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Should you get a Food Sensitivity test?


Food sensitivity testing is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I have been studying the various aspects of how our bodies react to foods for over 20 years and will share with you here some of the more important principles I have learned. Most of this comes from actual clinical experience with patients as the science on food sensitivity testing is controversial, which I will explain further in this blog.

There is a lot of info here, so scroll to the following topics in this blog:

  • “FOOD ALLERGY” VS. “FOOD SENSITIVITY”

  • WHAT SYMPTOMS MAY BE RELATED TO FOOD SENSITIVITIES?

  • FOOD SENSITIVITY LAB TESTS

  • MORE RELIABLE WAYS TO DETERMINE FOOD SENSITIVITIES

“FOOD ALLERGY” VS. “FOOD SENSITIVITY”

First of all, let’s get a common language for the concept of food sensitivity testing. Most lay people use the terms “food allergy” and “food sensitivity” or “intolerance” interchangeably. From the standpoint of human physiology, and what your doctor understands about the topic, a “food allergy” is a specific type of food sensitivity. Medically, an allergy is a group of symptoms ranging from hives, itching skin or eyes, and nasal congestion to swelling of the tongue, closing of the throat, or even anaphylaxis, which is complete collapse of the cardiovascular system. Although relatively rare, anaphylaxis is life-threatening. This is the person who cannot get near even a trace of certain foods, such as peanuts, without beginning the immune system cascade based upon immediate reactions of the immunoglobulin IgE (a type of antibody). These reactions can be diagnosed with skin prick testing by an allergy specialist. This person should carry epinephrine injections with them in case of an unexpected exposure, and must avoid ALL exposures to the offending food, even trace amounts.

WHAT SYMPTOMS MAY BE RELATED TO FOOD SENSITIVITIES?

Most food sensitivities, however, are very common, and not life-threatening, at least in the short-run. They represent many diverse reactions of the body, both immunological, such as inflammation, and not involving the immune system, such as hormonal. This is where the confusion often comes in. When we begin to pay close attention to our bodies, noting changes from our usual health, we can become aware of symptoms ranging from sleep difficulty to blood pressure elevation to joint swelling and even more serious diseases all related to food sensitivities or intolerances. As will be described below, you can even use small changes in your pulse rate to help you determine food sensitivities. But first, let’s talk more about food sensitivities with some examples.

Often, people expect that food-related symptoms will show up with something affecting the digestive tract. While this is often the case, it is by no means universal. I see people every day who have undiagnosed food sensitivities which they do not even perceive because they have no digestive complaints. This can range from rashes to sleep disruption to inflammatory arthritis to brain fog, poor concentration or even depression. Certainly, any gastrointestinal (GI) complaint may be related to food intake and bears investigation of which foods are contributing. The same principles apply whether your symptoms affect the gut (anything from the mouth to anus) or lie outside the GI system.

FOOD SENSITIVITY LAB TESTS

In our technologically-based culture, we have become dependent on laboratory tests to give us answers to what is going on inside out bodies. Nonetheless, I am a strong proponent of learning to listen to your own body for clues, as we will discuss below. Still, because most people want quick, simple answers (even when they don’t address true root causes) let’s start with the pros and cons of some of the available food sensitivity testing. While it may be helpful to use some of these tests to help you narrow the field about possible food choices, you must realize that a test printed in three colors with pages of explanation does not cover all possible ways your body may be reacting to what you eat. Just because it is printed in multiple colors with scientific-sounding explanations, does not make it the have-all-and-be-all diagnosis of what is going on inside your body.

Skin prick testing, and certain blood IgE testing, such as RAST or ImmunoCAP Specific IgE blood tests are des