The dog days of August are upon us in Minnesota. Define “dog days” you say? To me they are days of heat and humidity when all you want to do is lay around panting like a dog. Dictionary.com defines it as “the sultry part of summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the dog star, rises at the same time as the sun; now often reckoned to be July 3-August 11. Also they say it is “a period marked by lethargy, inactivity or indolence”.
As with many of us who have autoimmune issues I have looked at the possibility that I have food allergies or food sensitivities but I was never interested enough to try an elimination diet nor to spend the big bucks and have a blood test done. I did eliminate gluten entirely about three years ago and other than the accidental bits of gliadin protein that have managed to sneak in to my daily diet I have remained gluten free.
Sadly, as my SU is quick to point out, removing gluten from my diet has not been the magic bullet I was hoping it would be. I still have bloating. I still have bouts of diarrhea. I had a bout with eczema and I still have the occasional migraine headache. I have not “gotten over” my autoimmune issues and I still need thyroid medication (now taking 75 mcg of T3).
I have never been able to put my finger on the cause of my issues. I can tell you that I have, at one time or another, blamed almost everything that goes in my mouth.
I did give up gluten because I realized that every time we went on holiday, where I ate with abandon, every gluten containing item I was offered, I came home and got sick. Twice I developed a nasty rash on my lower right back that at first burned then oozed and itched, then scabbed over and looked distinctly like dermatitis herpetiformis. Once I got shingles within a month of our holiday. That was the year I had a light bulb moment. Gluten and getting sick were related and I eliminated gluten and anything that might contain the gliadin protein. I can report I have never again had that rash on my back nor shingles, so if nothing else that is an improvement.
Okay, so gluten was eliminated but problems still existed and as I said I blamed many things. I, at one time or another, thought coffee was the culprit, then tea, then dairy. I did realize, correctly as it turns out, turmeric was an issue but I also blamed coconut, citric acid and other herbs. With all these suspicions, and really no proof, I did consider a food allergy test.
Along came ALCAT
My doctor, Kim Lane, had been telling me about a food sensitivity test (IgA not IgE testing) she had done and what a difference it made for her. It came with a hefty price tag (almost $1200) that made my jaw drop but then again can we put a price tag on our health? Not really, and $1200 wouldn’t even pay for one hour much less one day spent in a hospital because you are now in dire need of medical intervention. I mulled it over for months. I talked to my spouse about it and my friends. I still didn’t do it.
A year later the defining moment arrived. I got my 23andMe results back and with my 17 mutations out of 58 polymorphisms I decided that I really needed to know if there were foods, herbs, drugs that were negatively impacting my health. Unlike many people I do not believe that we have to settle for whatever our genes have elected for us, we can take control of our health (quoting Dr. Mercola). The ALCAT that Dr. Lane was recommending seemed like the best thing I could pursue.
What does ALCAT stand for?
ALCAT (antigen leukocyte cellular antibody test) does not test IgE immune responses to food and chemicals but according to their literature it is “a highly sensitive, objective test of assessing which foods, chemicals and herbs you may be intolerant or sensitive to. Food sensitivity/intolerances affect over 80% of the population while less than 5% of us actually have an IgE or ‘true’ food allergy.
I will not go into every detail regarding the test as anyone can “Google” that and find out. I will explain the details I find interesting. They take 5-6 vials of blood and test a lengthy list of items including 200 foods, 50 functional foods and medicinal herbs, 20 food additives and colorings, and 10 molds and antibotics and medications. A phlebotomist is sent to your home to make the blood draw and that is included in your test price. My phlebotomist was a retired nurse and while she seemed a bit confused about what was expected of her she was very proficient at drawing what seemed like endless vials of blood and sending them off.
When your results are back you have a consultation with your provider, in my case, Dr. Kim Lane. She went over the results and discussed the best way to go about working with my new found knowledge. A really interesting comment she made was the nutritionist was amazed at my test results and generally speaking they discussed how clean my diet must be to have very little that I am sensitive to. Huh?
I had no severe reactions to anything in the food and herb category, nothing. I had a moderate reaction to three things, strawberries, rhubarb and tilapia. My list of mild intolerance was longer and included two things I was having every day, turmeric and apples. Other things were not daily items but I did use them frequently, cumin, pork, beef, asparagus and red/green lettuce (grew that this year in my garden).
I did have a severe reaction in the “chemicals and molds category” to one drug, Ibuprofen. And there was a severe reaction to a mold, trichoderma. I am not sure of the implication of the severe reaction to trichoderma but I avoid ibuprofen like the plague. I recently took one because I had a terrible case of conjunctivitis but that was the first one I had taken in a year or more. Now I had proof that it was not good for me and I was correct to avoid it.
What is prescribed?
According to an ALCAT site everything falls in to various categories. There is a red column. Those items falling in to the red category are avoided altogether for 6 months and then possibly can be added back on a rotation basis. The orange column items are not eaten for 3-6 months and then rotated back into your diet. The yellow column contains things that should be avoided for 3 months but might be okay to eat once a week. Green means you can eat and enjoy but they firmly believe everything should be rotated even if in the green category.
Since I had no severe reactions (no food items in the red column) my prescription is to remove the items that I am moderately intolerant to for six months, so no rhubarb, no strawberries and no tilapia. (At first, I exclaimed “Who even eats tilapia anymore?” One should never get too smug. Dr. Mercola’s supplement of krill is in a fish gelatin casing. What is that fish gelatin made of? Tilapia. Why is that important to me? I needed to replace my fish oil because it is in a beef gelatin capsule. I went to Mercola.com ready to order the krill until I saw the label. TILAPIA!)
Under the “mild intolerance” the list is longer and included beef and pork (thus the bovine gelatin was out and so was my idea of returning to natural dessicated thyroid medication as it is porcine). Just to bore you with more detail than you want I will list all the items in the this category: apple (even apple cider vinegar included), asparagus, bay leaf, beef, brazil nut, canola oil, cayenne pepper, celery, cherry, chicken liver, cumin, fava bean, guava, mung bean, nutmeg, paprika, pork, red/green lettuce, sesame and turmeric. Those items can be consumed once a week but if I consume them I should note how they make me feel.
There are three blue boxes included in the test results. These list your blood’s reaction to candida, gluten/gliadin and casein/whey. Of those three I had a mild reaction to candida albicans, so no honey, cane sugar, fructose or maple sugar for three months. I had no response to casein or whey. I had no response to gluten/gliadin and I really don’t know what to make of that but I am going to assume that is because I haven’t had it in any quantity in a long time. I admit to being perplexed regarding my non-reacton to gluten/gliadin, so stay tuned for more information after I talk to the nutritionist.
That is the last, but not least, recommended thing I will do, talk to their nutritionist. Included in the price of the test is that 30 minutes with Dr. Lane and 30 minutes with one of their nutritionists. I am hopeful that the nutritionist can fill in some of the blanks especially why I had no adverse reaction to gluten/gliadin.
I am still digesting all of the information I now have in my hands. I look over my results every day and learn something new (for instance just now I learned what trichoderma was). I was relieved that tea and coffee were not to be eliminated but still their nutritional recommendation is no food or herb or drink is ever repeated more than once every fourth day. I have tea every day, more than once, and coffee is one of those social things that I am not very willing to give up even though I do not drink it every day (normally). I can give up the offending items for the required amount of time and I can even rotate them back in to my diet but a rotation diet of all the other foods may be really painful, too painful. Time will tell and so will my gut.