The term “food intolerance” can seem a little confusing. There is a range of issues that come under the umbrella of “food intolerances” so naturally different things come to mind when on the topic. In previous articles, we’ve delved into detail on specific intolerances including lactose, gluten and histamine. For a broader perspective, let’s take a look at IgG-mediated food intolerances and get to know more about this popular testing option for our patients in the clinic.
All About IgG (Immunoglobulin G)
While “food intolerance” describes a range of food-related symptoms of varying origin and cause, (1) many are actually mediated by the IgG class of antibodies. The prevalence of food intolerance is believed to be 5–20% of the general population and the symptoms take time to manifest since the formation of IgG takes days to months. (2)
IgG-mediated food intolerance has been associated with a wide range of symptoms including:(2)
- rashes, urticaria and asthma
- abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, constipation and IBS
- neurological manifestations such as migraine
- chronic fatigue
- hair loss
Causes and Risk Factors
One of the most significant risk factors aside from genetics is gut health. (3) IgG-mediated food intolerance is believed to be caused by increased gut permeability, or “leaky gut”. The combination of food proteins, alongside pathogens and antigens passing more readily through the “leaky” intestinal wall, stimulates inflammation and immune dysregulation. The food substances that gain access to the circulation via the gut wall can trigger food-specific IgG production. (2,3)
One thing to note here is that it seems the more significant the intestinal permeability, the more severe the intolerance, so if you have a gut issue like SIBO or IBS, chances are you are more prone to developing IgG food intolerances. Another thing to note is that stress may be an added risk factor for development as it induces intestinal permeability. The good news is that in most cases the intolerant foods only need to be avoided for a period of time, while the cause of the problem is remedied. (3)
The other good news is that testing is readily available for IgG-mediated food intolerances. Food panels can provide results against 96 or 144 different food types. Custom panels for Asian foods (adding things like spices to the list) as well as a Vegetarian panel ensure testing of a wide range of foods closest to your daily diet.
Generally, IgG-mediated food intolerances are not recognised and tested for by medical practitioners. There are some exceptions to this, including Coeliac Disease which involves IgG antibodies, and while Immunoglobulin G itself is recognised medically, testing it against other specific foods is not common practice.
Our Professionally trained Dieticians, Naturopaths and Nutritionists will always refer you back to your GP and even suggest seeing a specialist if they suspect that you are presenting with more serious issues like anaphylactic food allergies or gastrointestinal conditions that need medical attention.
Our qualified team members can help to: (3,4)
- adjust the diet
- educate about avoidance of food triggers
- modify the level of restriction (so that some foods may remain on rotation in the diet)
- implement food re-challenges to assess tolerance
- ensure food variety and nutritional adequacy
Offering as many alternative foods as possible is an important part of what we do. With a food intolerance testing appointment, our clinicians provide guidelines with comprehensive information about test results. Dietary advice is always provided with this type of consult and sometimes Meal Plans can be very helpful.
In some cases, diet change alone may not be enough to support the healing process. To speed up recovery during the food elimination phase, your practitioner may suggest supplement support for gut health and the immune system. A “typical” treatment protocol (keeping in mind we always treat the individual) might include:
- a formulated gut healing powder with a combination of ingredients designed to reduce intestinal permeability
- probiotic strains have clinically proven to reduce inflammation and immune dysregulation
- Herbal medicine is aimed at supporting the stress response, immune resilience and/or gut and liver detoxification
Food for thought
Food Intolerance appointments are popular bookings at the Livewell Clinics. Getting a clear picture through testing can make it much simpler to make the hard decisions around diet change. It’s a great place to start if you suspect your concerns are food-related but are finding it hard to pinpoint any problematic foods. As always, we are here to help you take the guesswork out of your health queries – with a little help from testing when necessary!