so what we’ve done, is we’ve been coached is to stop paying attention to our body and to abide by rules.

So what we’re trying to do is reverse engineer that wiring. We’re trying to say, listen to what’s going on in your body, and let that be your Jiminy Cricket. Let that be your guide so that you’ll be able to make more specific decisions that are going to help promote health for you, very specifically to you. So whether that’s food amount, what kind of foods you're craving. Your body is telling you. We just have to kind of tune in to that radio station. And it takes some fiddling. And it takes some practice. But we’ll eventually get there.

Haven: That’s awesome. That’s funny you bring that up; my parents, when I was a child, would always play that, “there are starving children in Africa so finish your dinner.” So I find when I go to a restaurant where the portions are huge, I’m going to finish my plate. So that’s something I’ve been working on lately. I’ve started to journal while eating my dinner. That’s a new thing. I find that’s really helpful in case that helps anyone else.

Cassy Joy: That’s a really cool idea. I love that.

Haven: It just makes me more aware.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, exactly, it makes us more aware. And I think starting with smaller meals. I’m not asking that people throw away their food; but packaging it up for leftovers. And not everybody loves leftovers, so maybe that’s a whole other thing to get over.

Haven: I love leftovers.

Cassy Joy: Right? I do too. There are people staunchly on the other side of that equation, though. But you know what? When I was really trying to get over the volume I was eating. I’m glad you brought that up. Because when I was at the beginning of my journey, and trying to get over how much I was eating. And listening to my body. When the waiter would bring me my food. Now, if I’m ordering a salad, I’m probably going to eat the whole salad. Because nutritionally, I know that’s what I need.

But let’s say I’m out and I ordered a steak and a giant sweet potato and a whole bunch of broccoli. Let’s say it’s a huge meal for me. What I would do is I would ask the waiter, do you mind bringing me a box? And I would cut the whole meal in half. Half the steak, half the sweet potato, half the broccoli. Put it in the to-go container so that what I’m left with is what I know to be a reasonable amount of food.

So you just kind of have to think about it that way until your body tells you to stop eating. And then you can sit there with a full plate and stop when you're ready to stop.

Haven: That’s a great strategy. I love that tip.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I’ve also had some friends who would just take the lid off the salt shaker and pour that over their food so they would stop. Maybe those are the people who don’t love leftovers, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do something like that.

Haven: No, yeah. Leftovers from a restaurant are great the next day.

Cassy Joy: Definitely. Well that was awesome. Do you have any other questions for me, Haven?

Haven: I think that’s all that I had in mind. Thank you so much, Cassy.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, thank you. This was a great conversation. I hope others found it helpful. To all the Fed and Fit listeners out there, thanks everybody for dialing in. As always, you can find a full transcript of today’s show over at www.FedandFit.com under the show notes for this episode. And as always we’ll be back again next week.


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  1. Soraya says:

    Very good content