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Allergy Testing

By Dr. Jonathan V. Wright

If you think you're bothered by allergies, but aren't sure to what, you might want to get tested. Self-testing for foods is possible although time consuming and sometimes difficult. Self-testing for inhalants is almost impossible.

Self-testing for foods usually involves an "elimination diet." These require a plan, some common sense, usually a notebook, and considerable persistence. Most natural food stores sell at least one guidebook for elimination diets. Your library might help. One frequently-used plan involves a "juice fast" for five days to "wash out" possible allergy symptoms. Of course, avoid juices that are known to be common allergens, such as citrus.

After five full days of the juice fast, re-introduce foods one at a time, keeping careful notes on the possible reoccurrence of symptoms. Wait until any symptoms subside before introducing the next food challenge.

Since some health care professionals use strict elimination diets for food allergy determination, its wisest to look for help if you're at all worried about fasting, "juice" or otherwise. Although considerably less expensive than nearly any other allergy testing, station dieting for food allergy determination requires considerable time and attention to detail, so many busy people choose professional testing by other means.

The large majority of medical doctors and osteopaths diagnose food and inhalant allergy by "scratch" skin testing, or by testing for certain types of antibodies found in the bloodstream. However, many others, including a minority of medical doctors and osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, and other health care practitioners have found other techniques useful in identifying allergies and sensitivities.

"Scratch testing" on the skin is fairly reliable for inhalant allergies, but not very useful for food allergies. Another type of skin testing, called "provocative neutralization" and "dilution-titration" is quite accurate for foods as well as inhalants, and combines effective treatment with the testing. This type of testing and treatment is done almost exclusively by members of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. You can call them for a referral at 913-642-6062.

"Applied kinesiology," also called "muscle testing" is successfully used by some well-trained chiropractors, osteopaths, and others. This technique relies on the relative strength and weakness of various muscles when we're exposed to various substances. Some observers have noticed more variability of results among practitioners of this technique than with other testing methods, but some of the people I've worked with have learned very useful information this way.

Many physicians and osteopaths (as well as chiropractors who can do blood testing) use "RAST" (radioallergo-absorbent testing) or "ELISA" (enzyme-linked sensitivity assay) blood tests which detect "IgE" [I-G-E] and "IgG" [I-g-G] type antibodies. This technique is the simplest, as it only requires a blood test.

" Electrodermal testing" is a new still controversial form of allergy and sensitivity screening. It combines aspects of acupuncture (without needles) and biofeedback technology to help screen and detect various sensitivities, and can help provide very useful clues to treatment. In my experience and that of the folks I work with electrodermal screening along with homeopathic treatment for sensitivities and allergies is by far the most useful and comprehensive system. For folks with severe allergies and sensitivities, such as multiple chemical sensitivities, I've found it invaluable. Practitioners using this technique can be contacted through the International Federation of Electrodermal Screeners, 800-258-2172.

Because of differences in age, sex, metabolism or potential allergy, these diet and supplement therapies may not be suitable for you. Consult a health care professional skilled in nutritional and natural therapies. To locate one near you, you might call the American College of Advancement in Medicine at 800-532-3688 or the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at 206-323-7610.

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