Food Sensitivity Testing
Today's post is brought to you in partnership with my friends at EverlyWell! We're chatting all about Food Sensitivity testing and how to know if it may be right for you.
Before we talk about testing for food sensitivities, we need to cover what they are and why they may be of concern! Food sensitivities are (essentially) like the glass ceiling of wellness. We can do our BEST to eat well, exercise, rest, hydrate, and stay on top of a positive mindset, but those darn food sensitivities can hold us back – and most of us never know who/what to blame. Speaking from experience, it can be incredibly frustrating to do your BEST to follow a healthy lifestyle but still have trouble breaking through to that feeling of lasting wellness. We follow a meal plan that we know SHOULD work for us, but the tummy is still bloated, the headaches persist, and you just can't seem to shake the adult acne. It's tempting to think, in that juncture, that we're doomed to endure those symptoms forever, but what if they could be attributed to a simple food sensitivity? What if you actually ARE following a healthy lifestyle plan that WILL work for your body, so long as you slightly tweak your food choices? We talk a LOT here on the blog and in the Fed & Fit Project about personalized wellness and about how each person is different. The proof of that concept is in the wide spectrum of possible food sensitivities and I'm THRILLED to say that EverlyWell, a convenient/reliable mail-in testing service, has our back.
So what is a food sensitivity?
A food sensitivity is a reaction to food that may be associated with increased levels of IgG antibodies that are reactive to that particular food. This is fancy speak for: your body has created some personalized soldiers to fight off a protein (each food has a signature protein) it doesn't like (or at least, it doesn't like it right now). Food sensitivities often don’t cause immediate reactions, but rather delayed reactions up to 48 hours later. This is why it can be so difficult to pin-point exactly WHERE that symptom (bloated tummy, for example) came from. Too many variables can be introduced in a 48 hour window! It can be near impossible to nail down the exact culprit.
For a brief overview, some food sensitivity symptoms can include:
- Brain fog
- Dry and itchy skin
- Bloated stomach after eating
- Joint pain
- Depression and mood swings
- Runny nose
- Trouble sleeping
- Dark circles under eyes
What is the difference between food sensitivities, food allergies, and food intolerances?
The lines separating food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances tend to blur into one overall haze of “I can't eat that.” While it's great to avoid what doesn't serve your body well, I also find it helpful to know exactly HOW I'm reacting to a certain food. Allergies are different from sensitivities, which are different from intolerances. Let's break it down…
- A food allergy is an immune response to a specific food that triggers a histamine reaction almost immediately after the food is ingested. Food allergies can be life-threatening and include symptoms like hives, anaphylactic shock, vomiting, and swelling of the tongue and throat.
- A food intolerance results from a lack of an enzyme needed to break down a certain food and typically causes stomach upset. The most common case of this is lactose intolerance, where individuals lack the enzyme lactase used to break down the lactose in milk.
- A food sensitivity is a reaction to food that is less serious than a food allergy. It can take days for food sensitivities to cause any noticeable reactions.
So can't I just follow an elimination diet?
Because food sensitivity symptoms can show up days after eating a specific food, they can be difficult to identify. Two ways to figure out your food sensitivities are a food sensitivity testing and an elimination diet. While they can both serve different needs, I like to think of a food sensitivity test as immediate pin-pointed accuracy whereas an elimination diet is based on drawn-out inferences.
- In an elimination diet, you’ll typically exclude a number of foods that commonly cause sensitivities for 4-6 weeks. After the 4-6 weeks is over, you gradually re-introduce those foods and look for reactions. While this is a great, cheap way to identify food sensitivities, there are two drawbacks: first, it is time-consuming and can be a tedious process, and second, elimination diets typically only eliminate a handful of foods at a time, so you may not find the culprit.
- The other way to test for food sensitivities is through a blood test, like the Food Sensitivity Test from EverlyWell. This Food Sensitivity test measures your body’s IgG immune response to 96 foods that are commonly found in western diets. You simply order the food sensitivity test, and have it delivered to your doorstep. You simply prick your finger, do a blood spot sample collection, mail the sample back to the lab, and receive your results online! You don’t have to go to the doctor’s office or get blood drawn.
What do positive food sensitivity results mean?
When you get your results back, you will learn IgG reactivity levels to all 96 foods tested. Next, you can begin an elimination diet to remove these sensitivities and reduce overall inflammation to see how your body is affected. If you test high to foods you are eating every day, this may be a sign of leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. Leaky gut occurs when our intestines are repeatedly exposed to either maldigested foods or foods that may cause inflammation. The intestines are made up of multiple cells locked together by tight junctions. Chronic inflammation can cause these tight junctions to separate and affect the integrity of the intestinal wall. When this happens, the proteins of the food we are eating can leave the intestine through these tiny gaps and into the body, where they aren’t supposed to be. Since food isn’t designed to be outside of the intestine, your immune system will recognize it as a foreign invader, and it creates an antibody to attack the protein. These antibody reactions are what food sensitivity tests measure.
If you are mainly testing high to foods that you are eating on a daily basis, removing those foods that test high can help reduce overall inflammation and help you heal your gut. At this point, you can either try the foods again and see how you react, or you can retest. If you test positive to foods you aren’t eating consistently, this can be more indicative of a true sensitivity and a food you should consider avoiding for the longer term.
Does EverlyWell offer any other tests?
Why yes they do! They're all just as wonderfully convenient as this test. In addition to food sensitivity testing, EverlyWell also offers the following tests:
- Metabolism Test
- Thyroid Test
- Men’s Health Test
- Women’s Health & Fertility Test
- Vitamin D & Inflammation Test
- Cholesterol and Lipid Test
- Heavy Metals Test
- Sleep & Stress Test
If you're experiencing some of the symptoms listed above and don't quite know where to turn next, I HIGHLY encourage you consider this Food Sensitivity Test. Knowledge is power and having a very good idea of what your individual body is reacting to (right now) will empower you to make the best-for-you food choices. If you're interested in any of EverlyWell's testing, Use code “FED” for 15% off any EverlyWell test!