Mold: The Uninvited House Guest
When you’re cleaning, it’s a great feeling to get rid of clutter, refresh your home, and start fresh. However, we often forget about an uninvited guest that tends to be well hidden: mold! Allergies to mold are more common than one would think and often remain untested leading to non-stop cold-like symptoms.
What is mold?
I’m sure we all are familiar with the fuzzy-looking substance that grows on expired items in the fridge, but are we aware of the unseen mold particles drifting through the air? These tiny particles are called mold spores. Mold is a subgroup in the fungi kingdom which includes yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. Mold spores are the small reproductive cells that spread through the air and may cause allergies. These spores can be found in diverse conditions, making this allergen difficult to tame. Mold spores can survive in dry environments, but they favor warm and damp environments (both indoors or outdoors).
Mold can be defined as a fungal growth prone to growing on organic matter, a common example being wood. They grow all year round and have many different species. Conditions such as moisture and dampness help molds thrive, and the environment plays a significant role in how molds reproduce. Exposure to mold can happen indoors and outdoors and are essentially unavoidable. You can find mold outside in the form of birch and pollen, while indoor mold can range from house dust (yes, house dust!) to black mold.
Why are we allergic to mold?
Mold exposure usually happens via inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion. According to some physicians, the toxins that mold produces (known as mycotoxins) have various effects and are believed to induce negative neurological symptoms. Molds have different levels of toxicity and may trigger various allergic reactions. The reason why every mold has a different level of toxicity is because of its amino acid sequence. Amino acids are proteins, and depending on the mold’s protein sequence, this determines how it will function- particularly how it will be involved in the host’s immune system. Mold releases spores which is what may trigger an immune response in the human body. This response can be immediate (IgE) or delayed (IgG/IgA).
Why should we test for mold?
Knowing if you are allergic to mold can be informative in symptom management, informing how to best clean your home, and even can help pick future locations to live in. Risk factors that may prompt one to get tested include houses with high humidity, poor ventilation, or excess moisture. Typically, mold allergy symptoms occur in the upper respiratory tract and consist of sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, cough, postnasal drip, itchy or watery eyes, irritated throat, and dry skin. People who have asthma are at greater risk because this allergy can trigger a severe asthma attack. These symptoms affect the lower respiratory tract and include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Which tests are effective for mold?
Alletess’ mold panel tests various antibodies (IgE, IgA, and IgG) to provide the most accurate picture. IgE is used for acute reactions whereas IgA and IgG are used for delayed reactions.
If you suspect you have a mold allergy, or think you have been exposed, reach out to your doctor about ordering a Mold Immunoreactivity Panel to confirm exposure, allergy, and sensitivity.
What can you do after your tests come back positive?
While it can be frustrating to receive positive results on a mold allergy panel, here are some things you can do to limit your exposure. When outside, avoid fallen leaves, compost piles, wooded areas, and cut grass. Mold tends to thrive in these areas because of the dead plant matter. Additionally, limit outdoor activities when it is a windy or rainy day, as mold spores favor damp environments and can easily be transported in the air.
Mold spores can thrive inside as well, but indoor precautions can be made to prevent mold from growing in the home. Mold favors damp environments, so keep humidity levels below 50%. This can be done with a dehumidifier, but make sure to clean and empty it regularly. Also, use a HEPA filter attachment in your air conditioning system to trap mold spores and prevent them from circulating indoors. Be sure to keep all bathrooms well-ventilated. After running the shower, turn on the ventilation fan or open the door to let the moisture in the air dry.
Mold Elimination Plan:
If you look at the figure above, you will see that this patient tested positive for a few different molds, for both acute (IgE) and delayed (IgG/IgA) reactions. Since this patient has a positive result to mold, they will receive a mold elimination plan, which will guide them through common sources of mold, mold prevention and removal tips, descriptions of molds tested, and more.
Once this patient has received their mold elimination plan, they start implementing small changes into their routine such as checking the humidity levels in their home, cleaning air vents, removing houseplants, and more. They also avoid foods that naturally contain mold, such as cheese, smoked meats, sour cream, and others.
Although mold is impossible to avoid all together, with the help of this patient’s test results and the guidance with the mold elimination plan, they were able to manage their symptoms better and avoid environments that they now know are likely to have high mold counts.
This patient has seen a decrease in their cold-like symptoms, and a noticeable increase in their energy levels and duration of sleep.
Ordering a Food Sensitivity Test On Your Own vs. Through A Medical Professional
By: Alletess Medical Laboratory
Chances are if you’ve ever looked up a certain medical test online, there’s going to be an option where you can perform this test on your own, in the comfort of your own home.
This sounds great, right?
Well, tests that an individual can order online without needing a doctor may seem easier, but let’s break the process down.
First, let’s take a deeper look into the step by step process of ordering a test through a provider. We’ll do this by using two hypothetical examples of a patient named Linda, who is concerned by her uncomfortable symptoms of gas, bloating, and constant fatigue.
#1 Linda goes to her doctor because she is frustrated with feeling tired, bloated, and having excessive gas. Linda wants testing done, but is not sure what test will be appropriate for her. While at the doctors office, her provider examines her and discusses her medical history and other symptoms she is frustrated about.
#2. After her doctor does a full examination, they are able to order Linda a 184 Food Sensitivity (IgG) panel based on her symptoms and medical history.
#3. After Linda receives her results, she is confused about her test results (Figure 1), what they mean, and what her next steps are. Due to this, she calls her doctor to go over her results. She could also call Alletess Medical Laboratory and speak with one of the onsite registered dietitians, and they would be able to guide her through a customized wellness plan and help her on her wellness journey. With both the help of her doctor and a registered dietitian, they were able to give her a plan to follow, with specific foods to buy at the grocery store, what to avoid, and more. Linda also gained valuable information when her doctor told her that she has a condition called leaky gut, which involves the permeability of her gut lining. They discussed that fixing her food sensitivities would also help lessen the permeability of her gut, and lead to overall better health.
#4. After following both the guidelines of her elimination diet from her doctor and the registered dietitian at Alletess, Linda is feeling less bloated, less tired, and less gassy since she was able to have support and guidance through her journey!
Now, let’s look at Scenario 2, where this same patient did not order a test through her provider.
#1. Linda googled her symptoms of fatigue, bloating, and gas.
#2. After googling her symptoms, she came to the realization that it may be food related. Linda looked up a food test online that she could do at home, without needing a doctor. However, she did not know if she was ordering the correct test, as thousands of different test panels and companies popped up on her search.
#3. Linda performed her own test after guessing which one would suit her best online and waited for the results.
#4. After receiving her test results back, she was confused about the results and the different classes of reactive foods, but did not have a medical professional to speak with to walk her through the results. She did not have a wellness plan or any other guidance as to what to do next with her results.
#5. Linda still felt bloated, tired, and experienced gas. She had little to no improvement in her symptoms.
From these two scenarios, you can see how having a medical professional with you to analyze your test can lead to better results. It seems overwhelming when an individual gets their test results back, and are really not sure what to do with them, especially if their results are as complicated as the one depicted above.
When dealing with specific symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are feeling. Your doctor knows you best, as they understand your full medical history and specific symptoms. With their comprehensive knowledge of your health, they can provide you with the best possible lab test for your needs. After the lab test results are returned to you, the guidance that your doctor and the onsite dietitian will provide you with is necessary for symptom management and bettering your life.
New Year, Healthier You
By: Alletess Medical Laboratory
It’s 2023; the gym is always full, your fridge is packed with fresh produce, and you are telling yourself that this is the year that your resolutions will stick! Whether it is eating healthier, losing weight, or becoming more consistent, sticking to those resolutions can be tough, especially when you have unknown factors that are hindering your progress.
Did you know that a possible root cause for a lack of motivation, bloating, or even brain fog can stem from food sensitivities?
As a provider, it’s important that you know the factors that could be hindering both you and your patients progress this new year.
Keep reading to discover how food sensitivity testing can help you and your patients accomplish your wellness goals this year!
What are food sensitivities and what are the symptoms associated with them?
When your immune system “doesn’t like” something, it creates antibodies in response to this. The immune system has different types of antibodies, including IgG, IgA, and IgE. When you or your patients have a food sensitivity, it triggers the body to make an IgG mediated response to the specific food. Whereas food allergies tend to have immediate and potentially life threatening reactions, food sensitivities tend to be delayed and cause symptoms such as brain fog, bloating, and inflammation due to delayed immune reactions. These symptoms can severely impact one’s life, by making everyday activities harder to accomplish with increased discomfort. If these feelings are common for you or your patients, order a food sensitivity test!
How can identifying food sensitivities help you and your patients achieve health goals?
Motivation may just be one of the hardest factors that can either hinder or facilitate an individual in achieving their health goals. Motivation is difficult when you or your patients are facing symptoms such as bloating, brain fog, and inflammation. In this section, discover how food sensitivity testing can help with symptom management, keeping motivation up, and holding you and your patients accountable for your health goals!
Most people have experienced what is called brain fog, which describes general confusion and forgetfulness. When people experience brain fog, it is usually associated with feelings of fatigue and difficulty with concentration, which are also symptoms of food sensitivities. Brain fog can be triggered by the inflammation experienced due to food sensitivities. With food sensitivity testing, identifying offending foods can target what is causing one’s brain fog, and can contribute to an increase in concentration and reduction of inflammation, which in turn can help with motivation and healthy lifestyle habits.
Fad Diets and “Healthy” Food Sensitivities
Diets are not a “one size fits all”, and even some of the “healthiest” diets may still be contributing to feelings of discomfort, if you or your patients are unsure about what foods they are sensitive to. Instead of calorie-limiting diets and general rules (like the popular fad diets in society and social media), food sensitivity testing creates a unique opportunity to create a tailored diet, based on individual immune responses. It identifies specific foods which should be avoided and allows the individual to focus on foods that are harmless to them.
A common misconception we also often see when it comes to diets is the general advice to just “eat healthy”. However, healthy foods can also be triggering food intolerances. Healthy to some may not mean healthy for others. Food sensitivities can range from lemons to whey to all citrons. These sensitivities may lead to bloating or feelings of weight gain. Someone may think almonds are a healthy snack, and a kale salad is a great lunch, but if these foods are causing significant bloating and other symptoms, they may be negatively impacting the quality of life of that individual!
What are some resources we can provide? How can Alletess help you and your patients?
If you are a doctor, start ordering food sensitivity testing for both you and your patients. Once you have your patients results back, and have interpreted the results with them, an elimination diet can be discussed (described below). At Alletess, our onsite dietitians create a customized wellness plan that is specific to individual results.
The wellness plan is an eating program based on the elimination of reactive foods. Any food on the test result that scored Class 1, 2, or 3 for IgG (sensitivity) has been eliminated from the Wellness Plan. Its main purpose is to give an individual’s immune system time to rest and prevent the development of new food sensitivities.
Below are recommendations that our dietitians suggest, but doctors may always tell their patients their own guidelines.
We recommend avoiding these reactive foods for at least 8-12 weeks and follow the rotation part of the Wellness Plan. A patient may not feel relief from their symptoms initially. In fact, they may crave some of the foods they have removed from their diet. The purpose of the elimination and rotation plan is to eliminate foods that patients have become sensitive to and rotate other nutritious foods into their diet. The main principle of the Wellness Plan is not to consume the same foods on consecutive days.
After an elimination diet, this is when patients may start reintroducing foods they have just eliminated. This is because they have given their immune system a needed break, and they are ready to start reintroducing foods. Some guidelines that your patients may find useful:
- Begin with Class 1 foods to start the re-introduction phase (Class 1 foods have the least amount of immune reactivity)
- Try one culprit food every four days to see if you can tolerate it
- On the first day of reintroducing a food, consume 2-3 servings of that food in its purest form
- Please keep a food diary and make notes of any symptoms, which may take up to 72 hours to develop
- Once all Class 1 sensitive foods are re-introduced move on to re-introducing Class 2 foods and finally Class 3’s
If there is a reaction, or if any symptoms that have resolved during the elimination phase re-occur, remove the food from your diet again, as this may indicate that you are still not tolerating it. Foods you are able to tolerate may be added back into your diet on a rotation basis.
Now, let’s take a look at two case studies.
Patient 1: Alice
Alice was a patient who ate a healthy diet but suddenly started experiencing leaky gut symptoms including headaches, bloating, nausea, fatigue, and food sensitivities. Leaky gut occurs when there are issues with the intestinal lining and bacteria and toxins can enter the tissue and cause inflammation. Her doctor suggested food sensitivity testing to see if there are any foods triggering her symptoms. She was found to be highly sensitive to foods such as lobster, gluten, whey, casein, yogurt, egg whites, and cow’s milk. Although she doesn’t have Celiac’s disease, her sensitivity to gluten has been triggering symptoms such as painful abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, and inflammation. Alice was put on an elimination diet starting with gluten and anything with cow’s milk. Initially, Alice did not feel any relief. At 5 weeks, she noticed her bloating was decreasing steadily and after 12 weeks she had complete relief from her symptoms, all due to the results from her food sensitivity test. Alice now had increased energy and no more uncomfortable symptoms, and was ready to continue with her health goals.
Stories such as Alice’s are quite common with food sensitivity testing and could be the next step for your own health journey!
Patient 2: Max
Similar to Alice, Max started experiencing leaky gut symptoms and his doctor suggested food sensitivity testing to identify sources making the condition worse. While Max had a major sensitivity to peanuts, his results had several low level sensitivities to foods one would consider healthy, such as carrots, kelp, and grapefruit. He was more than a little surprised as he thought all healthy foods would help him lose weight and have more energy. Upon receiving his results, he began avoiding these healthy foods using his elimination plan and replacing them with green beans, cabbage, and grapes since he did not have sensitivities to those foods. Not only did his leaky gut symptoms decrease dramatically, but he also felt the bloating decrease and noticed his weight loss results. Max learned that while eating healthy is important, it is also important to learn about your own body and what can trigger inflammation counteracting your health goals.
Food sensitivity testing helped Max perform better, lose weight more efficiently, and significantly decreased his feelings of uncomfort due to bloating and inflammation.
As a provider, it is important to get to the root cause of your patient’s symptoms. Food sensitivity testing can provide your patients with lab results that when followed by an elimination diet, can provide them with great relief from ongoing symptoms. This new year, help your patients with their wellness goals by ordering them a food sensitivity test.
Alternative Halloween Options for Children with Food Allergies
By: Alletess Medical Laboratory
Trick or treat?
No tricks here! We come bearing treats for this fun holiday! Read below for helpful tips and guidance on how to have an allergy free Halloween this year.
Halloween from a parents point of view:
Halloween is an exciting night for kids to spend time with friends, of course with the added bonus of receiving and eating candy…
However, as a parent whose child (or children) have allergies, Halloween can be an exhausting night if they have to read every nutrition label for specific ingredients. Or, If a child is at the age where they trick-or-treat without their parents, it can also quickly turn into a night filled with parental anxiety that their child is eating a piece of candy that will trigger an allergic reaction. As a parent, it’s quite difficult to allow your child freedom on Halloween when they have food allergies.
We understand that both parents and children with allergies may have a different Halloween experience, which is why we have compiled some allergy free candies as well as alternative ways for parents and children to celebrate Halloween this year.
Candy Options Free from the Big 8 Allergens
According to the FDA the top eight allergens are milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. To try and make life a little easier, we compiled a list of candy options that are free from the top eight allergens.
- Flavors: Strawberry, Wild Cherry, Lemonade Wild Cherry, Grape, Apple Watermelon and Watermelon
- Jelly Belly Jelly Beans
- Dum Dums
- Blow Pops
- Swedish Fish
- Surf Sweets Organic Halloween Fruity Bears
- Sour Patch Kids
- Flavors: Lime, Lemon, Orange, Berry and Raspberry
- Saf-T pops
- free2b Sun Cups
Alternative Options for Children Who Cannot Eat Candy
If your child has complex allergies or can’t have any candy, we put together some activities that don’t involve trick or treating:
- Candy free halloween party in your neighborhood – Focus on activities such as word searches, making ghosts out of tissues, pumpkin carving or making caramel apples. Have the kids come in costumes and even have a costume contest!
- Allergy friendly baking – Use your favorite allergy free recipes and bring in orange and green frosting and have your kids decorate them.
- Fun fact: instead of using food coloring you can use matcha for green and freeze dried peaches for orange!
- Halloween activities – There are tons of other ways to celebrate halloween including pumpkin carving, making pumpkins out of sponges using paint, coloring pages, writing a story together, are all great ways to avoid trick or treating.
Don’t Want Children with Allergies to Miss Out on Trick-or-Treating?
If you would like to create an allergen safe environment for trick-or-treaters that may stop by your house, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a great way to make an inclusive space for all children. In order to participate in this project, place a teal pumpkin on your front porch or doorstep. In this teal pumpkin, place allergen friendly toys and other fun goodies to signal that your house is an allergen friendly location!
To learn more about this project, visit the Teal Pumpkin Project to gather information and other resources that you can use to create an inclusive environment for all children this Halloween. Resources include non-food treats, trick-or-treating tips, and other activities to keep your little ones entertained! Make sure to check out their website for allergy friendly maps that you can add to your house, as well as pre-made labels you can print for your porch.
ADHD: Scientific Literature and the Relationship with Food Sensitivity
By: Alletess Medical Laboratory
When it comes to ADHD, it seems like everyone has an opinion. Since differing opinions can be both overwhelming and frustrating, we have gathered the facts that are based on scientific literature to help you better understand this disorder. We will discuss scientific literature, ADHD and food sensitivity, and elimination diets.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder usually diagnosed in childhood but may also be diagnosed later in life. Individuals who are diagnosed with ADHD may have difficulty with concentration, focusing on one task, controlling behaviors, and can seem overactive and forgetful.
Although some may think there is a genetic component connected to this disorder, there is not a single gene defect associated with ADHD.
ADHD can oftentimes be difficult to diagnose, as researchers are still trying to identify the cause by exploring brain scans, comparing brain areas,and examining imbalances in neurotransmitter levels. Current medications that are prescribed to treat ADHD include Methylphenidates and D-Amphetamines.
What is the connection between ADHD and food sensitivity?
A 2020 study published in Appetite found that children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD, displayed higher levels of taste and smell sensitivity to food, which correlated to a fussier palate.
In 2018, a journal titled Medical Hypotheses published a study that examined the relationship between the gut brain axis to the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms, which was impacted by microbiome diversity. Previous studies have found that food sensitivities may lead to leaky gut and this may lead to inflammation as well as impacting the gut brain axis. All of this correlates to further imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain.
To put this in simpler terms, individuals who have a food sensitivity and who have also been diagnosed with ADHD may be suffering from more severe symptoms, due to the correlation between the gut brain axis and ADHD symptoms.
My patient has been diagnosed with ADHD, but I am not sure if they have a food sensitivity. What should I do?
Food sensitivities may cause physical symptoms such as bloating and constipation which may worsen the quality of life of an individual who has difficulty concentrating. As such, food sensitivity testing may help eliminate such symptoms and promote a better quality of life.
A simple food sensitivity test can give you fast results that will show whether or not your patient is experiencing any reactivities to certain foods. The results from this test will give your patient peace of mind to ensure that their ADHD symptoms are not exacerbated by foods.
My patient has a known food sensitivity and has been diagnosed with ADHD. What can I do now?
While food sensitivities and allergies are not linked to causing ADHD, Nigg and Holton reviewed literature in 2014 to explore how elimination diets may help individuals with ADHD lessen the severity of their symptoms. They found that there was a correlation to eliminating certain food and helping with the lessening of symptoms related to ADHD. Interestingly, they also found that artificial food coloring was a common group which should first be eliminated.
By describing an elimination diet to your patient, in hopes that they will actually eliminate certain foods, it may be able to help them lessen specific symptoms of ADHD.
Living with ADHD after an elimination diet
It’s important to note that elimination diets and food sensitivity testing are not an alternative to medication and there is no known cure to this disorder. We bring up the relationship between food sensitivity and ADHD as a supplement to help maintain balance in the various systems found in your body.
The Psychiatric Times have found that elimination diets have been correlated to a 25-30% chance of improved symptoms in certain patients with ADHD. Improving symptoms and the quality of life of individuals with ADHD is definitely a step forward in how ADHD is currently being treated.
Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity
By: Alletess Medical Laboratory
Have your patients ever found themselves feeling uncomfortable or nauseous after eating certain foods? Do they have unexplained fatigue or difficulty concentrating? Do they get headaches, migraines, skin irritations or unexplained weight loss or gain?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your patients may have a food sensitivity, which is a non-life threatening reaction in response to digesting a problematic food. Although it is not completely understood where food sensitivities come from, causes may include: lack of digestive enzymes, stress, infections, overeating, artificial preservatives, additives, and many others.
A person may experience symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, which can severely impact their quality of life. These symptoms may take up to 72 hours to develop after a food is ingested, making food sensitivities quite hard to identify. Individuals around the world have sensitivities to a large variety of food, common triggers being both lactose and gluten, which can sometimes take years to understand the root cause.
Food sensitivities may exacerbate symptoms in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines, autoimmune disorders, and can even impact mental health. As such IgG panels have been correlated to identifying specific food items that may cause these symptoms. In the case of autoimmune disorders, addressing food sensitivities can reduce the amount of inflammation throughout the body. In addition, based on a 2010 study, it was found that elimination diets decreased migraine frequency and reduced the need for medication.
So what is the difference between a food sensitivity and an allergy?
While food sensitivities have a delayed reaction, a food allergy is usually an immediate reaction, where symptoms may last for a few hours. Allergies can be life threatening and lead to a condition called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis is not treated with epinephrine, it may lead to death. Allergies occur when an individual has antibodies against epitopes found in certain proteins and compounds that produce a large and usually immediate immune response.
Since food sensitivities are hard to identify, you may be wondering what you can do to help your patients that are experiencing some of these common symptoms.
In order to put an end to these symptoms, a simple blood test can help to identify which foods may be problematic to you specifically by examining IgG levels of common food sensitivities. With the results of this test, it can then be followed by an elimination diet, which is a highly effective form of identifying and getting rid of food intolerances.
At Alletess Medical Laboratory, we understand that food elimination diets can be difficult to adjust to, which is why we also offer on site dietitians to help your patients through their health journey.
Reach out today to see how we can help you set your patients up for success!