Do you suspect that certain foods make you feel sick, fatigued, or your skin break out? Food sensitivity tests can speed up the process of identifying your food triggers, but are they accurate and worth it?
Food sensitivity can impact 40 to 70% of the population. While not acute and potentially fatal like food allergies, food sensitivities are hard to pinpoint. I wrote an article all about the differences between food sensitivities and food allergies – if you want to start there, it may be beneficial to read that and then come back to read this. With food sensitivities, symptoms are subtle and take a long time to appear. They depends on the amount of food you ate and interactions between foods and food chemicals.
If you aren’t familiar with food sensitivities, let me give you a little background:
Food sensitivities are complex reactions of the immune system. In people without sensitivity symptoms, immune cells recognize food particles as safe substances and no immune reactions occur. In people with sensitivity symptoms, the immune system loses tolerance to certain foods. These food particles become ‘foreign’ substances, forcing immune cells to attack through releasing chemicals called mediators, such as cytokines, leukotrienes, histamines, and others. If these chemicals are released in the gut, gut issues arise. If released in the brain, migraines, headaches, and brain fog can arise. If released in the muscles, muscle pain can arise.
Learn how to identify the REAL causes of your gut problems.
Food Sensitivity Symptoms
Symptoms of food sensitivity can show up in any part of your body:
- Digestive: bloating, gas, heartburn, reflux, diarrhea, urgency, cramping, constipation
- Brain: headache, migraines, brain fog, memory loss, mood swings, irritability, insomnia, fatigue
- Musculoskeletal: muscle pain, joint pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, fatigue
- Skin: eczema, itching, rashes, psoriasis,
- Weight: difficulty losing or gaining weight, food cravings, water retention
- Chest: post nasal drip, congestion, sneezing, asthma
- Autoimmune diseases: such as Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and others
Food sensitivity symptoms are not just in the gut, as I explained above. You can experience them all over your body! To read a more in-depth about food sensitivity symptoms, visit this page.
Are Food Sensitivity Tests Accurate and Worth it?
To answer this question, I’m going to walk you through key points when it comes to food sensitivity tests and their interpretation.
Food sensitivities are different from food allergies, so the tests are different.
Food sensitivities and food allergies have completely different immune reactions. For example, if your allergist ordered a blood IgE or a skin test and it came back negative, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a sensitivity. We can’t draw any conclusions regarding food sensitivities because the two reactions are different. If you have any of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you have a food sensitivity, whether you have an allergy or not. Also keep in mind that even a blood IgE food allergy test isn’t 100% accurate. One study found that they are typically 19% accurate.
Learn how to identify the REAL causes of your gut problems.
Not all food sensitivity tests are similar and IgG food sensitivity tests may not be as useful.
A lot of people wonder, “Why can’t I just order the food sensitivity test from my doctor or online?” When it comes to food sensitivity tests, you have tests that measure IgG and others that look at mediators. Many doctors don’t believe in food sensitivity, and if they do, they will most likely order an IgG test. This is the most common test that doctors order to test for food sensitivities.
IgG’s are antibodies and immune cells release antibodies to fight foreign substances, such as pathogens, foods, and others. However, this kind of test is not useful because high IgG levels may also indicate exposure to the food, not necessarily a sensitivity to it. In fact, a normal immune system will produce IgG antibodies as a reaction to proteins in the foods you eat, and a high value means that you frequently eat this food and tolerate it. IgG levels have not been tied to presence of any certain symptoms. Many of my patients say that they didn’t notice any improvement to their symptoms following their IgG test results, confirming that IgG tests do not uncover hidden food sensitivities.
Let me break it down a little bit further for you. Get ready, it’s a lot of information!
Antibody-mediated reactions (IgG’s) are only part of the picture when it comes to food sensitivity reactions. Immune cells also react to foods through another pathway, called cell-mediated delayed reactions. In these types of reactions, immune cells fight foreign invaders by releasing chemicals known as mediators, without producing antibodies. Cell-mediated reactions are sometimes referred to as Hypersensitivity 4, while antibody-reactions are referred to as Hypersensitivity 3. If you only do IgG testing, you only capture part, but not all, of the food sensitivity picture.
Still with me? Okay, good!
Food Sensitivity Tests: ALCAT vs MRT
The test that I use is called a Mediator Release Test (MRT). With this MRT test, we are capturing endpoint chemicals. The immune system releases multiple types of chemicals called mediators to fight food. When the cells are exposed to problematic foods, they shrink, they release content to fight the food, and we are trying to capture that change in the solid to liquid ratio in each sample.
Another test that practitioners may use is called ALCAT. From personal experience helping hundreds of people with digestive and sensitivity-related symptoms, I’ve found that the MRT has gotten me better results with my patients. Not to mention the information was laid out much easier to see, and it was more clear on how to follow the plan. It also uses more advanced technology, and that’s why I use it.
The advantage of food sensitivity tests over an elimination plan?
You may be wondering if there’s a benefit to getting a food sensitivity test over doing an elimination plan, and that’s a great question! Here’s the answer, simply put: it takes longer to identify food triggers with an elimination plan. And you may never even figure them out! Elimination plans are helpful, but they’re still generic. They don’t look at your individualized inflammation triggers. You can spend months trying one plan after the other while keeping a food diary. But even food diaries are difficult to interpret and analyze. With a food sensitivity test, my patients are seeing transformation in their health and symptoms disappearing in as short as 10 days. For most of them, they’ve spend months if not years trying to get rid of their symptoms without success. They’re frustrated and tired, and having clarity and experiencing results motivate them to commit to their healing.
A Test is Great Information But How You Apply It Is Where the Magic Happens
It’s not just the test – it’s the plan that you follow. We aren’t treating the test or the numbers. You are a human being, so I want to modify the plan to fit your life as well as your medical history. Ordering a test without applying it correctly will not get you results, and you might end up blaming the test unjustly. After we’ve taken a look at all of the background information, your medical history, food and diet history, medication use, symptoms, and lifestyle, we put together a plan that will give you the maximum results. Then we slowly and systematically introduce more foods. The keyword is systematic. Food sensitivities are merely a screening tool.
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Food sensitivities happen because you have leaky gut and dysbiosis, so you’re not getting to the root of the problem by doing just doing a food sensitivity test.
I agree with this one 100%. When I first started my practice, I just started with food sensitivity testing. My patients were seeing results and we were both so excited! But… we noticed that things were coming back. And that’s because at that time, I didn’t know that there were other things going on in the body. So we do need to get to the root cause. While you work on getting rid of the pathogen, supporting your digestion, and healing the intestinal lining, if you continue to eat foods that activate your immune system, your body is going to stay in a chronic inflammatory state.
We want to calm the immune system so your healing is more efficient and effective. I also consider food sensitivities as having a windshield wiper effect. Once we eliminate and account for them, symptoms improve in 10-30 days. Then we can see more clearly. What else could be there? No, it’s not the end of our investigation, but it’s step 1 and very important.
It’s like a pyramid. At the bottom of this pyramid is food. If you’re eating foods that are going to create sensitivities and immune responses (inflammatory and chronic stress responses) no matter what you do at the top of the pyramid, it is going to take much longer and you may not even get the results that you want to see. You can take various antimicrobials or probiotics, and you can spend lots of money, but you still may never see the results that you want to see if you don’t address what is at the bottom of this pyramid.
Food sensitivity tests force people to eat restrictively and lead to nutrient deficiencies
Not true. These plans do not have to be restrictive. The goal of food sensitivity testing is to eliminate the problem foods short term, heal the gut and balance it, and then bring back these foods when the gut is healed. At that point, they are no longer triggers. I put my patients on a balanced plan that incorporates all food groups. If your gut is inflamed and your immune system is fighting food and pathogens, you’re not digesting and absorbing the nutrients in your foods, so they are a waste. And when you work with a provider who knows what they’re doing, they’re not going to leave you on a food restriction plan forever. I’m going to help you fix your gut so you can enjoy these foods again. Eating a restrictive diet is no fun. It’s doable short-term and it is purposeful, but the last thing I want to do is eliminate foods and nutrients from someone’s diet forever.
Learn how to identify the REAL causes of your gut problems.
Food sensitivity tests are expensive.
It may cost $200-$1500 to do a food sensitivity test, so people who don’t agree with them say that they’re a waste of money. However, based on my experience helping hundreds of people over 6 years, not a single time have I seen a test that was not helpful or useful. It’s going to be a waste of money if you are not the right fit for the test. That’s why I first assess to see if a test is a good fit for that patient. I order the test for the right person and the right case. And I also make sure that this person can and willing to follow the plan once we have the results back. If you are someone who is experiencing joint or muscle pain, bloating and gas, diarrhea, heartburn, has headaches, skin issues, fatigue, and you have knocked on multiple doctors’ doors and they did all the other tests and they came back normal, and you have no other answers or options, what do you have to lose?
To the people who say that these tests are expensive, I’ll tell you what’s expensive: a new TV or iPhone or laptop or a designer purse. A cruise or vacation to DisneyWorld is expensive. But we buy them because we choose the experience. The same thing goes for food sensitivity tests. The people who make the investment in food sensitivity tests want the experience of optimizing their health and their life, and living to the fullest. This means not being held back by the diarrhea, brain fog, or migraines that they have been dealing with for years. Some people think that it’s normal to have their pains and discomforts, and that they can’t fix them, but that’s not true. The cost of getting your health and your life back, truly is priceless.
Are Food Sensitivity Tests Worth It?
In all the years I’ve been practicing, I think the RIGHT food sensitivity test ordered for the RIGHT person are 100% worth it! I have helped so many people get their lives back, by following a temporary food plan that eliminates the foods that are causing them so much discomfort and then restoring their gut health and function. They are now able to enjoy their favorite foods again and live the life they spent so long not living. They can travel and not worry about when their stomach issues will act up, they don’t have to be in bed for hours everyday because of a migraine, and so on. And I would love to help you too!
You can spend thousands of dollars on procedures and tests, or you can get to the root of the issue now. Yes, it’s an investment, but the return on the investment is 100% worth it. You have to be the right person for it, which is why I recommend you don’t order the test online, and why working with a provider (someone who knows what they are doing) is going to benefit you greatly.
When you’re ready to find the right foods for YOU so you have energy and no digestive, muscle, joint, or head pain, and no more brain fog, I’d love to talk.
You can book a free call with me and we can get to the root cause of your gut issues – including your potential food sensitivities.