I’m often asked when and where I discovered my passion for food and healthy eating. I’ve never specifically written about it, but it actually began a few years ago when I was dealing with bloating, stomach pains, hormonal issues, as well as skin and digestive problems. Sounds like a lot, right? I saw a few doctors and ran a couple of tests, but nothing was conclusive and I was left undiagnosed. On my quest to solve what was going on with my body, I did what most people do, and I googled my symptoms. Never a good idea. Can turn the most rational humans into hypochondriacs. Jokes aside, when you’re desperate and the doctors can’t even tell you what’s wrong, you can’t help but resort to searching for answers yourself.
Now I’m not claiming to have figured everything out, but on my journey to discover what makes me feel good, I have tried nearly every diet under the sun. Vegan, vegetarian, paleo/whole 30, FODMAPS… you name it. The one conclusion that I have made, however, is that there is no one-size fits all diet. We all process food differently, and I’m a firm believer that we should listen to our bodies and see what works best for us personally.
This is where the food intolerance test comes in. As I mentioned, I’ve toyed around with different diets to see what works for me, but this was the first time I’ve had personalised results. I could see, on paper, what my body has difficulty processing. Before I divulge more about my experience, it’s probably best to clear up a few things.
What is a food intolerance?
Essentially, it is an abnormal reaction to food. This occurs when the body triggers an immune related response, producing antibodies that attack the food proteins which it perceives as a threat to its system. The test I took at Life Science in BGC measured the amount of IgG antibodies in my system, and sorted them into 3 categories: elevated, borderline & normal. Removing the food identified as having elevated or borderline IgG antibody levels should result in an improvement of symptoms.
What symptoms are caused by food intolerances?
When the gradual formation of antigen/antibody complexes is deposited in our tissues, it causes chronic inflammation. This can lead to a range of symptoms: anxiety, depression, IBS, headaches, fatigue, hypertension, asthma, joint pain, chronic rhinitis, arthritis, weight problems or fibromyalgia. Symptoms vary from person to person, and can occur several hours or days after the food is ingested.
When I speak to my family and friends about food intolerance testing, most people tend to have a strong opinion (and so they should)! I can usually divide them into two camps: those that are interested in knowing what they are intolerant to, and those who couldn’t think of anything worse than knowing. The latter group usually precede their sentences with “I couldn’t live without eating…” whether it be cheese, bread, or any of life’s other delights. And whilst I sympathise in some ways, I also think it’s incredibly empowering to know what our bodies are capable of processing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to avoid these food groups for life, and they way I see it, you can still eat that slice of cake even if you’re intolerant to, lets say, eggs. You’ll just understand why you’re not feeling 100% after eating it. For me, knowledge is power. The way you decide to use that knowledge is totally up to you.
For those who are curious about getting tested, here’s a little recap of my experience at Life Science:
Firstly, I had a consultation with a nutritionist who gave me an overview of the test itself. After I had asked a few questions and was happy with my understanding of food intolerances, I was transferred to another room where I had my blood sample taken. To my surprise it was only a finger prick test! It’s pretty amazing that such detailed results (covering fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, dairy, etc) can be retrieved from just a few drops of blood. The sample is then processed by Cambridge Nutritional Science (CNS). After 2 weeks, I returned for a second consultation to receive my results. Unsurprisingly, I had quite a few items that showed an elevated level of IgG antibodies, but I wasn’t disheartened. In fact, I was so happy to finally have some sort of result! The nutritionist recommended that I avoid the food showing elevated & borderline levels for 3-6 months. I can then gradually reintroduce them into my diet. The consultation also included a detailed meal plan, which helps you substitute the food you are intolerant to with others of a similar nutritional value.
So here I am on my third month of avoiding the things that showed up on my intolerance test. What changes have I seen? First of all, the stomach pain and bloating that I used to experience on a daily basis has decreased drastically. The overall improvement of my digestion is also reflected in the condition of my skin. I break out much less than I used to, and when I do get the occasional pimple, it tends to heal a lot quicker than it would have in the past. I’m excited to see my progress in a few months time, and hope to start re-introducing more food into my diet!
Life Science is on the 8th floor, Accra Law Tower, 2nd Ave cor. 30th street, BGC