What is Food Sensitivity Testing? – Have you ever felt like eliminating certain inflammatory foods sounds like a good idea but you don’t take action? A Food Sensitivity Test may be just what you need to finally take action to reduce inflammation in your body.
Food sensitivity testing is one of the most accessible functional medicine lab I run with my clients. In fact, it’s one of the first things I recommend for helping your body to heal. These are easy to read, include a wide variety of foods and often can give you the extra proof you need to eliminate problem foods.
Food sensitivity tests are also widely available and lab companies are making these very affordable. However, with that can come confusion as to how to interpret the test. Plus, what actions to take especially when they’re ordered online – direct to consumer and without a lab review call.
Food Sensitivity vs. Food Allergy
There is a different between food sensitivity testing, which is an IgG (immunoglobulin G) test versus an IgE (immunoglobulin E) test. IgG is the most common type of antibody in your body and is what food sensitivity testing looks at. This is an immune system defense designed to tackle foreign substances including food, viruses and pathogens. IgE is the least common immune antibodyin your body and is what allergy testing will look at. Both reactions are inflammatory. Inflammation in the body is important, however chronic inflammation caused by problem foods can be harmful.
IgG reactions are varied and can appear up to 3 days after eating or drinking the offending food. IgE reactions are acute and immediate. Anaphylaxis, for instance, is an IgE reaction.
Common Food Sensitivity (IgG) Reactions Include
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Digestive upset (though this can also be related to gut dysbiosis and permeability)
- Stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
How to Read a Food Sensitivity Test
Food sensitivity testing includes an analysis of your IgG response to specific food proteins. Most food sensitivity companies provide color coding for each food such as green, light green, yellow, orange or green, yellow, orange and red. Your reaction to that food protein is typically indicated as a black bar.
Interpreting and taking action on a food sensitivity test can be confusing as sometimes labs can include a description of food rotations. The way I’ve been trained, however, is different and it really does work well.
High Reactive Foods (orange or red)- Remove these foods for 6 months.
Moderate Reactive Foods (yellow or orange)- Remove these foods for 12 weeks.
Low but Elevated (light green or green/yellow) – Remove these foods for 6 weeks.
Low (green) – This is a normal immune system response to food.
That all said, there are three areas that I wanted to highlight that can be confusing.
Understanding the Dairy Test – Related to Casein
Casein is one of the food proteins tested in the lab I commonly use. Casein is in all the dairy however. So, when casein is elevated, that is the marker that I use to determine how long to remove all the dairy products.
Gliadin is Related to Gluten
Gliadin is a protein that is attached to gluten. So if you see gliadin elevated on your test, you would remove all gluten containing grains for the appropriate period of time based on that marker. Gluten containing grains include wheat, barley and rye.
Egg Sensitivity Test
Many food sensitivity tests separate out egg whites from the yolks. However it’s very difficult to separate these and so I group them together under one category of eggs. The whites tend to be more inflammatory than the yolks.
Dairy, gluten and eggs are the top three foods I find people are most sensitive to. But what if you have many more foods elevated including your favorite vegetables, seeds and fruit making an elimination difficult?
It’s important to note that if you do have many food sensitivities, there’s a good chance you also have gut dysbiosis. You may have candida overgrowth, bacteria overgrowth, H. pylori, mold or parasites that have increased inflammation in your body. In this case, I recommend removing the high and moderate foods as planned and then rotate the low but elevated foods. At the same time, I encourage you to consider taking a stool test or organic acids test.
What if you have very few IgG responses and many are low or non-existent? In this case, you may have a suppressed immune system which tells me that you have other imbalances or pathogens that need to be investigated.
Once you’ve completed the elimination period for a group of foods, you can begin reintroduction. Choose one food at a time to reintroduce over the period of 3 days. If you see any of the symptoms noted above, stop that food and continue to eliminate it for 6 more weeks. Give your body 3 more days to reduce inflammation and then test the next food. If you have no reaction, you can continue eating that food and reintroduce the next food for 3 days and so on.
What Test Should You Get?
All IgG food sensitivity testing companies use blood spot testing. Most will test for at least 96 different foods. The one I use will also test for yeast and candida which is very helpful especially if you have digestive symptoms.
Everlywell – This is a low cost lab company offering direct to consumer functional medicine lab testing without a one-on-one lab review call. However they do offer group webinars with a healthcare professional to help answer your questions. Everlywell has two available Food Sensitivity Tests to choose from. One is a lower cost 96 food test and the other adds 108 to that 96 foods list. Visit Everlywell to order.
Great Plains Labs – This is a bit pricier test because it’s ordered through a healthcare practitioner, such as myself and then reviewed in a one-on-one session. This test includes 96 foods plus bakers and brewers yeast AND candida (a pathogenic form of yeast). To order this test with a 30 minute lab review consult, click this link.