Understanding allergies, testing and avoidance can be a confusing process for parents. The hard work of managing and avoiding food allergies – especially in autism pay will off with great rewards. It is all about addressing your child’s unique needs and avoiding allergens that can play a large role in how your child feels. Food and environmental allergies – even in the smallest quantities or exposure can wreak havoc.
This section tries to provide some suggestions and considerations to demystify the allergy process and help your child feel better by eating the right foods and avoiding environmental allergies to lead a healthier life.
How Accurate are Allergy Tests?
Allergy testing can be a tricky process. Should it be a blood test? A skin prick test? Children with special needs tend to respond better to one needle versus hundreds of pricks for traditional allergy testing. In addition, for many children blood test can be more accurate.
Often when embarking on the nutrition road to help improve a child’s health, foods can be the enemy in achieving that goal. For many families, avoiding gluten, casein and soy (the GFCFSF diet) is just the start. Not finding out all food allergies that could inhibit results and hard work in a GFCFSF diet trial.
Your doctor will guide you on interpreting the allergy test results. Allergy labs are not always 100% accurate but help a great deal in defining better food choices for your child’s unique needs.
Best Allergy Testing Labs
Ask your doctor for their opinion on which lab you should use and what your insurance covers. Over the past decade, insurance-funded allergy panels have gotten more accurate but still are not 100% perfect, but none are. A blood test measuring allergies to obtain IgE and IgG food allergies finding is first step. These are important markers to investigate traditional allergies and intolerances. Both food allergies and intolerances can hinder health and negate hard work providing GFCFSF food choices. There are many great allergies test panels out there including the following choices: Alltess and Sage Laboratories. The food allergy panel is typically labeled: IgG and IgE Food Allergy Panel. It is important to choose an allergy panel that tests for as many food allergies as possible.
Since allergy testing is a valuable tool but not always 100% accurate. You can work with your doctor on which foods can slowly be reintroduced into your “ok food list” and how often this food can be eaten. For example: your child may show a low food allergy to broccoli or chicken. To test the food allergy, the doctor may suggest a complete avoidance of these foods for at least six weeks. Then following the six weeks the doctor will suggest a small serving of the food once a week and to watch for behaviors or medical issues (such as rashes or constipation.) Often foods that demonstrate a lesser food allergy than others can be slowly reintroduced back into the diet on a rotation basis. (See the Rotation diet paper in this section for more information.)
Food Allergy Suspects
Be prepared to eliminate all foods that come up with as a positive food allergy for a period of time. Your doctor will guide you on which ones to avoid. The most common food allergies for the entire human race include:
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
- Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
These 8 foods account for 90% of the food allergies that exist in humans today.
NOTE: Gluten, casein and soy removal are important for most children on the autism spectrum according to both research and parent reports. These foods choices are not recommended to children that demonstrate any allergic response to these ingredients and should be avoided.
Reading the Allergy Test Results
Once the allergy tests results are available, schedule an appointment with your doctor to review and discuss the plan for your child. Each lab has a different way to categorize an allergic response. The lab results will provide guidelines for each food by a severity of the allergy or if no allergy is present.
After a complete avoidance of the foods that indicate an allergic response, parents can slowly rotate foods back into their childs diet. Other medical treatments listed in this guide are invaluable at assisting in your child’s health. Allergy removal is just one step towards healing and good health. Once your child’s health improves through a variety of necessary treatments unique to their needs often food allergies become less of an issue.
The only true test of allergens
The only “perfect” test of any foods is called a rotation trial. You give a food for 4 days on, then not for 4 days and then give it again for 4 days, all the while charting the big 5 – sleep, rashes, redness, poop and behavior. You do not introduce any new foods, therapies or treatments, during this time. Simply, if your child has a problem with a food, you should remove it from their diet, regardless of any test results.
For many families, they will evaluate each of these foods individually and remove them from their child’s diet. Then slowly add one new food back into their diet after a six week removal. Adding each food back in small quantities (i.e. a quarter of a serving,) one new food a week while tracking the results in a food journal can be an invaluable tool for helping your child avoid foods that aggravate their system. Parents should evaluate the following criteria in whether or not a food can be included in part of a regular diet in the following areas: behavior, sleep patterns, stool, rashes, and learning.
The Serious Nature of Allergies
Food allergies can be deadly. Food allergies and intolerances can also greatly affect how someone feels day to day and negatively affect their overall health. A “little bit” of an allergy-inducing-food can greatly hurt and sabotage the hard work of implementing a GFCFSF diet. Doing the diet and allergy removal at 90% is not a good way to know if this treatment will help your child. Parents, caretakers, therapists and schools must be 100% compliant in keeping foods that cause allergic responses away from children. (As defined earlier in this guide, an allergen free diet should be incorporated in your child’s IEP.)
It is documented and reported from many families often a child with a food allergy or intolerance will CRAVE the foods they are allergic to! If you observe your child craving a particular food in access (i.e. 6 bananas a day, bowls of rice, etc.) you may want to investigate a potential food allergy or intolerance or other related medical issue.
Supplements, Prescriptions, and Allergies
It is recommended that when allergies are being evaluated, that new supplement protocols are not being offered at the same time. Once the food allergy and intolerance plan is in place investigation with your doctor new, treatments including supplements can be engaged. It is also wise to review supplement labels for any potential food allergies prior to offering to your child. Often prescriptions required by your doctor can be compounded to eliminate any food allergies, and if so, may be covered by your insurance.
Keeping a daily food and behavior journal is recommended, especially during the food allergy and intolerance evaluation process. It will help parents evaluate which foods could potentially be an issue for your child. TACA has several samples of these journals that be customized to meet your family’s unique needs.
How Often You Re-Test Food Allergies
Food allergies and intolerances can change over time. Doctors recommend repeating allergy testing every 2 years.