Our resident nutritionist reveals the truth.
By Dr. Lauryn Lax
Whether you want to know if you’re sensitive to gluten, dairy or a random fruit, like blueberries or pineapple, one blood stick may be all you need. Food-intolerance testing has become quite popular in the health and nutrition world, especially with all the hype about gluten-free diets.
Food Allergy Versus Food Intolerance: What’s the Difference?
A food intolerance or sensitivity is different than a food allergy. Allergy testing determines histamine or an inflammatory response in the body, while a food intolerance or sensitivity is an inflammatory reaction to a particular food. An intolerance often shows up as lingering inflammation or physical symptoms, such as brain fog, breakouts and gut issues, as opposed to an acute inflammatory response with a legitimate allergy.
Additionally, food Intolerances are more discreet and more difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary, and many folks misconstrue what they’re feeling as “normal.”
You may think food-intolerance tests are the best way to test your sensitivities. However, while these tests may hint at some foods you are indeed sensitive too, many tests actually fail for a number of reasons.
The Facts About Food-intolerance Tests
1. Most food-intolerance tests don’t assess the whole picture of your gut health. Although you may come out with a long list of foods you are sensitive to, the bigger question is why are you sensitive to these foods in the first place? Oftentimes, the more significant reason for any intolerance is hiding in your gut. Do you have a leaky gut or poor absorption, or a fungal overgrowth? Maybe you have an autoimmune condition. While some known gut-irritating foods like conventional gluten and dairy can equally cause underlying gut issues, many times, the reason you are sensitive to a random assortment of foods is that you have some sort of gut dysfunction and not because you are sensitive to a particular food itself.
2. Food-intolerance tests don’t measure your reaction to the foods you eat in real life. Most tests don’t measure for both the cooked and raw versions of the foods you eat, meaning the test results may not be accurate since enzymes and proteins in both forms are digested differently. For example, your tests results may reveal you’re sensitive to potatoes, but how often do you eat raw potatoes?
3. Food-intolerance tests don’t test for all forms of food sensitivity. Tests should measure for both IgA, or Immunoglobulin A, and IgG, or Immunoglobulin G, antibody sensitivity responses. If they don’t, they are missing the whole picture. IgA responses are typically experienced shortly after consuming a food and lessen within 24 to 48 hours of the food clearing your system. IgG-sensitivity testing measures the longer-lasting effects that may hint at a lingering gut issue. Additionally, most tests only test for common allergens like gluten, peanuts, soy and shellfish. In doing so, these tests miss out on foods you may be intolerant to. For those with a gluten intolerance, you may actually be more sensitive to foods most often cross-contaminated with gluten, such as corn, hemp, millet, oats, rice, buckwheat, milk chocolate and whey protein.
4. Food-intolerance tests are not backed by research. Research is not always the end all and be all, but many of the most popular food tests currently available have very little research to back them up.
5. Food-intolerance tests don’t tell you what to do next. Once you learn your results, do you have to cut out the foods forever? Do results mean there’s a point of no return? No! Many nutritionists and doctors may help you interpret your results, but often don’t talk about the underlying issue, which is likely in your gut. Deeper digging may be warranted. Do your own research or stop overdoing it on your favorite foods to see how your body reacts. Above all, ask yourself how certain foods make you feel.
Two Alternatives to Food-sensitivity Testing
Don’t waste your money on just any test. If you want a blood test, the gold standard is the Cyrex Labs food-sensitivity test.
As for the cheapest thing you can do, eliminating foods by trial and error is the way to go. It can be a long process, but there’s no better way to learn how certain foods really affect you.