Ask a Naturopathic Doctor
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Susan Fisher, ND, about commonly asked questions on food sensitivities. A bit about Dr. Fisher: she has significant clinical experience with the IgG RMA Food Sensitivity Test, and under her guidance, patients are more than satisfied with their results. Dr. Fisher is the owner of Mahaya Cambridge Naturopathic Clinic in Cambridge Ontario, where she specializes in infertility. I asked her the questions everyone wants to know when it comes to food sensitivities.
How long do I have to avoid my food sensitivities for?
"There is no standard waiting period for IgG food sensitivities because the length of time is dictated by each food’s antibody levels. For example, if you have an IgG food sensitivity for eggs, the more you eat eggs the higher the antibody levels and the longer you must wait for the associated white blood cells targeting egg proteins to die off. So, some foods will need longer waiting times before reintroducing back into the diet than others. Interestingly, after working with at least 750 patients with food sensitivities, it is obvious that antibodies for animal dairy proteins react differently. Instead of waiting times matching the half-lives of involved white blood cells, animal dairy antibodies take much longer to die off – even years. There appears to be a genetic link with IgG dairy sensitivities; in my clinical experience, abnormal immune responses to animal dairy proteins runs through families. The timing or expression of this apparent genetic risk is often associated with hormonal changes or specific stressors to the body. Once “turned on” their immune system generates an abnormal immune response each time animal dairy products are consumed. Surprisingly, It takes years for those antibodies to die off with 100% abstinence. Rather, other IgG food sensitivities seem to develop because they were more innocent bystanders of this abnormal immune response – they were just part of the daily diet when dairy’s abnormal immune response was triggered. In non-dairy IgG triggers, the waiting period before the immune response becomes balanced once more is weeks to months vs years. Bottom line, there is no one set rule. It is best that you go see a healthcare practitioner, get an IgG blood test, so that you have those antibody levels for each food sensitivity to use for predicting waiting times."
You mention that dairy is genetic, it runs in families, and it’s one of the food sensitives to avoid for a much longer period of time -if not forever- are there any other similar foods that you also need to avoid forever?
"I would avoid green peas and pea protein /pea fiber containing foods because the pea molecule is very similar to animal dairy proteins. It makes sense when you see today food manufacturers relying heavily on pea protein in vegan foods. Peas share with animal dairy the same bonding and emulsifying characteristics. 99% of IgG tests will have high antibodies to peas as well as dairy – even if the person never eats peas! Both proteins seem to react off the other triggering sustained immune responses on exposure of either one. It’s probably because of molecular similarity but they’re the only ones with this slower die-off waiting time that I have seen in my patients."
So generally speaking, is it accurate to say that if I have a dairy sensitivity, I can never eat dairy again?
"That’s what I recommend as a healthcare practitioner. Dairy consumption in genetically susceptible families promotes long standing inflammation that years later significantly imbalances the immune hormonal and other body systems. In my world, I have unfortunately seen people reintroduce dairy after their complaints are resolved and their immune and adrenal systems are rebalanced. They’re much better, they’ve lost that inflammatory weight, their autoimmune conditions are significantly improved. Then years later they return for help with old complaints resurfacing or yet another autoimmune condition - their health has slid back to
where they started. We repeat the IgG test – because the original is no longer accurate and valid. Weeks later, with 100% abstinence of new IgG foods, their cellular health starts to change again for the better. It is like smoking in the seventies. Even though scientific research was increasingly concerned about the dangers of cigarette smoking, there were no restrictions or health warnings to the public. If I told my current patients ‘it’s OK, you can restart smoking “, they would look at me with surprise knowing that smoking causes cancer. I would not be looking out for their best interests. And yet, the amount of clinical and scientific papers concerning casein A1 (Holstein cow protein – 100% of North American dairy industry) is mounting over the last twenty years. Animal dairy sensitivities are serious business. The associated inflammation can promote autoimmune disease, inflammatory weight gain – even infertility."
When it comes to the RMA IgG Food Sensitivity Test, not all healthcare practitioners, even naturopaths, are trained to interpret this test the same way. How do I interpret my red and yellow highlighted foods appropriately? How do I know what I should be avoiding?
"In 2016 Life Labs acquired Rocky Mountain Labs which is the laboratory responsible for the IgG testing in my clinic. Although Life Labs retained the IgG sensitivity blood test, how your antibody levels per food are analyzed was changed. Your body’s immune response to individual foods is now evaluated using bell population curves of the immune responses in other Canadians as normal ranges. This is evident when you look at the summary page of your test results. High scoring antibody levels (the number beside each listed food) can be classified as “borderline (yellow)” vs much lower scoring foods deemed “elevated (red)”. This reflects the high proportion of dairy sensitive persons in the population as well as differing dietary choices amongst Canadians. I see tremendous benefit to my patients by focusing on each food protein’s antibody level itself – just following the science. A normal immune response to anything we eat should be < 10 million white blood cells – 15 million at the highest. I find significant therapeutic benefits in a short period of time by asking patients to abstain from foods with scores of 34 or higher. Reintroduction timetables are then provided based on white blood cell half-lives and the length of time passing since blood draw."
If I get my IgG Food Sensitivity report back and my casein and whey, as proteins of dairy, are in the ‘yellow zone’, that is still something to be of concern because it is interpreted in relation to the general Canadian population. Correct?
"Yes. They’re comparing you with what other people eat in Ontario. In the last 15 years, Ontario has become more and more multicultural with extreme differences in food choices. Your immune system generally makes antibodies to only the foods you eat or are exposed to via creams etc. This makes it difficult to make “normal ranges” for every individual food – if the test population varies widely in dietary choices. Cross-reactivities can also be involved but this usually involves only a few foods."
When I start to reintroduce foods, are there any signs or symptoms I should look out for that tell me its too soon to reintroduce?
"Yes, I tell my patients to look for sudden weight gain, stool changes, headaches, abdominal pain or bloating. Patients can often have unique biomarkers – like worsening eczema or joint pain. These are all
subtle signs your body is talking to you so don’t ignore it. Commonly, it is only a delay of another 2-4 weeks before foods are safely reintroduced."
What are your top tips for avoiding food sensitivities?
"Stick to whole foods and limit your consumption of restaurant food, processed food. Find recipes that you can prepare ahead of time to avoid frustration during the work week."
Are there specific food sensitivities you’re more likely to gain weight with?
"There is no one specific food sensitivity that causes weight gain. It is rather, the level of inflammation associated with the IgG food triggers determining weight gain and loss in my patients. If you are practicing 100% abstinence of all your food sensitivities, inflammation starts to recede around 3 weeks – following the half-lives of involved neutrophils. I have patients return to clinic at 3 weeks and 4 weeks to see if the 2 pounds of weight per week is lost. Then I know it is just a matter of time before complaints dramatically improve and my patient understands how to avoid their own food sensitivities. If no weight is lost, then accidental exposures is very likely and must be found before complaints are eradicated."
What is your best patient success story, for avoiding food sensitivities?
"There are so many good ones. I remember a 14-year-old girl dealing with severe limb pain. For the last seven years, her parents would take turns rubbing her legs every night so she could fall asleep. When she went through puberty it suddenly spread to her upper body limbs. Home-schooled because of the pain, my patient used an old man’s cane and walked very slowly into my clinic when we first met. With no markers for autoimmune disease, she was told to take morphine daily to deal with her 9/10 pain level. Knowing animal dairy, pea and egg proteins are typically the biggest IgG triggers in most people, we immediately took any source of these foods out of her diet while we waited for the IgG blood test results. Nearly 3 weeks later (in 21-26 days, some of the involved white blood cells begin to die off) the girl’s felt pain dropped suddenly to 1/10. I have seen this before, dramatic results when the biggest immune triggers are avoided with the start of improvement at 3 weeks. The blood test came in the next day and confirmed what we suspected. On the following visit, 5 weeks from the day we met, instead of using a cane, my patient skipped into my office with energy back, hormones regulated and looking forward to resuming the life of a healthy 14-year-old."