It start out simple enough. Growing up, we are encouraged by our parents to chug down as much milk as we possibly can to help us grow strong and healthy (I am assuming this is to make up for all the alcohol we start chugging down later on in life). Before sending us off to school, we are fed a breakfast of toast with butter and jam or rice with tocino and a sunny-side up egg, and packed a lunch of sandwiches and crisps or rice and chicken nuggets, along with a carton of our favorite flavored juice.
We were checked for food allergies as babies – as the side effects can range from anything from mild itching, to throwing up, to your esophagus closing up – but have never considered getting tested for food intolerances, simply because we don’t know what it is, and the effects range from headaches, water retention, constipation or stomach aches – feelings we pass off as a normal part of our day.
I paid a visit to LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine on the 8th floor of the ACCRA Law Tower in BGC for my Food Intolerance Test (Php 19,000) which included a consult with my attending physician and nutritionist to help me interpret the results and get me started on the road to a better, healthier me.
Intolerance vs. Allergies
The terms ‘food allergy’, ‘food intolerance’ and ‘food sensitivity/hypersensitivity’ are often used interchangeably and are often confused, but essentially they all mean an abnormal reaction to certain foods which can manifest themselves in a number of different ways. They may result from mechanisms that involve activation of the immune system, and the subsequent production of antibodies or reactions that are not immune-related.
Food Allergies. Reactions that trigger an immune response are most often referred to as allergies and occur when the body over-reacts to foods that not usually produce a response for the majority of people. This over-reaction triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to attack the ‘foreign’ food proteins which the immune system recognizes as a threat. In a majority of mild cases, people with allergies break out into rashes – Calamide lotion is their best friend.
Food Intolerance. Reactions that do not produce an immune response are often referred to as food intolerances. They can be caused by sensitivities to certain chemicals/additives found in food or more commonly due to enzyme deficiencies. Our bodies don’t react as severely as it would to allergies – it may manifest in the form of bloating, crankiness or gas.
I walked over to LifeScience’s small but efficient laboratory right after my preventive consultations with my doctor and nutritionist for a quick blood extraction. There’s no need for a fast with this test – all it took was a quick prick on the finger and I was done.
They process the blood sample in-house using the Food Detective kit, which ranks your antibody results by intensity to help you work out a practical plan to improve food choices and control symptoms in the future. The technology used in the Food Detective is Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), the same laboratory method used for most hospital lab-tests for antibodies.
My Test Results
I came back after two weeks to get my results and scheduled to meet my doctor, Dr. Karen Tinio-Ladaw, M.D., and nutritionist, Mabelle Aban, to have them help interpret my results to help me come to grips with what foods I’d have to bid adieu to and come up with a game plan to completely change my diet for the better.
I was hoping and praying that I wouldn’t be intolerant to milk or wheat coming in, so you can guess what was on the very top of the list – cow’s milk. Most of the foods in my list of elevated reactivity were things I would consume everyday – eggs, barley, wheat, corn, milk, yeast, and rice. This meant no more bread, cakes, scones, pancakes and waffles, cereal, cornbread, and chocolate. With my sweet tooth, I don’t know how I’m expected to get through a year without chocolate, let alone a month!
I have to be honest, I felt depressed after getting my results. I’ve been living off a diet of sammies and pasta for most of my life, and the idea of having to pass on the bread basket was just unimaginable. No more soldiers and eggs for breakfast, no more packed tuna sandwiches for lunch, no more scones with clotted cream and marmalade for tea, and no more pasta, cornbread, or crusty bread with tapas for dinner. And the worst part of it all is – no more dessert.
Mabelle was quite helpful, educating me on alternatives I could still enjoy that wasn’t on my no-no list, like carabao milk, for instance. Sure, it may be a bit more expensive than cow’s milk and it doesn’t last as long in the fridge, but I can still satiate my taste buds with the comforting liquid, and even enjoy it in cheese form as kesong puti. Since almonds are what I would consider a borderline food, almond milk and almond flour is out of the question, but I can still make do with coconut flour if I feel the need to bake, but I’d have to do it without the eggs.
Mabelle had prepared a cheat sheet of sorts that I could bring with me on my weekly trip to the grocer’s that listed all the food items I couldn’t get, food that was in the borderline group of things I shouldn’t be touching for at least the next three months, and food that was considered in the normal range that had no adverse effects on my body, no matter how much of it I consumed. I found this very helpful once I started my meal planning for the month.
In addition, I was also given a diet and lifestyle tracker that lets me list down what I ate during the day, how many glasses of water I drank, how much exercise I got in (if any), and if I had eaten any food items on my no-no list that day. My nutritionist also advised that I pay attention to my my body would react to not having the food my body considers to be poison in my system – basically, what ‘normal’ feels like.
I left feeling gutted at the thought of having to let go of what I considered to be my comfort food, but after chatting with Dr. Karen, Mabelle, and LifeScience’s Medical Director, Dr. Ben Valdecañas, I learned that they all took the Food Intolerance Test and have gone through the ups and downs of weaning themselves off of their once favorite foods themselves, so they are familiar with the battle. Going through the paces at LifeScience made me realize how big of a lifestyle change this really was – it is something you have to be committed to 100% before even coming in for the test. If you’re serious about changing your way of life as well as the quality of life for yourself and the people you love, learning about what types of food your body considers to be poisonous is a start. I’m just happy I’m not intolerant to bacon!
LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine is located on the 8th floor of the ACCRA Law Tower on 2nd Avenue Corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig an is open between Monday to Saturday from 7am – 8pm. For inquiries about their various services or to book a consultation, please call +63 2 828 5433 or +63 917 573 5433.