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Remember watching videos in biology class of the war between the body and the flu virus? They – in a very Star Wars fashion – demonstrated the body’s way of producing antibodies to defend itself from these invaders. Antibodies can also be produced after eating a food the body deems as harmful. So, antibody testing is the most effective way to test for food sensitivities or intolerances. Of course, differences between the types of food sensitivities exist, which affect different antibodies. 

For instance, the body produces the antibody IgE to fight off a food allergy and reacts immediately and violently (anaphylaxis). However, these types of true food allergies are rare. Typically, testing for food allergies involves either a skin prick test or a blood test. Throughout the veterinary profession, these tests for food allergies are considered unreliable and inaccurate.  

In contrast to food allergy reactions, the body produces the antibodies IgA and IgM to combat food sensitivity and intolerance, which is more common and can be a long term reaction. Sensitivity is a response to a particular food or compound found in a range of foods that is often exhibited through skin and/or bowel.

Sensitivity can be a result of several reasons such as the absence of specific chemicals or enzymes needed to digest a food substance or an abnormality in the ability to absorb certain nutrients. For instance, an irritable bowel (also called “leaky gut”) can be due to malabsorption or other abnormalities.

Today, new studies have revealed that long term reactions – as well as delayed reactions – to foods are more accurately identified by using the NutriScan test, which measures the level of the antibodies IgA and IgM in saliva for food sensitivities.

Dr. Dodds recommends that dogs, cats and horses are tested annually as – similar to humans – food tolerances and intolerances change over time.