Help me avoid an allergies quack...
March 19, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

How / where do I get a proper allergy or food intolerance test?

I want to get some idea of what sort of things could be making my GERD problems worse. Eliminating coffee sees to have done me a lot of good, but I'm wondering if there are other things I could try and get rid of.

The thing is, I know that this is a field filled with quackery and scams - I don't want to end up getting scammed by a bloke with a fancy looking certificates and a random number generator that will announce I'm allergic to Avocados and fluffy kittens.

What sorts of tests should I be looking for which will actually help me with this?

[ My plan is to get this list, block all possibles from my diet and then try to add things back in until I feel ill. ]
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a primary care physician? I'd ask him/her for a reference. If you don't, then check with a large hospital or well-respected clinic in your area for allergists.
posted by xingcat at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2010

You want an allergist. There are a couple of ways they test. The most common is to do what's called a scratch test. They draw a grid on your back, dab a suspected allergen on your skin, and then lightly scratch it with a needle. (It doesn't hurt at all.) Then you go back in a couple of days and they see which ones you react to. They work from a list of common allergens, and it took 3 visits before they completed the entire test, when I had it done.

There's also blood testing, I believe, but it's a lot more expensive, IIRC.

(I'm not allergic to avocados, but I am allergic to fluffy kittens.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:08 AM on March 19, 2010

The NHS has a good guide.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:16 AM on March 19, 2010

What you're looking for is someone with experience in elimination diets. I worked for a great physician in St. Louis who was a member of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine; food allergies is one of the common specialties of their members. There's a searchable database on their website for physicians by state & country.
posted by something something at 11:27 AM on March 19, 2010

Do not confuse heartburn symptoms with food intolerance and food allergies. Though a small subset of people with reflux-like symptoms may suffer from an alternative condition with some allergic features (eosinophilic esophagitis), for the vast majority of people GERD is NOT an immune-mediated condition. Seeking out tests for food allergies may make no sense at all in your case. You should really see a gastroenterologist for this.

Note that the link between various dietary factors and GERD is actually far from conclusive in the scientific literature.1 As far as I know, there is little if any prospective data confirming the impact of specific dietary interventions on GERD symptoms. So any healthcare professional trying to convince you otherwise is already pushing it when it comes to quackery. This is not to say that in your case changing your diet won't help -- just that anyone who claims to be able to help in this regard may be operating on anecdote and not good evidence. Your own link has a reasonable list of suspected precipitants of reflux, so why not start there?
posted by drpynchon at 12:49 PM on March 19, 2010

The person who finally diagnosed my Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance) was a Gastroenterologist. A 'Gut' Doctor. Allergists missed it, general practitioners missed it, and emergency room doctors missed it. Celiac Disease can show up in blood tests, but not always. It was initially ruled out with me because my blood test came back negative, but the endoscopy was positive. The endoscopy is the only definitive test for Celiac Disease. (And it only works if you continue to eat gluten containing foods, cutting them out of your diet can give you a false positive. So you may want to find the doctor and then do the diet.)
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:30 PM on March 19, 2010

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