Food intolerance testing is big business these days, with online laboratories and do-it-yourself test kits that can be mailed-in for analysis. Are people having a true allergic reaction to foods, or do the problems have more to do with the state of their microbiome - those delicate digestive systems full of beneficial living bacteria that keep us alive?
One of the common questions that people ask me about live blood analysis is whether allergies can be determined by the test or not.
Food allergies and intolerances are of huge concern for many people I encounter in my practice. With each passing year, greater numbers of children are being born with serious allergies - many severe and unexplained. In some cases a single particulate of allergen is all it takes to cause a potentially fatal anaphylactic shock in those with acute allergies.
Understandably so, as it appears that an increasing number of children are now being born with severe allergies.
Along with those born or living with life threatening allergies, there are many having a variety of uncomfortable symptoms who believe that they are becoming allergic or are intolerant to a combination of foods and/or environmental chemicals. With symptoms such as constip- ation, diarrhea, hayfever, asthma, brain fog, IBS, lack of energy, and red itchy eyes and runny nose, live blood analysis offers an alternative to the hefty bills associated with finding the truth of what is behind it all.
The Allergic Response
First, let us look more closely at what an allergy is.
Allergic reactions are a result of an immune system reaction to an allergen and there are different scales of allergic reactions. The most severe are the types of allergic responses that cause anaphylactic shock. Scientists are still working out why this happens and they do have some ideas – some people are born with an immune system that is primed to produce a certain differentiation of immune cell that produces a particular chemical, an immuno-globulin (IgE), which initiates a massive release of histamine from the body’s mast cells.
Mast cells are immune cells that contain histamine as well as enzymes, cytokines, oxidative chemicals, and proteoglycans which they release when triggered. These chemicals are thought to have several functions:
They help generate new blood vessels, assist in wound healing, defend against pathogens and play a role in protecting the brain.
They also affect the surrounding tissues, increasing blood flow, increasing fluids in the area, attracting more white blood cells, triggering muscle cells to contract and irritating nerve cells. Mast cells are stationed in all tissues that are exposed to the outside world – the skin, the mucous linings of the respiratory tract, the blood-brain barrier and the lining of the digestive tract. They can be triggered to release their chemical contents in a localized area as a normal response to an allergen/pathogen or other trigger of some sort.
Or it can be a systemic, almost simultaneous, release of chemicals throughout the whole body causing a severe allergic response. The body cannot survive or overcome the release of these chemicals and it can result in anaphylactic shock which if left untreated will be fatal. This is not a normal immune response.
If someone asks me can you test for allergies, I ask them:
Do you have itchy skin, rashes, welts, hives?
Do you have difficulty breathing, runny nose, streaming eyes?
Do you have blood in your stools, do you vomit or have acute diarrhea?
Do these symptoms occur rapidly, with little warning?
If the answer is ‘yes’ I advise them to go straight to the doctor and get checked for severe allergies.
The next question I ask is – what sorts of symptoms are you having that lead you to believe you are reacting to foods?
The answer to this is usually that they are experiencing a lot of digestive discomfort. It is true that there are certain foods, mostly types of sugars, that some people cannot digest properly such as lactose or foods that contain FODMAPS.
The sugars contained in these foods are undigested and travel through the digestive tract being fermented by intestinal bacteria leading to very uncomfortable symptoms like, gas, bloating, IBS etc.
Lectins are another substance that can cause these issues too.
As a nutritionist or naturopath looking to help clients - do food sensitivity testing kits
help? There are many types of food sensitivity testing kits that can be bought online. Typically they send you a kit that directs you to prick a fingertip and extract some drops of blood directly into a tube which is then sealed and sent off in the post to a laboratory for processing. You receive your results with a report that shows you which foods you are supposedly sensitive to and they advise you to avoid.
HOWEVER – these tests are for IgG antibodies not IgE. IgG antibodies are produced when you are exposed to a food, not because of an allergy response. They are generated by circulating immune cells - plasma cells
When we are exposed to certain foods and they are there to protect us against the naturally present allergens in these foods. For the most part they actually prevent us from having an abnormal reaction; we become desensitized by these immunoglobulins so that we can harmonize with our environment (our diet). Each of us has our own distinct repertoire of circulating IgG antibodies.
AND – the story so far in terms of immunoglobulins (all of them), cytokines and T helper cells, B cells and plasma cells is nowhere near complete.
The way the immune system works, how it is primed from early life within the womb through infancy to adulthood, the genetic influences, the inherited traits and the environmental exposure to allergens, foods, chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs creates a very complex picture. We do not have all the pieces of the puzzle in order to see it clearly, yet.
Does avoiding problematic foods actually solve the problem?
By eliminating the foods you are supposedly sensitive to as laid out in the IgG food sensitivity testing, or by following a low FODMAP or low lectin diet in an attempt to resolve your health issues, you may not be getting to the root cause. When you look at the list of foods that contain FODMAPS or lectins – the list is huge and you cannot possibly avoid them all nor should you. It can be dangerous to start cutting out foods and food groups from
the diet for any length of time, as it can lead to nutrient deficiencies and ultimately may be totally unnecessary.
There can be a placebo effect from this process which can be powerful, however, I am not convinced it will override an underlying health issue for long and may end up causing further problems.
How Live Blood Analysis Can Help
In my experience as a nutritional and clinical family herbalist, the root cause of these sensitivities and digestive issues needs to be uncovered in order for them to be resolved.
Firstly, as a holistic practitioner I believe that the influences on a person’s health come from many angles. My role is to investigate thoroughly to be able to generate as complete a picture of their health as I can.
I take their case history, which includes a list of all the symptoms they are currently experiencing, a complete list of foods and drinks they consume, a run through of their entire health history going back to birth to present day, the health history of parents grandparents, a list of medications and supplements they are taking, a breakdown of lifestyle habits, levels and sources of stress and an understanding the environments they spend their time in.
Then I conduct a Live and Dry Blood Analysis to uncover the possible root causes of their issues.
Here are just a few examples of how LDBA can assess a client to find the root cause of their symptoms:
1) Assessment of gut permeability
Most of the symptoms experienced by those looking for food sensitivity testing are digestive in nature. They range from acid-reflux, indigestion, nausea, cravings, bloating, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, pains in the belly/stomach.
Chylous particles in live blood
I ask clients to fast for 4-5 hours before the blood analysis so that when I take their blood sample (only a drop from the finger tip) there should be no food particles floating around in the plasma. If I do see bright particles in their sample as in the image, it tells me that there is gut permeability also known as leaky gut - this can be contributing to their symptoms.
Particles leaking from the digestive tract will be either undigested or partly digested, covered in bacteria, or may even be fragments of bacteria or fungus. This will put pressure on the immune system – it has to cope with these ‘foreign particles’ in the blood and decide how to deal with them. This can lead to higher production or activation of immune cells, by products of which can generate a lot of acidity, oxidative stress and use up lots of nutrients and energy.
The leaky gut needs to be addressed as part of their root cause protocol.
2) Digestive capacity
In order to have a happy, normally functioning digestive tract we need to have a good level of stomach acid. Without that we cannot kill off microbes or digest protein properly which can lead to all kinds of issues like bacterial overgrowth in the stomach (helicobactor pylori), bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO) and deficiency of B12.
We need stomach acid (and ‘intrinsic factor’) for the digestive tract to extract, breakdown and absorb B12.
Signs of B12 Deficiency
Some clients’ blood samples show that they have a low level of B12 which is reflected by the appearance of certain red blood cells and white blood cells. We are not measuring the B12 in the blood here - we seeing an actual functional deficiency of B12 (and folate) that has impaired the DNA synthesis and results in abnormal cells.
This can be an indicator of digestive capacity and it is vital to catch a B12 deficiency early so that it can be corrected as it is one of the most vital nutrients for health. Possible indications are:
Macrocytes - Red blood cells that are too big due to lack of B12 at point of production in the bone marrow. They cannot travel into the capillaries and so are not able to carry oxygen or carbon dioxide.
Macrocyte - enlarged red blood cell
Hypersegmented neutrophils – the nucleus of this white blood cell is divided into many lobes indicating a deficiency of B12.
A Hypersegmented Neutrophil
3) Bowel inflammation
Dry Blood Sample showing indication of bowel inflammation
Digestive disturbances can be caused by the overgrowth of bacteria creating gas and bloating. They can also be caused by inflammation in the bowel which may have been caused by antibiotic damage, allowing an overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria or it can be a condition such as IBD.
Whatever the cause, bowel inflammation can be seen in dry blood analysis. In the image above you can see a dark central area – which represents toxicity building up in the bowel (possibly from an inflammatory process, but also could be from toxicity in general). You can also see white circular areas which are puddles of the metabolic breakdown products from inflammation.
4) Immune System Assessment
If you have allergies or intolerances which are related to an immune system response, then there will be some obvious signs in the both the live and the dry blood analysis.
Basophils - If there are several of these cells in a live blood sample then we can deduce that the immune system is reacting to an allergen or an irritation of some sort. They contain histamine granules just like mast cells, and can be the cause of inflammatory reactions,
acute and chronic allergies and are present when there are ectoparasite infections such as tick bites (basophils migrate to the infected tissues).
Eosinophils – these are another type of white blood cell that if found in certain levels in the blood sample can indicate that there may be a parasite infection. They are part of the inflammatory response, are specifically related to helminths and other multicellular parasites, asthma and viral diseases.
Evidence of parasites – The blood contains chemicals that can either be the product of cellular processes, ingested toxins, cellular degradation products or toxins produced by parasites.
When the blood sample is allowed to ‘dry’ it goes through the clotting cascade and the various substances in the blood will disrupt the clotting and create distinctive patterns in the dry blood layer.
Dry Blood Sample showing indication of parasites
One of those patterns is the appearance of black bulges within the black fibrin web that overlays the blood layer. This happens because of the products of exogenous parasites interfering with the fibrin production and is a clear indicator of an active parasitic infection.
Parasitic infections can disrupt many of the body’s processes and trigger immune response, digestive issues and alter the pH of the body’s tissues.
5) Ability to detox
Another issue that can hamper a client’s health, cause allergic reactions or disrupt the digestion is the level of toxicity being held within the body.
Liver stress – the liver is the primary organ that filters toxicity from the blood. If it is overburdened by toxicity, it has difficulty with other functions such as the creation of certain proteins responsible for the blood’s clotting process.
Indications of liver stress in a live blood sample
When the liver is stressed it has difficulty producing the right level of pro-clotting and anti-clotting proteins. These are both necessary for the homeostasis of the blood because we need both proteins circulating in pure blood, at the ready.
If the liver is stressed it can produce too much fibrin – pro-clotting factors. This causes congestion in the blood, prevents optimum oxygenation of the tissues and can lead to all kinds of symptoms. It is important to catch this liver stress early on so that it doesn’t lead to more complicates issues.
A holistic perspective dictates that everyone is unique. Each individual's path to ill health is unique and so it follows that the client’s path back to health also needs to be unique to them.
By assessing the blood alongside a detailed case history a practitioner can build a map of the individual's health status. It is a full-colour map that has a wide perspective taking into account what is reflected in their biological fluid - the blood.
The examples I have shown you above are just a small sample of what can be seen from a Live and Dry Blood Analysis. This type of blood test can be performed in my office with you present so that the results can be shared with you and discussed immediately.